Quota UK: Now Election Debate Moderators Are 'Too White and Too Middle Class'

A House of Lords committee has said that said that the men who moderated the party leaders' debates before the last General Election were "too white and too middle class".

The report published today, calls for greater "diversity" among debate moderators. It says that the fact all three moderators for the leader debates were white men was "surprising", and points out that the debate between finance spokesmen was moderated by a broadcaster who happens to be Asian.

The BBC general election debate in 2010 was moderated by David Dimbleby, the ITV debate by Alastair Stewart and the Sky debate by Adam Boulton, all of whom are white men. It was surprising to us and no doubt to the electorate as a whole that there were no women and no members of ethnic minorities. We note that Channel 4's Ask the Chancellors debate was moderated by Krishnan Guru-Murthy.

Then, relying on a statement by Alan Schroeder, professor of journalism at Northeastern University in Boston, MA, and the journalist Phil Harding, the committee conclude that things must change:

We asked several witnesses whether there should be a greater diversity amongst the moderators. Professor Schroeder pointed out that, "For your three debates in 2010 you had three white male journalists. There is nothing wrong with that—I am a white male journalist myself—but I do think there is some value in bringing diversity of voices into the moderating process." Going further, Phil Harding told us, "if it is four debates this time you cannot end up with four white men."

They then go on to talk about turn out among non-white voters in the last General Election, suggesting that greater diversity among debate moderators may help to increase non-white participation.

They admit, however:

No witness presented us with a concrete solution to the lack of diversity amongst the moderators in 2010. The choice of a moderator for each debate remains the decision of that debate's broadcaster.

This is the latest in a series of calls for ethnic quotas in British public life.

In March, Comedian Lenny Henry called for the government to intervene and pass legislation to increase the number of black and Asian people in TV dramas. He said that the number of shows that feature at least 50 percent black and Asian actors and production staff must increase by 400 percent, although he did not state exactly how legislation would achieve this.

Last month, the Labour Party also suggested they may introduce ethnic and gender quotas for the judiciary if they win power at the next General Election. Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan said that the party could use the “nuclear option” of imposing quotas if the judiciary did not become less “male, white and Oxbridge.”


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