BBC is excluding working-class talent for ‘gilded youth', Michael Buerk claims
BBC veteran Michael Buerk has said the broadcaster is increasingly excluding working-class talent in favour of “gilded youth”.
The presenter and newsreader has said that UK media is becoming the preserve of the wealthy and privately educated.
He claimed that the BBC is becoming a club dominated by those with family connections and the material means to further a “fashionable” career in the press while less privileged talents are excluded.
Buerk, who famously covered the Ethiopian famine and presented 999, has said that BBC concerns over racial representation and gender pay have blinded it to growing uniformities of class.
A one-time colleague of John Humphrys, Buerk has said the departing Today programme presenter will leave the Radio 4 show dominated by the privately educated.
Writing in Radio Times magazine, Buerk said: “Journalism’s a dying industry, broadcasting’s fragmenting and desperately insecure, but they’re still fashionable careers for our gilded youth.
“You have to have wealthy parents with contacts to support you, preferably living close to central London.
“While we’ve been worrying about the lack of diverse faces on the screen, or whether women are paid less fabulously than the men, the BBC, and the media generally, have become much less representative of those they serve.”
Buerk said this lapse in representation is more serious than the other concerns at the BBC and connection between the UK media and its consumers is breaking down.
He wrote that when Humphrys departs the Today programme, it will mean every remaining presenter of the show is privately-educated.
A BBC spokesman said: “More than eight out of 10 of our workforce were educated in state schools and we’re more diverse than we’ve ever been, but we want to lead the way and on top of offering hundreds of apprenticeships we recently set out a range of further action to find and develop the best talent whatever their background.”
Buerk has said the days of working-class Fleet Street hacks with a sense of unprivileged life are over.
He added that even today’s tabloid reporters are often educated at institutions like the Westminster School and Cambridge.
Humphrys has announced that he will be leaving Today in autumn.
:: The full interview can be read in Radio Times magazine, out today.