Almost half of the places on a BBC journalism trainee scheme have gone to candidates from ethnic minorities, it emerged today.
Figures obtained by the Daily Telegraph through the Freedom of Information Act show that 51 places have been made available under the BBC's Journalism Trainee Scheme since 2007. Of these, 24 have gone to candidates from ethnic minorities – 47%.
The latest estimate by the Office for National Statistics is that six million of the 54 million population of England and Wales is non-white – 11%.
One white applicant who was turned down said he had been asked in his interview what experience he had in writing stories that would appeal to people from different racial backgrounds, according to the Telegraph.
The story emerged a day after the newspaper reported that Bristol City Council had banned white people from applying for an £18,000-a-year traineeship because it wanted to boost staff diversity.
Both schemes are legal under the Race Relations Act, but they will become illegal when the Equality Act comes into force in October if the government does not enforce the positive action provision in the legislation – as was signalled by the Conservatives prior to the election. This is because the Equality Act repeals all existing discrimination legislation.
The Home Office told Personnel Today that it was "too early" to say which provisions will be enforced in the Equality Act.
In response to the Telegraph report, a BBC spokesman said: "Whilst the BBC Journalism Trainee scheme is not a positive action scheme, a core objective of the scheme has been to encourage a greater diversity amongst potential BBC journalists.
"We work hard to actively encourage applications from people of all backgrounds and there is a very intensive short-listing and selection process which assesses a whole range of competencies and the potential of each individual to become a successful BBC journalist.
"The allocation of places is based solely on the candidates' performance during the assessment."
What positive action is permitted under the current discrimination legislation?