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Greg Dyke


Roots - a joint BBC / Arts Council England initiative

Monday 26 January 2004
Printable version

Speech given at an event to raise awareness of a joint BBC and Arts Council England initiative called Roots

Press release

Thanks Pat and thanks to all of you for making time to be here.

Roots is a ground-breaking partnership between the BBC and Arts Council England that's making a real difference to the way we look and sound on the air.

It's the kind of project I like. A group of people have a good idea. They get on with it and do it.

BBC English Regions and the New Audiences team at Arts Council England, shared a goal. To make good programmes that bring culturally diverse arts to a wider audience. So together they created Roots.

We have eleven co-ordinators funded by the partnership working in communities across the country with the aim of bringing talented artists from minority ethnic backgrounds to a wider audience.

Based at BBC Local Radio stations they specialise in building relationships, producing events, and setting up features and programmes that bring new talent into mainstream BBC Local Radio shows, Regional TV programmes and onto our online services through the Where I live websites.

I'll give you an example. In North Devon, at a place called Filleigh, which is one of the most rurally isolated communities in England, the WI have been learning to sing in Shona. That's a Zimbabwean language.

The artist who taught them lives locally though he grew up in rural Zimbabwe. His name's Chartwell and because of Roots he's been able to work with groups like the WI creating stories and songs about the countryside and the environment using traditional African instruments and rhythms.

It might sound like a small thing to you in multicultural London, but it had quite an impact in somewhere like Devon. The story was broadcast in April on Spotlight, our Regional News programme in the South West.

And that is what's so exciting about Roots. It breaks down all sorts of stereotypes and assumptions about what our audiences are all about, and what they're going to find interesting and entertaining.

Roots is about more than simply what appears on our screens - it is life changing. In a bit you'll hear from Yasmin Razaq - who'll tell us how some of her work has been changing the lives of school children in Liverpool 8.

Yasmin's our co-ordinator in the North West based at Radio Merseyside.

For Black History month in October, she did a piece of work linking children in year three with a digital artist who got them thinking about their ancestry and then helped them create their self portraits.

The pictures were exhibited at the Museum of Liverpool life. Imagine yourself at eight or nine, walking into big building like that and seeing your picture up on the walls, with people stopping to look at your work, your face. Incidentally the exhibition was so successful the museum had to extend the show for an extra month.

Roots has generated hundreds of these moments, and all of them have been captured in BBC local and Regional programmes.

In a less than a year the eleven co-ordinators have created 82 hours of radio in mainstream day time programmes. And sixty seven features on our regional TV programmes.

That's no mean feat considering these guys have each got two bosses... one in the Arts Council and one at the radio station... and you can imagine what that's like!

I'm proud that this project has come to fruition in such a strong and positive way - demonstrating partnership at its best.

When we outline our proposals for the future of the BBC partnerships will be very much central to how we see our future role in this society.

In one of my first speeches as Director-General I made it clear that BBC output needed to better reflect the richness and diversity of the UK as a whole, and embrace talent from all the communities and cultures of the UK.

None of this is optional if the BBC is to remain relevant to its audience - particularly the young for whom an easy multi-culturalism is second nature.

I reckoned that the best way to change the outlook and output of the BBC was to make the BBC itself a more diverse organisation.

So soon after I took over as Director-General we set some new employment targets which were central business objectives which were one of the measures the success of directors and managers would be judged on.

We pledged to increase staff from ethnic minority backgrounds from under 8 per cent in 2000, to 10 per cent by the end of last year.

We also pledged to double the number of senior managers from ethnic minorities from a pathetic 2 per cent to 4 per cent.

To achieve these targets we've made big efforts across the BBC - there's been a quite significant culture shift - and I'm pleased to announce that we've hit the targets - just!

At the end of last year 10.02 per cent of our workforce were ethnic minorities and 4.38 per cent of senior management.

I'm absolutely convinced that it was only by setting targets and regularly monitoring our progress towards them at the BBC Executive Committee - and by regular I mean every three months - that we were able to meet them.

This has made a real difference. We are now employing nearly 650 more people from ethnic minorities today than when we set the targets four years ago.

And by the way these people are not in security or catering as these are outsourced at the BBC.

Abstract commitments to diversity don't, in my experience, actually change much in large organisations. You only do that by real figures and regular monitoring.

So we've made a start but, having met these targets, we want to keep the momentum up and experience has taught me that the only way to do this is to set new targets.

But it's not completely straightforward. A large proportion of our staff are based in London and London has a far higher proportion of people from ethnic minority backgrounds than the rest of the UK.

So should we aim to set a target which mirrors the population of London or the position in the UK as a whole which collectively pays for and uses our services?

If we chase the latter we'd stop now. However the media draws people from rights across Britain to work in London so trying to replicate the London figures would also be a mistake.

So we've decided to set new targets above the national average, but below London's ethnic minority population.

Our intention is that by the end of 2007 - another four year period - 12.5 per cent of all our staff and 7 per cent of our senior managerial staff should be from an ethnic minority community. We feel that this is an appropriate middle way.

So, for the BBC, Roots is part of a bigger picture which reflects our commitment to make our organisation and our output more diverse with an array of talent from every community both on and off air.

We're indebted to all of you who have been involved in the Roots initiative - not only are you bringing an array of art to a wider audience, you're helping to change the BBC for the better.

Press release


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