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The BBC just confused Labour MP Marsha de Cordova for Dawn Butler, and it’s really not OK

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Hollie Richardson
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Marsha de Cordova

Labour MPs Dawn Butler and Marsha de Cordova have called out the BBC for getting them mixed up during a report, pointing out that this is what happens when there is no diversity in newsrooms. 

Last week, the BBC had to apologise for mistakenly playing footage of LeBron James in its coverage of the death of his fellow basketball star Kobe Bryant.

Paul Royall, editor of BBC News at Six and Ten, tweeted after the error, saying: “We apologise for this human error which fell below our usual standards on the programme.” 

But people were, rightly, quick to call out that this is what happens when there is a lack of diversity in newsrooms.

It’s worth pointing out that a 2018 report found only 14.8% of the broadcaster’s workforce were from a BAME background in that same year.

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Now, Labour MPs Marsha de Cordova and Dawn Butler have had to call out the BBC for mixing up two people of colour in their reporting yet again.

Footage of Battersea MP Cordova, who is the shadow minister for disabled people, speaking in the Commons was played in a BBC report. However, the BBC displayed the name of MP for Brent Central and Labour deputy leadership candidate, Butler.

Butler was quick to respond, tweeting: @BBCNews @BBCPolitics I love my sister @MarshadeCordova but we are two different people. Marsha is amazing and deserves to be called by her own name. Diversity in the workplace matters it also helps to avoid making simple mistakes like this.”

Cordova added: “@BBCPolitics @BBCParliament this is what happens when the media does not represent the society it reports on. Representation matters. Diversity matters. This cannot continue.”

Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu further explained why this is unacceptable, adding: “Clearly there’s no threshold of shame for @BBC to keep demonstrating an ineptitude worthy of an institutionally dysfunctional organisation projecting bias & feeding negative stereotypes. Black. People. Are. Not. The. Same.”

BBC Parliament have since apologised, writing: “We sincerely apologise for this mistake. Sometimes we incorrectly identify MPs at the moment when they stand to speak. This error was immediately corrected on screen.”

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So, what is the BBC actually doing to address the fact that it is seriously lacking in BAME diversity? 

Last year, corporation boss Tony Hall circulated an email, writing: “We can’t be the creative, inclusive organisation we want to be if we’re not representative of the whole of the UK.

“We’re making some good progress, but we want to do more, particularly in relation to senior leaders.”

He added: “So we’ve decided to take immediate action to promote a generation of talented leaders who’ll bring the diversity of thinking we need.”

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It came after pledging to have at least two BAME members on every senior leadership group by the end of 2020, and appointing June Sarpong as the BBC’s first director of creative diversity.

Clearly, there’s still a very long way to go.     

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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…

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