In 2020, you would think that radio would be diverse and full of opportunities. But unfortunately, you would be wrong. The UK radio industry really lacks diversity, despite how much Black music is played across radio stations. According to PPL data published in 2019, Pharrell Williams’ ‘Happy’ was the most played song of the decade. As Amanda Seales says, you cannot enjoy the rhythm and ignore the blues.
The Black Lives Matter movement has finally been pushed to the forefront of the news, with hundreds of thousands of people standing together to fight for equality across the world. Many brands and companies have participated in the movement, but my question to them is: Does your company reflect your social media posts?
We have seen many UK national radio stations post videos of on-air moments talking about the Black Lives Matter movement, or participate in Blackout Tuesday. But this is not enough. It is not enough for them to post to their audience, but ignore what’s happening within their own buildings. We need real change within the radio workplace. We need to talk about the UK radio industry.
The Radio Silence movement was set up by two radio producers, Pulama Kaufman and Sara Hebil-Motie. As soon as I found out about it, I had to get involved and help share the message. Being a mixed-heritage female radio presenter and DJ, I have been extremely emotionally affected by the lack of diversity in the radio industry. It hurts me to think that the industry that I love so much does not return that love or support to the Black community.
“The Radio Silence movement was a chance for me to raise awareness to the lack of diversity in the UK radio industry, in an effort to encourage stations to make important changes,” Kaufman says of her reasons behind starting the movement. “As a white female, I hear voices and see people that look like me in the radio industry left, right and centre, but there is a large part of the UK population who are not represented in the same radio that is meant to be speaking for the country. For me, this lack of representation was the biggest driver for me to call out these outlets and demand transparency, accountability and action!”
For Hebil-Motie, the reason was even more personal: “The Radio Silence movement was important to me as I come from an immigrant family from Morocco. I knew, going into the radio industry, of the everyday struggles that come with choosing a career path in the media. However, for BIPOC, getting into the radio industry comes with a myriad of other disadvantages stacked against them.
“To get your foot into the radio industry,” she continues, “you need to be able to afford to undertake unpaid work, live in London, or know someone in a position of hiring power. As I am white-passing, I knew that I could use my privilege to help those who come from an ethnic background facing these challenges disproportionately.”