British Journalism Awards Announces Historic New Category For BAME Reporters

The prize will be named after the UK's first Black on-screen journalist Barbara Blake Hannah.
Barbara Blake Hannah (right), with Irish radio and television presenter Eamonn Andrews and British reporter Jane Probyn at Thames Television's 'Today' programme, 29 July 1968.
Barbara Blake Hannah (right), with Irish radio and television presenter Eamonn Andrews and British reporter Jane Probyn at Thames Television's 'Today' programme, 29 July 1968.
Larry Ellis via Getty Images

The British Journalism Awards has launched a new category aimed at recognising up and coming ethnic minority journalists, named in honour of the UK’s first black on-screen TV news reporter.

Barbara Blake Hannah has given her name to this new award in the hope that it will help inspire other journalists to break through barriers in the way that she did.

Responding to the news on Tuesday, Blake Hannah tweeted: “Honoured to have a British Press award named after me. Thanks to all those who made this possible and opened the door further for Black journalists.”

This comes as part of numerous measures announced by the Press Gazette – which produces the annual awards – geared at helping the industry reflect the diversity of the UK.

In 2019, no Black journalists won an award in any of the more than 20 categories. Two journalists of Asian descent won prizes.

In addition to the new category, entrance to the British Journalism Awards will be free this year for journalists from ethnic minority backgrounds, for women and for journalists with a disability, if they do not work for a news organisation which is able to pay for their entry.

This move is being funded though sponsorship from Google and is hoped to cover the cost of at least 100 new entrants to the awards.

This year, for the first time, there is a 50/50 gender split on the 76-strong judging panel. A Press Gazette analysis found that over the eight years of the British Journalism Awards, 740 finalists have been male versus 300 female.

Lack of racial diversity in UK newsrooms has been a key point of discussion across the industry for some time.

Following the global discourse regarding racism in the wake of recent Black Live Matter demonstrations, the Press Gazette revealed that young Black journalists are leaving the media industry after just a few years because of bullying in newsrooms.

Meanwhile, the most under-represented group within UK newsrooms are Black Britons, who make up approximately 3% of the British population but just 0.2% of working journalists, according to research by the Reuters Institute.

Similarly, Asian Britons represent approximately 7% of the UK population but account for just 2.5% of journalists.

In December, more than 100 Black and minority ethnic journalists wrote to UK editors denouncing a lack of diversity that has led to “a long litany of inadequacies in newsroom coverage of race and how stories about non-white people are covered”.

Barbara Blake Hannah
Barbara Blake Hannah

Blake Hannah became the first Black person to appear on British TV in a non-entertainment role in 1968, after securing the role of on-camera reporter for the daily evening show Today With Eamonn Andrews on Thames TV. Here, she interviewed Prime Minister Harold Wilson and actor Michael Caine, among others.

Born in Jamaica, she emigrated to England in 1964, having trained as a journalist.

She wrote for a monthly news magazine established by her father Evon Blake who, incidentally, had founded the Press Association of Jamaica in 1940.

Blake Hannah told Sky News that she credits her father with her giving her “a love of both reading and writing” and a “revolutionary spirit”.

However, racist viewers deemed it “inappropriate” to have her on screen, and she received hostile treatment by her colleagues and predominantly white audience.

She was sacked after nine months without explanation; her producer confided to her that they were under pressure from viewers who called in daily to say: “Get that n***** off our screens.”

Correction: An earlier version of the article said no Black reporters were named as winners. It’s the case that no living Black reporters won any awards. The article has been amended to reflect this.


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