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Media Diversity

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:16 pm on 11th February 2020.

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Photo of Marsha de Cordova Marsha de Cordova Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) (Disabled People) 7:16 pm, 11th February 2020

I am pleased to have secured this important debate. The media is a fundamental part of the way that we see and understand the world. According to Ofcom, 79% of adults get their news information from broadcasters and 40% from newspapers, but, while white adults are using TV, radio and newspapers, people from ethnic minority backgrounds and young people are turning away from them. Instead, they are using the internet, social media and alternative media sources. That is because traditional media sources are failing to represent the society on which they report. Today, I will talk about how there continues to be a systemic lack of race, class, disability, LGBT plus and gender diversity across the media, but particularly in broadcast and newspaper journalism.

Last week, the BBC misidentified me as my hon. Friend Dawn Butler, Britain’s first black female Minister, while I was making a speech in this House. The error was compounded by the report on the issue in the Evening Standard, which confused a picture of my hon. Friend Bell Ribeiro-Addy with me. The Evening Standard had used photos from Getty Images which had wrongly captioned me as my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham—you quite literally could not make this up. In the space of a few days, three separate news outlets, Getty Images, the BBC and the Evening Standard, had confused me with another female black MP. This was not the first time: it has happened time and again to me and my other colleagues of colour in Parliament. As journalist Gary Younge put it:

“The message is clear. It really doesn’t matter how prominent, accomplished, integrated, qualified or celebrated non-white people become to a significant number of others, including their peers. They will always just be another black person: interchangeable.”

In the eyes of much of the media, it is impossible for me to have my own identity outside of being a black woman. In that sense, I am invisible to them. This is one of the many incidents that exposes a problem within our media—a problem that exists because the workforce who make up our media, the journalists, producers, commentators, editors and presenters, do not reflect modern British society. Jobs across the sector continue to be inaccessible to those without privilege or resources. Just 7% of the UK is privately educated, and roughly 1% graduate from Oxford and Cambridge, but according to the Sutton Trust, 43% of the top figures in news media are privately educated and 36% went to Oxford. We should never forget that Oxbridge makes more offers to one school, Eton, than to all the children on free school meals. It is almost as though there is a direct pipeline from Eton, Harrow and Westminster to Oxbridge and to the heart of our media.

It simply is not getting any better. Social mobility in the United Kingdom is low and not improving.