Government Blocks Woman of Color from Channel 4 Board for Third Time, Raising Questions About Meddling in Media Appointments

London – The British government has once again rejected a woman of color for a position on Channel 4’s board, raising concerns about government interference in media appointments. Rozina Breen, the former head of the BBC’s north division, was put forward by TV regulator Ofcom but was rejected by the government without any explanation. This marks the third time a woman of color has been blocked from joining Channel 4’s board.

Ofcom is responsible for recruiting Channel 4 board members, but the final decision must be approved by the culture secretary, Lucy Frazer. The recent appointments approved by the government on Monday included five new non-executive directors, only one of whom is a person of color. This falls significantly short of Channel 4’s target of 20% representation from ethnically diverse directors.

The lack of diversity on Channel 4’s board has sparked criticism, with chairman Ian Cheshire expressing disappointment in an email to staff. He acknowledged that while the appointments will improve representation, they do not fully meet the diversity levels within the organization. Cheshire attributed the lack of control over board appointments to procedural reasons.

Breen, who is now the CEO and editor-in-chief of The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, highlighted the importance of diverse senior decision-makers in the broadcasting industry. She also questioned the lack of representation from different parts of the UK on the board, as Channel 4 has a mandate to go beyond its London remit and be more representative of audiences across the country.

The rejection of diverse candidates for Channel 4’s board is not an isolated incident. In 2021, former Arts Council England boss Althea Efunshile and film producer Uzma Hasan, both women of color, were blocked from being reappointed.

The lack of regional diversity on the board is another point of concern, with all successful candidates except one being based in London. Channel 4’s national headquarters is in Leeds, but there are no directors based in the north of England or other parts of the UK. This raises questions about the broadcaster’s commitment to representing under-served audiences and increasing its presence outside of London.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) declined to comment on the diversity of Channel 4’s board, stating only that appointments were made by Ofcom following a fair and open competition with approval from the culture secretary.

The board diversity issue comes at a time when Channel 4 has announced plans to make up to 200 job cuts this year, the largest round of layoffs in over 15 years.