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MEDIA NEWS

George Floyd protests: the British media

The anti-racism protests in the UK, following the killing of George Floyd in the US, have attracted a notable degree of media attention this week and the news agenda has broadly been split between the calls to action and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Broadcasters including the BBC have covered the marches in great depth. Newspapers including The Guardian have written about British black activism, and argued the racism that resulted in Floyd’s death is also a problem in the UK. The latest issue of the New Statesman features a cover piece exploring the structural inequalities black people on both sides of the Atlantic face.

The protests have also reopened questions about the media industry. There is widespread evidence to suggest BAME groups are underrepresented in journalism. The i paper also argued coverage of Black Lives Matter shows there is a lack of diversity in UK media, suggesting that making the media more representative will help British journalism to succeed as it needs to be trusted and relevant

It is, however, worth noting that the UK is home to a flourishing alternative media network of BAME journalism. Gal-Dem magazine was set up to tell ‘the stories of women and non-binary people of colour’ in response to lack of diversity in British media. GUAP is an innovative black arts and culture magazine, which claims to be ‘the world’s first video magazine’. Other notable publications include Black Ballard, a lifestyle magazine for black British women, and AZ Magazine, which promotes black representation amongst the LGBT community.

#BlackoutTuesday

On Tuesday, several TV, music and film brands joined a campaign aimed at taking a stand against racial injustice following the protests. Countless companies shared messages of solidarity on social media and posted black tiles on Instagram on Blackout Tuesday. #BlackoutTuesday took social media by storm, it was an ostensible display of allyship — posting a black square with the hashtag — with a promise not to post anything else that day and instead take the time to think about the ways in which many non-black citizens benefit from structural racism. The movement was started by two black women in the music industry, Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang, as a call for their colleagues to halt business for a day and use the time to reflect on how black talent is treated in the industry.

However, in the aftermath some questioned whether public statements genuinely helped the cause, or amounted to performative allyship or virtue signalling.

So, how should brands be responding? A recent PR Week survey showed that when asked whether ‘brands should just be brands and not speak out on major issues’, 54 per cent of respondents said brands should keep silent, while 29 per cent said that they should comment. Industry professionals commented this week on the propensity of brands to speak out against racism, with many saying that generic statements – rather than tangible action – were not useful. Campaign published an article on the five steps brands can take to genuinely show that black lives matter. Some respondents told the PR Week survey it would be better for brands to talk about ‘their personal plan to becoming anti-racist and how they will support black staff and customers’, while others said brands should ‘pledge to ban ads/sponsorship related to those that incite racial hatred’. We can expect media and ad companies, who’ve signed an open letter pledging to take action, to be tested on their promises and held accountable to their social media pledges of solidarity.

The BBC and #EqualityInAudio

As for BBC Radio, on Friday the corporation signed this #EqualityInAudio pledge, organised by the podcast company, Broccoli Content. The production company – established to create more opportunities for minitory groups behind and in front of the mic – is challenging the audio industry to pledge five simple actions towards equality and diversity in the media. James Purnell, BBC Radio’s Director of Radio & Education has signed the pledge which includes commitments to:

  1. Pay interns / no longer use unpaid internships
  2. Hire LGBTQIA+, black, people of colour and other minorities on projects not only related to their identities
  3. If you are a company that releases gender pay gap reports, release the race pay gap data at the same time
  4. No long participate in panels that do not represent the cities, town and industries they take place in
  5. Be transparent about who works with your company as well as their role, position and permanency

WEBINAR OF THE WEEK

Lexington is supporting an upcoming Women in Journalism “In Conversation with” event with Roula Khalaf – the FT’s editor – on Tuesday 16th June at 6pm. To RSVP please email communications@lexcomm.co.uk.

MEDIA MOVES

Anna Gross has been seconded to the Science & Environment team at the Financial Times and will be covering the ‘science of coronavirus’.

Jerome Starkey has been appointed Defence Editor at The Sun, and will be covering all aspects of UK defence and military, as well as wars, terrorism, piracy and foreign intelligence stories abroad. He has previously served as Africa and Afghanistan Correspondent at The Times.

The Times Radio has announced that they will launch on June 29th. Times Radio will be ad break free, with commercial opportunities for sponsors across the schedule. It will provide a daily schedule of news, analysis and commentary.

Owen Walker starts on Monday as European Banking Correspondent at the Financial Times.

Ashley Kirk is now the Visual Projects Editor for The Guardian. He was previously a Data Journalist at The Daily Telegraph.

Michael Bow has started at the Evening Standard as M&A correspondent based in Brussels. Michael was City Correspondent on the Evening Standard business desk and will now be writing about anti-trust, UK and European M&A and the European Commission and would be keen to hear from any law firms or financial advisers.

There are several organisations dedicated to enhancing black representation in journalism. The Race Beat is a network for journalists of colour, which urges white people to speak out against racism. Similar organisations which celebrate the achievements of black journalists include Black Journalists’ Collective UK, who sent a letter signed by more than 100 black and minority ethnic journalists to UK editors in 2018 to denounce a lack of diversity that has led to ‘a long litany of inadequacies in newsroom coverage of race and how stories about non-white people are covered’. We Are Black Journos also calls on editors to improve diversity among their staff in order to improve their reporting of race issues and subjects in the UK. The Refugee Journalism Project supports refugee and exiled journalists to re-start their careers in the UK.

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