The BBC’s practice of having diversity targets has been subject to debate after Radio 4 presenter Jon Holmes revealed that he had been a victim of them.
Holmes, who has also written travel pieces for the Sunday Times, revealed in a Twitter message this week:
“Sad to announce I’ve been axed from @BBCNowShow as ‘we want to recast with more women and diversity’ Tsk. And I didn’t even punch a producer.”
He elaborated on this in a piece written for the Mail on Sunday in which he explained the circumstances of his departure from the weekly satirical radio programme The Now Show.
He wrote: “Should I, as a white man (through no fault of my own), be fired from my job because I am a white man? Arguably, yes. You may well think I’m crap on The Now Show, and that’s fine, but to be told it’s because I’m the wrong sex and colour? I’m just not sure that’s helpful to anyone’s cause.”
Holmes added he “understands and agrees with all things BAME [Black Asian and minority ethnic]” and said speaking out about losing his job was not “sour grapes”.
The comic said after announcing the news on Twitter he was “contacted privately (quietly and off the record, because people are terrified of saying the wrong thing) by many presenters, actors and even agents who are now being told, and I quote: ‘We love your client. He’s perfect for the role. But we’re not allowed to even invite him in for a meeting because we’ve been told to cast someone Asian.'”
Holmes added: “I love the BBC and everyone I’ve ever met and worked with – whatever their sex, creed or colour – is doing the best they can and just trying to get on and do the right thing. But even they are all privately saying it’s all got a bit out of hand.”
The broadcaster dismissed claims he was sacked because of diversity, saying they wanted to give new comics a chance after Holmes’ 18-year stint on the show.
A BBC spokesperson said: “While the Government’s new charter for the BBC does set us diversity targets, we always hire presenters on merit.
“We’d like to thank both Jon Holmes and Mitch Benn for their contributions, but – as we explained almost a week ago when the story first appeared in newspapers – our comedy shows are constantly evolving and it was simply time to create opportunities for new regulars when The Now Show returns this autumn.”
In April the BBC launched a diversity promise, aiming to have “a workforce at least as diverse, if not more so, than any other in the industry” by 2020.
The BBC has said it wants to make sure 15 per cent of on-screen staff are BAME, that women make up 50 per cent its workforce and that LGBT people are 8 per cent.