‘“Was Marcus Ryder blocked from a BBC job by BBC DG Tim Davie?” See what Marcus Ryder has to say’ by Simon Albury

“BBC boss Tim Davie ‘blocked a leading diversity champion from getting a top job at the corporation”. That was the Daily Mail headline on 15 October 21 for a story that said:

“A leading diversity campaigner missed out on a top BBC job after director-general Tim Davie effectively ‘blocked’ his appointment, the Mail can reveal.

Marcus Ryder, a former head of current affairs programmes at BBC Scotland, is understood to have been a ‘preferred candidate’ to become executive editor for Newsbeat and Asian Network news.”

The story and its fallout was also reported in the Mail, The Times, the Guardian, the Independent and internationally in Variety and Deadline. The BBC DG Tim Davie then invited Marcus Ryder to meet with him on 9 June, the day on which Ryder was to receive an MBE at Windsor Castle.

Marcus Ryder accepted an invitation from the Campaign for Broadcasting Equality to deliver a short speech, after his meeting with Davie and be interviewed, for an online event, by Manori Ravindran, Variety’s International Editor.

Marcus Ryder’s speech, now published on his own blog site, was titled:

Fear, Diversity and Journalistic Impartiality

Here is the first part of his interview with Manori Ravindran.

Manori Ravindran:
Today, you’ve received your MBE, you were just at the BBC prior to coming here. Tell me a little bit about your meeting with Tim Davie, the Director General.

Marcus Ryder:
The meeting with the BBC Director General was very constructive. I think that they recognize that there is an issue when it comes to due impartiality and protected characteristics and especially how that impacts on inclusion.

The BBC has problems and all broadcasters have problems of retention. If people cannot bring their whole selves to work and if people do not feel at home with their work and the journalism they produce, they will leave.

You only have to look at the stats that the BBC produce and you only have to look anecdotally at what’s happening at other news organizations. Black people, Asians, and people from other ethnic and racial minorities are leaving.

With Tim Davie, we recognized that there’s a problem. I will be talking to other senior leaders at the BBC in due course, and then I’ll be meeting Tim again in six month’s time. That should be enough time to actually see what action can be put in place and what can be achieved and what we should be doing.

I’ll be putting action points to them. That doesn’t mean that they need to come up with my actual points. I’d be very happy to see what action points they come up with. We can discuss this again in six month’s time. 

Manori Ravindran:
Obviously the widespread coverage of your being blocked from a job at the BBC must have affected you in a hugely personal way, just on a very human level. What was that like for you to be at the centre of this? How did that impact you?

Marcus Ryder:
The reason I got into news was to be behind the camera. I’m not used to being in front of the camera, let alone as a presenter or actually being the subject of a story – so I didn’t really enjoy that.

What’s good about it is that we are now discussing what is a fundamental issue: how ideas of due impartiality have disproportionately impacted on people from underrepresented groups and especially black, Asian, and minority ethnic people.

Invariably, if we don’t really interrogate ideas of due impartiality, it remains the due impartiality of the majority of society. The people from underrepresented groups, who might be on the margins – their views and their perspective is seen outside of the mainstream. If we do not think about bringing their decision-making right into the heart of the editorial process, then they will suffer from the prevailing idea of due impartiality. What I’m happy about with regards to my story is not about myself, but that the wider issue is being discussed. And I think that’s so important. 

Manori Ravindran:
The BBC has denied that there was any sort of veto on your appointment. What do you think happened?

Marcus Ryder:
Actions speak louder than denials. I’m really only marginally interested in what the BBC has to say or what any broadcaster has to say. I want to see what the BBC does. I want to see what channel four does, what ITV does, what ITN does, when it comes to issues of impartiality, when it comes to issues of editorial decisions. That is what’s important.

What’s not important is getting into the minutiae of the bureaucratic process that may or may not have, have blocked me. What’s important is that we see people like me being appointed to editorial positions of power in national news organizations. That’s what matters. Obviously, I want to pay the mortgage and I’m paying the mortgage very well, working at the Sir Henry Center, which I enjoy.  It’s the substance, which is important, not denials or non-denials. 

Manori Ravindran:
Would you go for another job at the BBC or another, another broadcaster in a similar news role? 

Marcus Ryder:
First of all, I should stress that the BBC approached me. I’m occasionally told about jobs which are available at channel four or the BBC. I don’t apply for them because I’m very happy where I am at the Sir Henry Centre. We’re doing great work. We’re continuing to do great work at channel four. We’re talking to other news organizations. We’ve just done a piece of work for the BBC, which I’m not sure I’m allowed to talk about yet. I’m not looking to go anywhere. I wouldn’t rule out at some point in the future working for any news organization but I’m very happy where I am. 

(Simon Albury is Chair of the Campaign for Broadcasting Equality)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: