The BBC has let go a long-standing, award winning comedian from Radio 4 because he was “white and male” and therefore didn’t fit in with diversity targets, he has claimed.
Jon Holmes has appeared on Radio 4’s The Now Show for the last eighteen years, as well as co-creating Radio 4’s Dead Ringers, which later transferred to BBC 2, and co-writing the Horrible Histories series for CBBC. In the process his work has won him two Baftas, eight Sony awards and two British Comedy awards.
The 47-yr-old took to Twitter to announce that he had been “axed” as bosses wanted to “recast” with “more diversity”. He joked “and I didn’t even punch a producer”.
Sad to announce I’ve been axed from @BBCNowShow as ‘we want to recast with more women and diversity’ Tsk. And I didn’t even punch a producer
— Jon Holmes (@jonholmes1) September 26, 2016
Speaking out about the decision in an article for the Mail On Sunday, Holmes revealed that he was not the only talent who had been rejected by the BBC because of “positive discrimination”. One female presenter was offered a job only to have it withdrawn by bosses who told her: “We can’t have you, because you are too white and middle class,” he claimed.
“Having heard so many stories, I decided (against my agent’s better judgment) that maybe someone should stick their head above the parapet to ask: ‘Can we do this better?’” he asked.
“If we are now openly giving jobs to people based on the colour of their skin, surely that is only emphasising just the kind of social division that the equality that I was brought up to embrace strives to eliminate?
“So what if – and I know this is radical – but what if everything and every job in all walks of life was open to everyone equally, and we all just agree that everyone’s the same, by which I mean – you know – ‘human’?”
“Should I, as a white man (through no fault of my own), be fired from my job because I am a white man? Arguably, yes. You may well think I’m c**p on The Now Show, and that’s fine, but to be told it’s because I’m the wrong sex and colour? I’m just not sure that’s helpful to anyone’s cause.”
The former chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Trevor Phillips, said the axing of Holmes to make space for black and ethnic minority (BAME) presenters demonstrated that the BBC “don’t believe black or Asian people are as good as white people.”
He called the decision “idiotic,” adding: “They are misunderstanding what the point of the diversity drive was about. This sounds like somebody who is basically climbing their way up the greasy ladder and they think hiring black and Asian talent is part of what they have got to do to look good.”
But the BBC defended its decision, pointing to the new charter which stipulates diversity targets, including 50 percent of all staff being female and raising the proportion of BAME talent to 15 percent.
A BBC spokesperson said: “While the Government’s new charter for the BBC does set us diversity targets, we always hire presenters on merit.
“We’d like to thank Jon Holmes for his contribution, but our comedy shows are constantly evolving and it was simply time to create opportunities for new regulars when The Now Show returns this autumn.”