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Krishnan Guru-Murthy has suggested it is time for a black or Asian person to run a British TV channel, warning that a lack of diversity among top executives is causing problems for the industry.
The Channel 4 News presenter will say that while Jews have been well represented at the highest level, “there are still no blacks or Asians running our biggest broadcasters” in a speech Wednesday afternoon.
Related: Krishnan Guru-Murthy gasped for cursing on Steve Baker
Guru-Murthy will say that television has done well in terms of on-screen diversity, but this often masks a monoculture among those power-wielding behind the scenes: lack of diversity in broadcast management. He misjudges or doesn’t seem to know how to react.
It will point to mistakes, such as when Channel 4 botched Big Brother’s racism row and the BBC’s missteps in 2019 when it censored Naga Munchetty after she offered her personal opinion on Donald Trump’s comments. “Without a diversity of thought at the top, you will inevitably end up making bad decisions,” she says.
Guru-Murthy, who is Channel 4 News’ longest-serving presenter following the departure of Jon Snow, will say he experienced racism growing up in 1980s Lancashire. “Like any child raised in the minority, even in a relatively affluent, middle-class life, I had been called racist names, jostled and picked on by a racist bully, had NF written for National Front on my blazer and school books My religious education teacher – a Church of England vicar – asked me to give a talk to the class on what he called “the worship of idols.” I remember my mother getting angry when I asked her what to say: ‘They are gods, not idols,’ he replied.”
Despite this, he will say his Asian background helped him early in his career when the BBC gave him his first presenter’s job at 18: “The fact that I was brown wasn’t a problem, it was a bonus.”
The presenter is expected to make the comments in a speech at Channel 4’s Inclusion festival on Wednesday, which will cover the issue of representation in the media, including ethnicity, transgender people and disabilities.
His speech comes a day after the latest UK census showed a sharp increase in the proportion of Britons from a minority background. He will suggest an issue that ambitious people from minority backgrounds might see greater power and earning potential in running their own TV production companies. But that risks accepting that industry gatekeepers “never truly reflect the audiences they serve.”
But he’ll also warn that there will be opposition from people who feel their careers are being hurt by the push for diversity: “There’s already no shortage of middle-aged white men on television who — rightly or wrongly — feel their career progression is without hope, that promotions go to minorities. There is a danger that inclusion will be challenged, especially as economic conditions become more depressing. So the case for inclusion will have to be consistently made and every day we have to ask ourselves, are we representing the nation as it is?And what new ideas can we bring about what inclusion means?