Henry unveils ethnic minorities bid

Comic and actor Lenny Henry will give evidence to MPs today about his proposals to increase the numbers of people from ethnic minorities working at the BBC.

Lenny Henry will give evidence to a committee of MPs about ethnic minorities at the BBC
Lenny Henry will give evidence to a committee of MPs about ethnic minorities at the BBC

Members of the Culture, Media and Sport committee will also hear evidence from current and former BBC executives and the leadership of unions including Equity as part of their inquiry into the corporation's future.

Henry, whose shot to fame when he won the talent show New Faces in 1975, has criticised the TV and film industry for not providing a "fair and honest reflection of our society" and recently signed up t o a committee advising the corporation on its representation of ethnic minorities.

The session comes the day after the acting chairman of the BBC Trust - its governing body - said it should do more to "provide an authentic portrayal" of modern Britain

Diane Coyle, who is in the running to replace Lord Patten as head of the trust, admitted its flagship soap EastEnders is "almost twice" as white as the real East London.

in a speech at the London School of Economics, Ms Coyle, said the BBC's Audience Council for England "compared the population of Walthamstow in East London with Walford - the fictional home of EastEnders".

She said: "The Audience Council figures suggested that there are almost twice as many white people living in fictional E20 as in real life E17, while the population of EastEnders tends to be younger than their real life counterparts and more likely to have been born in the UK."

She said it would be "daft" for the show to be a "perfect replica" of the real world, but said it was "important to ask whether the BBC can do more in its popular output to provide an authentic portrayal of life in modern Britain".

Director-General Tony Hall announced last week that the BBC would set up a new £2.1 million "diversity creative talent fund" to help "fast-track" shows by ethnic minority talent onto the screen and create a series of development programmes aimed at encouraging future commissioners and executives from ethnic minority backgrounds.

He also said he wanted to see ethnic minorities account for 15% of on-air talent in the next three years.