Monday, July 24, 2006

Racism at BBC Monitoring?

The following submission was received by Pro-Veritas from a verified email account used by BBC Monitoring staff.

Over the past few weeks we have received numerous emails alleging racism at BBC Monitoring. Many of the emails came from staff who do not belong to our group, the Dissident Majority. Most were sent by people who can be described as white English - not Scots, Welsh or white European, nor the Africans, Afghans, Arabs, Central Asians, Kurds, Persians, peoples of the Caucasus or the other nationalities that have been excluded from BBC Monitoring’s upper echelons.

The most worrying of the the emails we have received are those which allege a certain source of the purported racism. Most disconcerting of all are those that give specific details, including the name and political affiliations - past and present - of an individual member of staff. The name of that member of staff is repeated in almost every email.

We have made no secret of our deep concern regarding the failure of BBC Monitoring’s Director, Christopher Westcott, to reflect Monitoring’s myriad nationalities at senior level, a failure that has generated suspicion amongst many staff that there is a hidden agenda to turn BBC Monitoring into a “white redoubt”. We had left it open to speculation that this may be due to institutional racism, to subconscience racism on the part of senior managers at BBC Monitoring or even to a deliberate policy to turn Monitoring into a reflection of some of its UK government stakeholders.

What we had not entertained, or did not not want to believe, was that the emerging white redoubt at BBC Monitoring was there because of explicit racism on the part of specific individuals, coupled perhaps with subconscience racism, ignorance, naivety, indifference or sheer stupidity on the part of those whose job it is to ensure that the scourge of racism does not raise its ugly head at the BBC, of all places.

The specific allegations about the existence of racists and racism at BBC Monitoring have put us in a very delicate situation. On the one hand, we have an obligation to expose racism and to name and shame racists. But, at the same time, we do not wish to libel anyone without sufficient, incontrovertible evidence to justify our charges - evidence that would stand up in court. Furthermore, as a clandestine group, we do not wish to expose ourselves as members of the Dissident Majority of BBC Monitoring and face the wrath of Mr Westcott and his cohorts.

Consequently, the Steering Committee of the Dissident Majority of BBC Monitoring was mandated unanimously by members of the group to work out a programme of action to address the allegations regarding racists and racism at Monitoring. To this end, the committee held a meeting with members of the legal firms that had kindly offered to assist us free of charge. We agreed on the following steps:

    1. To appeal to all BBC Monitoring staff, whether or not they are members of our group,

    • to send us additional specific evidence of racism and racist behaviour at BBC Monitoring, both in Caversham and the overseas units,

    • to send us specific evidence regarding the affiliation of any member of staff, whether or not they are in management, to racist political groups such as the British National Party and its predecessor, the National Front.

    Please send your evidence by email either to us directly or to Pro-Veritas.

    2. In the event of our receiving sufficient concrete evidence indicating that there are racists or racism at BBC Monitoring, we shall put this evidence formally to the highest level at the BBC and give them a reasonable deadline by which they will have to respond to our allegations.

    3. Should the BBC acknowledge that there are racists and racism at BBC Monitoring, we shall ask them to make public their acknowledgement of the problem and of the measures they intend to take to eradicate it, including a timeframe for action.

    4. If, in the light of the evidence we put to them, the BBC fail to acknowledge that there are racists and racism at BBC Monitoring or give an inadequate response, then the Dissident Majority of BBC Monitoring and their legal team will do the following:

      (a) Report the matter to the Commission for Racial Equality

      (b) Inform the national media of our allegations and of the fact that we had given the BBC a reasonable opportunity to address the problem

      (c) Hold a press conference at a location in central London at which we shall give details of our allegations and of the BBC’s response. The press conference will be chaired by a top UK barrister and will include several former members of BBC Monitoring acting on behalf of existing members of staff, who cannot go public for fear of retribution.

      (d) Consider further action which we do not wish to publicise at this juncture.

Owing to an irretrievable breakdown in trust in Mr Westcott, the Steering Committee of the Dissident Majority of BBC Monitoring, with the backing of our legal advisers, decided not to enter into a dialogue with him on this or any other matter.

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