Sir Lenny Henry calls for 'systemic change' in TV industry

Julia Hunt
·Contributor
·2-min read
Sir Lenny Henry speaking during a memorial service at St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square, London, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the murder of Stephen Lawrence.
Sir Lenny Henry (PA)

Sir Lenny Henry has called for “systemic change” after saying he still feels “lonely” in the TV industry as someone from a minority background.

The comedian, actor and writer – who is an advocate for more diversity in the arts and entertainment – has been on television since the late 70s but, according to The Times, said he is often still the only Black man at work meetings.

“A lot of the time at work, I am lonely. Very lonely,” he said.

Watch: Sir Lenny Henry makes appeal for inclusion within the media industry

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Opening up in new book Access All Areas: The Diversity Manifesto For TV And Beyond, Sir Lenny says Black and Asian viewers feel better represented by on-demand streaming services and warned that terrestrial broadcasters could find viewers switching off if they don’t tackle it.

“If British broadcasters don’t tackle the diversity grey rhino now, they run the risk of losing large parts of their audience forever,” said the 62-year-old.

The star also says in his book that he would like to see more diversity behind the camera.

Lenny Henry during the filming for the Graham Norton Show at BBC Studioworks 6 Television Centre, Wood Lane, London, to be aired on BBC One on Friday evening.
Sir Lenny Henry (PA)

Citing the death of George Floyd last year, Sir Lenny said it made him realise that “what we are trying to achieve is power”.

“What we need is fundamental, integral, systemic change,” he said.

Read more: Lenny Henry calls for more diversity in the arts

The Times reports that figures compiled by the Creative Diversity Network show that ethnic minorities account for just under 27% of “on-screen contributions” on the BBC, and 22% at ITV. Both have already vowed to make improvements.

Access All Areas: The Diversity Manifesto For TV And Beyond was co-written by Sir Lenny and Marcus Ryder.

Watch: Richard Curtis on Sir Lenny Henry’s legacy