BBC comedy is still 'too white'

Producer joins the debate

Comedy producer Charlie Hanson has fuelled the debate about ethnic minorities in the BBC, saying there are not enough black people working in its comedy department.

His comments echo recent complaints by Lenny Henry, who called for positive discrimination to increase the number of black people working behind the scenes.

Ironically, Hanson was the producer behind Extras – which contained a sly dig at Lenny Henry, when Ricky Gervais’s character Andy Millman struggled to think of any funny black British comedians, even though a portrait of Henry hung on the wall.

Hanson, whose other credits include Desmond’s, Garth Marenghi's Darkplace and Not Going Out, said the number of ‘black faces’ in senior roles at the corporation had not increased in the 15 years since he worked on the BBC’s first black comedy show, The Real McCoy.

Hanson, who is white, said he had to insist on having a black assistant producer on the show, who was not given any more work after the programme ended.

He told actors’ newspaper The Stage: ‘Certainly back then there was no effort to foster that talent and sadly I am back at the BBC comedy department now and there are still no black faces really. I don’t think there are in commissioning either. It is as bad as it was 15 years ago. Lenny is absolutely right.

‘There are more black faces on screen now and casting has improved… but I don’t think there has been a nurturing of black producer and black directing talent.’

The BBC said it was ‘committed to reflecting the diversity of the UK, both within its workforce and in on-air representation’.

Published: 20 Feb 2008

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