The UK’s only British Asian Cabinet Minister has called on Britain’s media industry to learn from the business sector about better engaging with ethnic minority communities.
Culture Secretary Sajid Javid – a former investment banker – told the BBC’s Today programme that working in the City was “like walking round the United Nations” in terms of diversity.
Mr Javid, who is of Pakistani origin, added that ethnic minority representation in the media did not reflect Britain’s diversity.
“If you look at some of the numbers to really get to the bottom of this – and some recent studies have shown I think they’re saying around 6% of people working in the media industry as a whole … when the ethnic minority population of the country is around 14%.
“So when you look at it that way, 6% versus 14%, I think the answer’s quite clear,” he said.
Whilst acknowledging the “remarkable” achievements of some minority talent, particularly in broadcast media, Mr Javid said that much more still needed to be done within the industry as a whole.
A quota system for the BBC however, was not one of the solutions, Mr Javid said.
“I wish it was as easy as that, but I don’t think something like that in itself would actually achieve the desired results.
“The concern I’d have is that when you have an approach where it’s about reaching a quota or a certain number, but it becomes an official target, a requirement, then you’d always run this risk that someone might try to fill that just for the sake of filling it.
“I think the problem is actually more profound than that because it’s not just about having the black face or the brown face, it’s about building a sustainable pipeline of talent and making sure that people from all backgrounds, including black backgrounds in particular, think of this as a career opportunity for them and any perception they have that it is not for whatever reason, those are tackled.”
Mr Javid was speaking during a special edition of the Today programme, guest-edited by British-Jamaican comedian Lenny Henry who has led calls for the BBC to encourage more talent from ethnic minority backgrounds.
The show featured a host of minority talent: aside from regular presenter Mishal Husain – a British Pakistani – the programme was hosted by British Indian presenters Reeta Chakrabarti and Karthi Gnanasegaram alongside Taiwan-born business correspondent Linda Yueh.