The media industry will lose out if we are not tackling diversity: June Sarpong

TV presenter June Sarpong has said the media industry will lose out on talent if it continues to ignore diversity issues.

The British broadcaster has called for editors and media outlets to bring in fresh talent from diverse backgrounds in order to reach new audiences.

At the London Press Club event on Thursday evening, the BBC’s Samantha Simmonds and Sarpong spoke to an audience of 100 about the importance of diversity and how the industry can do better.

When asked why working class youngsters lack confidence in the job market, Sarpong put it down to the fact that the industry is not doing enough to attract nor offer opportunities to people from different backgrounds.

She said: “Publications and the industry in general needs to realise that we are losing out and if we’re not nurturing all the talents and all of the people that are able to contribute, we are losing out as a result of that.

“It’s about editors and gatekeepers realizing that there’s a whole slew of talent out there that has never been explored, that’s never been nurtured, that could add a whole different dimension to your business, that can bring in a whole new market and audience as well.”

The former MTV presenter was discussing diversity following the release of her book, Diversify, which aims to explore the inequality in the UK by looking at addressing the divisions in society.

The 40-year-old was joined by Black Ballad founder Tobi Oredein and apprentice journalist, Adebola Lamuye, who discussed their own experiences with diversity and how print journalism can do better by implementing change.

From left: Tobi Oredein, Samantha Simmonds, June Sarpong, Adebda Lamuye

Sarpong shared her experience of being left out of a major MTV campaign because the PRs felt she was ‘too inappropriate’. This lead to uproar from viewers who thought she had left the TV station.

She noted how something like this would have made headline news in the current climate but admitted that social media has more of an influence now than it did when she was starting out in the industry.

When asked whether society has taken a step back on social media in relation to freedom of speech, Sarpong disagreed and said the only way we can tackle these issues is if we challenge them head on.

“We have to allow this debate to happen and we can’t allow these views to take place in the shadows because that’s when it becomes even more dangerous.

“For me, we cannot banish viewpoints we don’t agree with, we need to debate them and we have to win the debate.”

While the far right’s voice has projected on social media, she noted that their mindset can change if the media take on that responsibility of challenging them in a debate.

She added: “We have to debate them and that’s how we change the hearts and minds of the majority. The majority of people aren’t thinking that way.”

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