Yay! Starting the year with the good news that Culture Minister Ben Bradshaw has heard our woes and written to the communications watchdog Ofcom asking where all the Chinese are.
I've just seen the letter and it's a welcome sight. Apart from me presenting the occasional programme for BBC Radio 4 (two due this year), a smattering of barely visibles, occasional sightings of Alexa Chung and her frocks, and of course the lovely and highly visible Gok Wan, where are we?
I do possess the perfect face for radio, I know, but I'd like to see more presenters reflecting me on the telly. The British Chinese, including the British Born Chinese (BBCs), are after all the third largest ethnic minority in the UK. It's expected that we may hit the 400,000 mark in the 2011 census with up to another 100,000 students and "irregular workers".
It's long been observed that there are no Chinese in the BBC's flagship Eastenders series despite the history of London's Limehouse and Chinese sailors in the docklands. Hey, I was born in Hackney but I'm starting to feel that I never existed. I think they had a Fujianese DVD seller for a short while recently, as is if that represents us. Around where I live in north London there's an east Asian traffic warden (poor guy!), a Chinese-looking bus driver, not to mention solicitors, councillors and a wide array of professionals and business people.
I look with envy at the Americans with east Asian faces all over the place and occupying all sorts of media and entertainment niches. How often do we see an equivalent here? I can only think of Torchwood where colour-blind cross-racial casting gave us Toshiko Sato. OK, not Chinese, but at least on the same continent.
Exclusive to Madam Miaow Says, Bradshaw writes in his letter to Ofcom that he's now aware of:
... the low profile of the community in the worlds of culture and media and, in particular, broadcast content. ... the limited number of opportunities available to Chinese people attempting to find work in these areas. It is argued that Chinese characters appear infrequently in, for example, popular drama and that there are no Chinese newscasters or television journalists. It is further suggested that when Chinese characters are portrayed on television, film or theatre, they are often unfairly stereotyped. This is all balanced against the fact that the Chinese community constitutes a significant and sizeable ethnic group in the UK.
He also asks how the diversity requirements of section 264(6)(i) of the Communications Act is applied by public service broadcasters with reference to the Chinese community.
Casting directors please take note.
UPDATE: Spirit Warriors about to break the mould?