BBC accused of lacking diversity in Archers 70th anniversary
The Archers is accused of ‘lacking racial diversity’ after BBC releases anniversary photo of 70 characters from Radio 4 soap with just three from BAME backgrounds
- BBC released cast picture to mark 70th Anniversary of the Archers radio show
- But some pointed out white actors dominated a handful of BAME cast members
- Others defended the show as representative of the UK’s rural population
The BBC’s radio soap The Archers has been accused of ‘lacking racial diversity’ after a photograph of 70 cast members showed just three are from BAME backgrounds.
The row erupted after the corporation’s publicity department released the cast picture to celebrate the upcoming 70th anniversary of the programme in January.
But social media users took aim at the BBC to point out the composite image, bringing together characters from across seven decades, was almost entirely white, with just a handful of cast members from ethnic minority backgrounds.
Journalist and author David Aaronovitch wrote: ‘Been an A’s (Archers) fan for decades. Even so it’s hard for a metropolitan liberal like me not to notice what’s missing here.’
The BBC’s radio soap The Archers has been accused of ‘lacking racial diversity’ after a photograph of 70 cast members showed just three are from BAME backgrounds
Another Twitter user said: ‘Why are they even now all white?’ and another added: ‘Just hire some black actors for heaven’s sake.’
British film director Peter Webber referred to the photo as a ‘fever dream of what the UK should be like’ for any ‘Brexiteer’.
Others said it ‘draws attention to the lack of diversity’ and one said: ‘Not much in the way of diversity or inclusion here.’
But many hit back at the outrage and leapt to defence of the long-running Radio 4 soap, saying that it was representative of rural parts of Britain.
‘I’ve lived in a rural village all of my 44 years and never have any black people been locals,’ said one user.
Journalist and author David Aaronovitch wrote: ‘Been an A’s (Archers) fan for decades. Even so it’s hard for a metropolitan liberal like me not to notice what’s missing here.’ But others responded to him saying the cast was representative of rural Britain, where 97.6% of the population is from a white ethic group
‘It’s a sign of the times that to authentically represent certain parts of the British experience is to risk inferences of racism.’
Another commented: ‘If we expect to see statistically correct representations of racial groups in radio dramas set in the country, then this is probably accurate.’
The Archers is set in the fictional village of Ambridge in the fictional county of Borsetshire, said to be sandwiched between the counties of Worcestershire and Warwickshire.
According to a January 2020 report from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the white ethic group still makes up 97.6 per cent of the rural population.
The picture features three diverse cast members – Mogali Masuku, Adjoa Andoh and Souad Faress – alongside several prominent figures Lesley Saweard and Patricia Greene who have been on the show since the 1950s.
Social media users took aim at the BBC to point out the composite image, bringing together characters from across seven decades, was almost entirely white, with just a handful of cast members from ethnic minority backgrounds
The soap opera has also starred well known actors including Tamsin Greig and Felicity Jones.
Ironically the row blew up at the very moment the show was attempting to highlight an issue with politically correct credentials.
In the latest episode it was revealed that three men kept as modern slaves on the outskirts of the show’s fictional home, Ambridge, have a learning or mental health disability.
It was the culmination of a story line running since March and intended to highlight the vulnerability of people with learning or mental health disabilities.
The show was previously been accused of racial stereotyping both Scottish and Caribbean characters
The show was previously been accused of racial stereotyping both Scottish and Caribbean characters.
In 2012, IT worker Carl, a black character, was introduced as the new boyfriend of the vicar’s daughter Amy.
But listeners complained to the BBC that the character, played by Nicholas Bailey, was being depicted as adulterous as they had been led to believe he was already married.
Before this the long-running soap had also accused of stereotyping its only Scottish character.
Listeners objected to the behaviour of Jack ‘Jazzer’ McCreary, played by Scottish actor Ryan Kelly, who is shown as a mean, heavy-drinking, car-stealing, drug-taking, womanising Glaswegian who likes to eat porridge.
The BBC was contacted for comment.
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