Television presenter June Sarpong has spoken about being ‘gaslighted’ by TV commissioners in her career (Picture: Roberto Ricciuti/Getty Images)
Television presenter June Sarpong has recalled being ‘gaslighted’ by TV commissioners in her career, stating that on some occasions in the past, she remembered there being a ‘fear of whether a Black person can present a mainstream show’.
In October last year, June, 43, made history as the first director of creative diversity at the BBC.
After beginning her career on radio station Kiss 100, June became a presenter for MTV UK and Ireland, going on to become a panellist on Loose Women and Sky News programme The Pledge.
While speaking at this year’s Creative Coalition 2020 conference, June expressed her hope that people who have recently entered the TV industry don’t ‘necessarily need to go through the things I went through in my career’.
The BBC diversity chief added that ‘we are past the point of empty rhetoric’, stating: ‘I understand firsthand what the problems are and who the problem is as well and where the barriers are to progress.’
‘I’ve been in rooms with commissioners where you’ve been gaslighted,’ she said.
June Sarpong was made the BBC’s first director of creative diversity last year (Picture: Getty Images)
‘I’ve been up for jobs and, last minute, there’s been fear of whether or not a black person can present a mainstream show.’
June added that while she doesn’t ‘believe it’s intentional’, she also thinks these decisions may be made ‘out of fear and thinking that’s how the audience thinks’.
‘I know firsthand… that is not how the audience thinks, because I know how the audience responds to me,’ she affirmed.
The broadcaster explained that ‘sometimes the onus is put purely on people of colour, black people’.
‘This is a discussion for everyone,’ June Sarpong says (Picture: Getty Images)
However, she added, this is a discussion ‘for everyone’, stressing that ‘particularly white people have a very specific role to play in this’.
‘The self reflection that we are asking people of colour about, we need to being asking white people about – in terms of how sometimes even ignorance can make you inadvertently complicit to a system that’s unfair,’ June said.
‘It’s about examining white privilege and what that means – are you perpetuating it or actively being anti-racist to help dismantle it?’
Last month, BBC director-general Tim Davie said that he wants ethnicity and disability representation of on-screen contributors to be monitored as part of a new voluntary move.
Representation of gender is already monitored on BBC shows including The One Show and BBC Breakfast.
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