Lenny Henry to guest edit the Today programme

Henry's diversity-themed episode of the Radio 4 current affairs programme is one of several guest-edited editions over the festive season

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Actor and comedian Lenny Henry is to guest edit a diversity-themed edition of the Today programme in December, as part of a series of festive specials from the Radio 4 current affairs mainstay.

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Henry’s 30th December programme will focus on luminaries who have broken down racial barriers, and debate what progress is still needed to increase diversity in broadcasting, sport and business. The programme will also take a look at the black literary canon, the continuing popularity of jazz music and the changing face of modern comic books.

In the past Henry has criticised the lack of ethnic diversity in broadcasting, and called on the BBC to adopt a “ring-fenced” approach so that money would be earmarked for specific black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) projects, as is currently the practice in regional television.

Speaking at a select committee in June, Henry said: “At the BBC alone in the last 15 years there have been 29 initiatives to achieve ethnic diversity, and the numbers are actually going down. Things are being done but they’re not really working.”

He added: “This is not about tokenism, about black people working on black programmes and Chinese people making a documentary about Chinese New Year every now and again. This is about driving up quality.”

The other guest editors for Today’s annual takeover – which starts on Boxing Day – are singer-songwriter Tracey Thorn, former Bank of England governor Mervyn King, Lady Butler-Sloss, and the Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow, who will be examining the changing face of government in the digital age.

Jamie Angus, the editor of Today, said: “This year’s crop has reached the very top in politics, finance, the law, and entertainment. The breadth of their experience and the diversity of their interests will provide a real treat for the listeners.”

Previous guest editors have included Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker, physics professor Stephen Hawking and artist David Hockney.

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The Today programme is on Radio 4 from six on weekday mornings, and from seven on Saturdays