BBC Radio DJ Nihal criticises “all white” Radio 1 and “all black” 1Xtra

Nihal said BBC had 'a problem on the eighth floor' of broadcasting house

Former Radio 1 DJ Nihal has criticised the lack of diversity at the BBC, particularly the “silos” on the corporation’s music stations, where Radio 1 is “all white” and 1Xtra is “all black”.

Nihal, who now presents shows on the Asian Network and Radio 5 Live and is part of BBC director general Tony Halls working group to improve diversity at the BBC, said the corporation had a “problem on the eighth floor” of Broadcasting house, where Radio 1 and 1Xtra are based.

As the Guardian reports, Nihal welcomed the appointment of Clara Amfo to replace Fearne Cotton on Radio 1’s weekday morning show, but questioned why it had taken so long for the station to hire its first black female daytime presenter.

He added that “nothing had changed” since a former director general “blew hot air” about the “hideously white” make up of the corporation in 2001.

“The fact is on the eighth floor of the BBC there is a problem,” Nihal told the Oxford Media Convention today. “If you go and look at all the Asians are sitting in one corner, all the white people are on Radio 1 and all the black people are on 1Xtra. That is not diversity, that is silos.”

He continued: “One of the things is there are no sanctions. If you don’t achieve these targets, nothing happens … and they try again in five years when it becomes politically expedient again.

“At Channel 4 it is a lot easier to fire people than it is at the BBC. I’m not saying you fire people for not being diverse enough, but it is an issue with lots of public institutions. People get into a role and they stay there for a long time, they keep their head down and everything is fine.”

Nihal pointed out that the issue was one of class rather than race. “If you just put Oxbridge brown people in positions, then what’s the point? They come from exactly the same mindset. That’s not diversity, it’s a fig leaf,” he said.

The BBC defended its commitment to diversity and highlighted that the corporation remains committed to reflecting its audiences. “Radio 1 and 1Xtra are committed to reflecting the diversity of their young audiences and these sweeping generalisations are untrue,” it said in a statement. “Both stations have exceeded the BBC’s diversity targets and we will continue to work hard to build on this progress.”

Last week, Fearne Cotton announced that she is to leave Radio 1 due to being pregnant with her second child. Her departure is the latest big change in Radio 1’s line-up following the news that Zane Lowe is leaving his evening show.