Minority Television in Action 

21 May 2018 tbs.pm/66326

From Television & Radio 1983, published by the Independent Broadcasting Authority in December 1982

Skin has been a highly successful regional current affairs programme for and about London’s Black and Asian communities, produced by LWT’s London Minorities Unit, since 1980.

When the Unit was set up it was clear that programmes for Blacks and Asians would be one of the strands within it. The average black population of London is double the national average and in some parts of the city the proportion is as high as 50 or 60%. There are a number of different important centres of Blacks and Asians, each with its own traditions, forms of organisation, work patterns, culture and so on: Brixton with its Jamaican population; Notting Hill settled largely by Trinidadians; Southall, centre for the biggest Asian community in the country, drawn largely from the Punjab; and the Bengali community in the East End; to say nothing of dozens of smaller communities from Reading to Harlow, from Walthamstow to Wembley. None of these different communities had been adequately reported or explained to the outside world. It was clear that there were many issues that needed coherent reporting.

Skin set out to explain issues in the widest possible context, reporting the views of all sides fully and fairly. The strength of the series came from the quality of its analysis of the issues facing black people. In the two years since its beginning, the programme has won the respect of all sections of organised opinion within the Black and Asian communities.

Trevor Phillips

The second series of 26 programmes included editions on ‘Racial Attacks’, which brought about a call from the Home Secretary for a special enquiry into this phenomenon; ‘Mental Health’, which revealed that the cultural misconception of doctors led to black patients being misdiagnosed as schizophrenic on a wide scale; and ‘Deptford Fire’, an enquiry into the events behind the fire in which thirteen West Indian teenagers died.

Skin is used educationally in many London schools and there is a steady stream of requests for transcripts and for material for projects from pupils and teachers. Transcripts are also requested by government departments, and there is regular correspondence with MPs whose areas are covered by the programmes.

Now, as a major contribution to Channel 4’s multicultural programming, LWT is filling a weekly slot, for 40 weeks of the year, with a series of two alternating news magazine programmes from the Afro-Caribbean and Asian communities respectively. Each programme reflects the news, views and flavour of the two different communities from their perspective but addressed to the whole audience, both black and white.

The series is being produced by LWT’s Trevor Phillips and Samir Shah, who were on-screen reporters for the London-only Skin series.

These programmes draw on the pioneering experience of LWT’s London Minorities Unit, but they are aimed at a nation-wide audience. Each programme reports from black communities around the country and also includes coverage from the Indian sub-continent, the Caribbean and Black America. The music and culture of the communities is included in the programmes as well as hard current affairs reportage.

The London Community Unit, set up by LWT to provide a link with its audience, makes programmes which involve the viewer, provides an information service for groups which are active within the community, and follows up key programmes transmitted by LWT in the hope that they will be of educational use.

The first of its viewer involvement programmes, London Talking (chaired by Melvyn Bragg), was launched in 1981 and gave members of the audience an opportunity to put their complaints and grievances about ITV programmes to a panel of programme makers, bosses and celebrities. London Talking is a travelling show, shot on location at a different centre within the London Weekend region each month.

The Community Information Service, launched in the late autumn of 1982, makes available 30-second slots in between programmes which voluntary and statutory groups can use free of charge to advertise their services and recruit volunteers. LWT has installed a switchboard to enable the viewer to make contact with these groups.

The method of follow-up varies according to the nature of the programme concerned but the object is to ensure that serious programmes which have been the result of lengthy research will be put to positive use after they have been transmitted. For example, the Great Depression became the subject of a number of ILEA [Inner London Education Authority, 1965-1990] adult education courses; and a major conference about education was held jointly with the Royal Society of Arts to develop issues raised by the education series Starting Out.

Here and Now: producer and presenter Zia Mohyeddin

Central Independent Television’s regional Sunday magazine programme Here and Now deals with the issues and cultures of our multi-racial society. The series, which is produced and presented by Zia Mohyeddin, is aimed at a general audience but concerned specifically with minorities.

The problems not only of the two major groups – Blacks and Asians – but also of the other minorities are examined. During the past year the programme has looked at the current plight of the gypsies, the Chinese community in Liverpool, the deportation threat hanging over Filipinos in the hotel trade, and Rastafarians in Birmingham.

The programme has dealt with all the major issues affecting the minorities such as probation, education, immigration, community policing, housing, fostering and adoption and the Nationality Act, plus some of the less obvious aspects. For example, there was a special investigation into the existence of racism in the media, spread over three weeks, dealing with television, newspapers and children’s books. Occasional ‘specials’ have offered whole programmes devoted to black humour, a reggae spectacular, the world of dance, and a specially commissioned half-hour drama by Farrukh Dhondy.

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