Hasan Patel: Seville conference
In multi-cultural Britain, reporting on issues
concerning minority communities and diversity is
something many of us at the BBC take for granted. The
role and impact of reporting on diverse communities was
brought home to me when I represented the BBC at a
recent Council of Europe conference in Seville.
Some 40 European media professionals came together with
representatives of cross-cultural organisations to share
best practices on reporting diversity and
discrimination, examining media treatment – locally in
Andalusia and across Europe.
We wanted to develop better understanding of and methods
for overcoming discrimination by using more objective
reporting. Greater interaction between mainstream and
ethnic media was a key focus.
From the outset, it was clear that the rest of Europe
views the BBC as playing a leading role in this field.
Delegates were intrigued by the way BBC Radio Leicester
creates a sense of community by taking an interest in,
and reporting on, various religious and cultural events.
The use of individuals from diverse backgrounds as
experts within a range of professional fields, including
medicine and the arts, was seen as innovative. The vast
range of contributors on our 'Thought For The Day'
segment in particular, was viewed as highly constructive
in engaging widely with audiences.
The Spanish experience was stark. Compared to the
diversity you find in BBC output, Spanish regional tv
and radio dedicates only three percent of air time to
reports on minority communities – all of it, negative
There was a unanimous feeling that the media within
Europe needs to enhance its understanding of different
communities, requiring engagement at all levels.
I made a start by producing a radio report in Seville
with a Spanish counterpart, asking young Moroccans on
the streets basic questions about their views on
identity, faith, loyalty and nationhood. Ours and
others’ responses were presented back to the conference,
and our findings were that the same debates are taking
place within minority communities across Europe.
The consensus was that the role of the media should be
to facilitate these debates by using diverse
contributors rather than looking at the subject with
myopic vision. On the streets of Seville, I used my
experiences with BBC Radio Leicester and our engagement
here with Asian youngsters. We do not just focus on the
fundamentals of identity and belonging, but widen our
approach to include issues which we know are important
to young people, like sport and entertainment.
The greatest challenge remained engaging with
communities and using their experiences to depict
positive stories – involving minorities in ‘non-ethnic’
reports. One of the biggest hurdles for reporters in
Europe to overcome is the media’s close association of
third generation sons and daughters of immigrants with
current waves of immigrants.
The BBC hasn’t got everything right in reflecting
diversity and should not be complacent, but it has a
good deal to offer Europe in terms of guidance on
practical approaches that reap benefits.