LONDON: The BBC said on Friday the corporation will “reflect” on a radio interview with the first female secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, after concerns were raised about its tone.
The response came after 200 people, including politicians, journalists and academics, this week signed an open letter to the UK broadcaster about what it described as a “strikingly hostile” interview with Zara Mohammed that was broadcast by Radio 4’s “Woman’s Hour” program on Feb. 4.
Mohammed, 29, was repeatedly asked how many female imams there are in the UK. The letter said interviewer Emma Barnett “appeared intent on re-enforcing damaging and prejudicial tropes about Islam and Muslim women.” It called for the overall tone of the interview to be “seriously assessed,” and criticized a lack of representation of Muslims among BBC employees. Just over 2.5 percent of the BBC’s workforce identifies as Muslim.
BBC Director-General Tim Davie said in response to the letter: “As an employer and a broadcaster paid for by the public, we have a duty to reflect the whole of the UK in our staff and within our programs.
“You are correct, across the BBC, representation of Muslims within our staff is lower than the national average but it is not as low as you suggest.
“I want to assure you that improving the representation of our staff is a key priority for me and my executive team. We have more work to do but we are determined to get there.”
The producers of “Woman’s Hour” issued a statement in which they said: “While we appreciate that people can sometimes have very differing responses to our live interviews and discussions, we believe it was legitimate for the program to seek to explore some of the issues facing Muslims in the UK.
“‘Woman’s Hour,’ however, has always been a program that listens to feedback and learns from the responses we receive; we will reflect on the issues and concerns you raise in this open letter.”
Davie backed the statement and invited those with concerns to contact the corporation’s senior management to discuss the points raised in their open letter, the Guardian newspaper reported.
“It is frustrating that the BBC is using statistics regarding Muslim employees for the whole of the corporation, as opposed to what we highlighted specifically at BBC Studios TV and radio production,” said Yassmin Abdel-Magied and Mariam Khan, the organizers of the letter, in response to the BBC comments. “This includes the production of Woman’s Hour. Muslim representation in this crucial area of programming is negligible and requires urgent addressing, both at staff and leadership levels.
“It is also unfortunate that they have failed to engage with the specifics of our concerns over the content of the interview. However, we look forward to discussing these issues further and welcome a constructive conversation with both the director-general and senior executives at the BBC about these important issues.”