A few more steps towards a fully diverse TV news industry

This is a version of an article which will appear in next month’s edition of the ITN 1955 Club newsletter. Disclosure: I was the chairman of this year’s RTS TV Journalism awards.

This year’s RTS Television Journalism awards felt like something of a sea change in our industry and I don’t mean the debate over the new rules (Head of Sky News,John Ryley, praised them as ‘fair and transparent’ but then Sky did win 5 awards). The industry is beginning to look more like the society that it reports on.
Consider winners like Nima Elbagir and Ramita Navai. More women,more ethnic minorities. Overall it was a good night for the sisterhood;Julie Etchingham,Jackie Faulkner and Alex Crawford all won big awards.Julie told me afterwards she also sensed it was a turning point,more nominations from a wider field of entries,more competitors and good ones too. Nobody can afford to rest on their laurels,not even veteran British correspondents like the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen ,worthy winner of Interview of the Year for his encounter with President Assad.Not when there are up and coming TV journalists like Young Talent of the Year Benjamin Zand who explained in a wonderfully youthful way on stage that he’d decided he had to learn to do everything himself -report,film,edit- and had persuaded the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire Programme to let him do that. And last year’s Young Talent now this year’s Camera Operator of the Year ,Mstyslav Chernov of Associated Press ,who gave the most thoughtful comments of the evening on the ethics of news coverage.
The privilege of chairing the event (and therefore knowing the results in advance) gave me the chance to make a point about diversity at the start of the evening.The increased number of neutral jurors enabled more women to be on juries and more jurors from ethnic minorities.The entries also showed greater diversity and that was reflected in the nominations and the winners.But we all know that more needs to be done. The jury for Camera Operator of the Year couldn’t but help notice that for all the political correctness of the title there were 20 entries and all were from men.One news cameraman in the room offered the view that there were no ‘ladies’ because there was so much war coverage.I pointed out that of the three finalists in the international news category none was for coverage of a war.
The winner who gave me most cause for thought was Nima Elbagir whose CNN portfolio of stories from Africa about the human rights of children won her Specialist Journalist of the Year and a nomination for TV Journalist of the Year.Nima was born in Sudan,came to England and graduated from the LSE.She freelanced for Reuters and in 2005 her break into broadcast journalism came at ITN where she did some reports on More4 News.She then worked for Channel 4’s Unreported World.In 2011 she joined CNN where,under the stewardship of former Channel Four News executive Deborah Rayner, her career has blossomed winning awards in the USA .
After her success at the RTS people in the business were gossiping about the offers Nima is already getting and how keen CNN were to keep her under contract.It reminded me of the diversity debate about why black British actors like David Oyelowo and Chiwetel Ejiofor seem to have to go to Hollywood to get big roles.ITN should feel some pride that it helped develop Nima’s career but ITN and other British broadcasters might also ask themselves why she had to go to CNN to get a job as a mainstream foreign correspondent.
To try to help push the diversity cause along Sue Lloyd-Roberts’s family were at the RTS to launch an appeal to help young female journalists study for a year at Cardiff University.The Sue Lloyd-Roberts Scholarship will be a fitting tribute to a remarkable woman and hopefully will provide practical help to those inspired by Sue.

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