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Setting the record straight on our disability training course

Joe Godwin

Director, BBC Academy and BBC Birmingham

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There have been reports today in some newspapers about a training opportunity we're offering for people with disabilities who are interested in a career in television, in particular weather presenting. The reports have suggested that the BBC is specifically searching for disabled weather presenters, this is 'political correctness gone mad' and have questioned whether this is a way of finding weather presenters who don't have the usual qualifications for this job.

It's important to set the record straight and explain the actual facts about this training.

First, we believe that having a workforce that looks like Britain looks - on and off screen - is a good thing. The BBC is funded by everyone who pays the licence fee and so we have a duty to reflect all our audiences. The better we can represent the whole of the UK, the more relevant our programmes will be. We have stated publicly that we want to increase people with disabilities on-screen from just 1.7% currently to 5% by 2017.

This training is designed to help with that. It’s a short course, lasting three days, designed for men and women with disabilities who have a passion for weather and the environment and who have the potential to become weather presenters in the future. We hope the course will encourage people and give them some experience and confidence on screen. We have been absolutely clear that at the end of the course there is no guarantee of a job, but it does at least give people a chance of experiencing presenting first hand and seeing if they can develop the skills for it.

As for weather presenters' qualifications, our current weather team is made up of a mix of meteorologists and experienced and trained weather presenters. However, we have often taken non-meteorological candidates for jobs where we have seen a genuine interest in weather and potential for presenting.

We then give them a course in broadcast meteorology and a lot of further weather coaching and training.

They often go on and take OU courses or develop their own science knowledge in different ways. So there is no reason why someone doing this course couldn’t go on to apply for a job presenting in the future.

We’re very proud of our efforts to increase diversity across the BBC and give everybody a chance to fulfil their potential. We certainly don’t believe that running a training event to help people with disabilities is ‘political correctness gone mad’. In fact it’s exactly what the BBC should be doing, by opening up opportunities for people whatever their background.

Joe Godwin is Director, BBC Academy

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