Come off it Paul – you’ve still got a seat in the sun

Sometimes you just have to laugh. Laugh, that is, not because you’ve seen a really amusing happening or been told a great joke – but laugh because you’ve been left speechless by something so outrageous a wry chuckle is the only response that comes anywhere near being adequate.

Normally I wouldn’t trouble you with such a thought but in the last two weeks I’ve found myself lost for words by two news stories touching on a really important area that I feel deeply about so – having had that initial laughter – I’m going to have a bit of a rant.

First came ‘veteran radio presenter ‘ Paul Gambaccini claiming the BBC is the ‘worst employer in the world’ because of its treatment of fellow ‘veteran’ Tony Blackburn. Gambo felt the need to condemn the BBC Director General Lord Hall for failing to back his ‘stars’ in the wake of a post Jimmy Saville ‘witch hunt’. Lord Hall, he said valued high culture above popular programmes.

I am not about to nominate Tony Hall and the BBC for any kind of accolade as a great place to work and I have no doubt he’s probably happier at Glyndebourne than Glastonbury but Gambaccini’s bluster is in danger of masking a much more important truth. First of all Gambaccini, far from being fired, is taking over Blackburn’s spot as the presenter of radio 2’s ‘Pick of the Pops’ show.

Yes, the 67-year-old Oxford-educated Mr. G is being given a plum new role. If Lord Hall should stand accused of anything at this point it’s failing to use the opportunity of Blackburn’s departure to offer an opportunity to new talent. Did anyone at the BBC pause to look for a new presenter – maybe a woman, someone non-white and definitely from a background a bit closer to that of the majority of the audience (dare I say licence fee payers).

Then along came The Sun with the headline ‘Auntie is anti-white: Applicant’s anger over BBC telly jobs just for minorities’ (You see, sometimes you just have to laugh). It was over a front-page story which reported how the BBC had been ‘blasted for rejecting work applicants because they are white’ – and all because it had advertised two scriptwriting jobs open to people from ethnic minority backgrounds. To put that in context, by the way, we are talking about two junior roles paying £25,000.

The Sun goes on to reveal that the BBC is running four training schemes specifically for people from minority backgrounds. Over the years the Corporation has taken some stick (and rightly so) about its lack of diversity and its poor record on opportunities for people from a range of minority groups so it seems perfectly proper that it is doing a little to redress that problem. The Sun quoted one angry job hunter branding the schemes as ‘racial discrimination and just wrong’.

I wonder how he imagines people from ethnic minorities have felt for decades? Maybe he should ask one or two who feel they’ve been overlooked for the ‘Pick of the Pops’ gig and a rare chance to work for the world’s worst employer.