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Is there institutional racism in the broadcasting industry?
82
Is there institutional racism in the
broadcasting industry?
I think people are obstructed and I have seen it happen. Only
recently have I started to understand the term institutional racism. I
had never really thought about it. When Macpherson raised it I
thought this is just bollocks really, what does it mean? It is such a
nebulous thing. Now I do understand what it means, I think there is
a cultural bias in the way institutions operate that actually makes it
difficult for certain people to progress. - Former BBC Producer
Most people associate racism with name-calling and violence. That definitely does
not appear to be an issue for ethnic minority people working in the broadcasting
industry. None of my interviewees mentioned any such incidents in their careers
and it was generally not seen as a problem. However, virtually all of them
described experiences where they felt they had been treated unequally, made to
feel invisible or out of place. Most were reluctant to talk about these experiences
for fear of being seen as “chippy”. A common reaction was: 
This is a small industry and you can’t let people’s prejudices get to
you because, unless it is really blatant, you don’t really know what
the politics are, what’s going on and so you just have to log it and
move on. - Director
Is it ‘cos I is Black?
One of the difficulties in talking to programme-makers from minorities about their
experiences is how to disentangle those aspects which affect all people in the
industry and those which specifically arise from some form of discrimination or, 
as comedian Ali G famously put it, “Is it ‘cos I is Black?”. In many cases it is
almost impossible to unpick what is going on. If you don’t get the job or get
promoted or get your ideas made, it is unlikely that you will ever be able to
establish it was because of prejudice. Yet this should not be a reason for not
looking closely at the experiences of programme-makers from minority groups. If
we want to understand why there is still so little diversity in the output or in the
workforce, we have to examine the working practices that may be
disproportionately affecting those people who are already under-represented. In
looking at the question of institutional racism I was also interested to explore any
parallels between the experiences of people from ethnic minorities with others
such as gay and disabled people.
? Pressure to conform
I think that British society would like nothing better than to turn us
all into a bunch of brown and black-skinned English people where
our cultural background and identity was kind of forgotten, that we
just took on all the values and become like English people, like White
people but with different coloured skin and then we could all be the
same. - Producer  
Several people described the lengths to which they had gone to fit the perceived
norms of the industry.
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