Cassian Harrison, the editor of BBC Four, told the Edinburgh International Television Festival last week that no one wants to watch white men explaining stuff on TV any more. ‘There’s a mode of programming that involves a presenter, usually white, middle-aged and male, standing on a hill and “telling you like it is”,’ he said. ‘We all recognise the era of that has passed.’
I’ve been puzzling over this. Why would one of the Beeb’s most senior executives, himself a white, middle-aged man, say something likely to antagonise such a large number of the people who pay his £170,000 salary, i.e. licence payers? After all, 87.2 per cent of the UK’s population is white and I imagine the same is true of the 26 million households that forked out £150.50 for a TV licence in the past year. So, when Cassian Harrison says ‘we all’ agree that time’s up for white men, I don’t think he’s speaking on behalf of all the licence payers. Nor is he speaking for viewers more generally. Let’s not forget that the most popular British television programme of last year, with 14 million viewers, was Blue Planet II, which involved a white male (David Attenborough) standing in front of a camera and explaining stuff.
I can think of three possible explanations for this bizarre statement, although I should stress that I’ve never met the editor of BBC Four so what follows is purely speculative. (To read more, click here.)