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Toni Tone is right, Black voices need to be heard on more topics than just racism

By Will Arnot Oct 13, 2021
Toni Tone at a film premier earlier this year.Toni Tone at a film premier earlier this year. Photo:James Gillham/Shutterstock

In the midst of the celebration of culture that is Black History Month, it is important not to forget that there is still a long road ahead for true equality to be achieved.

Actress Toni Tone, one of the stars of the UK’s first all-black reality show, Channel 4’s Highlife, has rightfully come out and criticised the levels of representation for black voices and stories on British television. In an interview with Annabel Rackham for BBC Newsbeat, Tone stated that: “There’s so much black people are experiencing beyond racism.”

Toni Tone (far left) and her castmates on Highlife. Photo: Channel 4

Tone’s statement further highlights the arguments raised by writer and broadcaster Chanté Joseph on March 8, 2021. She stated that she had been invited to three separate television interviews, to discuss the racism aspects of The Sussexes versus The Royal Family, after their interview with Oprah Winfrey the day prior.

Joseph took to Twitter to express her frustration with being pigeonholed:

When looking at the most recent Race and Ethnic Diversity report from the Creative Diversity Network, the exact scale of the issue can be seen. The data which is sourced from diversity information forms relating to more than 700,000 television production contributions, shows that less than seven per cent of all on-screen television roles in the UK, are occupied by black people – and with black actors twice as likely to be in a supporting role than a starring role.

Chante Joseph on ITV’s ‘Stephen Lawrence: Has Britain Changed?’ Photo: Jonathan Hordle/Shutterstock.

The argument can be made that the problem starts not on the television screens but rather in the boardrooms. When looking at the largest television networks and channels across the United Kingdom (BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5) you will see a sea of white faces. With only one black person at the executive level per network, with two, somewhat ironically, working in diversity. The Creative Diversity Report shows that black people occupy less than 2.5 per cent of all senior roles within UK television.

By Will Arnot

Will Arnot | Comment & Analysis | he/him I’m passionate about all things sport, food and data, and most often find myself writing about inequality issues inside and outside of journalism.

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