TV presenter June Sarpong has been hired by the BBC to “transform and modernise” the culture of the broadcaster.
Taking up the role of Director of Creative Diversity, the BBC say Sarpong “will work to increase representation and ensure that our content reflects the public we serve”.
This means that the TV host and activist will be tasked to improve “the BBC’s on-air talent portrayal and commissioning” and increase staff diversity.
The announcement comes after the BBC ruled presenter Naga Munchetty had breached the broadcaster’s impartiality guidelines with on-air comments regarding US President Donald Trump.
Following the ruling, over 40 BAME actors wrote an open letter protesting the decision, claiming bodies such as the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit should “address their own levels of diversity and increase transparency as to how they reach their decisions”.
Having been advertised this May this year, the Director of Creative Diversity role was planned before the Munchetty row.
Sarpong – a former T4 presenter and Loose Women panellist – said on Twitter she was “truly humbled” by the appointment.
“I relish the challenge of working with senior leadership to make the BBC more inclusive and representative of the broad and diverse audience it serves,” she added in a statement.
“The task is indeed daunting, however being awarded the opportunity to help level the playing field for the next generation of diverse talent, makes the obstacles and discrimination I have personally faced throughout my own career all the more worthwhile.
“I look forward to collaborating with diversity and inclusion industry stakeholders to find new and productive ways to create systemic change.”
June Sarpong has authored two books on diversity issues – Diversify (2017) and The Power of Women (2018) Getty
Tony Hall, Director General of the BBC added: “While we have made significant progress on diversity, we also have to accept that the BBC has much further to go. June’s drive, ambition, and knowhow will help further transform the BBC’s programming to ensure that we truly reflect the public we serve.
“[June] will provide expertise on all on-air diversity matters and serve as an ambassador and champion.”
Sarpong – who was made an MBE in 2007 for services to broadcasting and charity – will continue to work as a panellist on opinion shows such as Loose Women and Sky News’ The Pledge.
The BBC has pledged to ensure 50% of on-air roles go to women by 2020, with targets of 15% for black, Asian and minority ethnic, 8% for disabled and 8% for LGBT staff.