Anita Rani: 'posh white men are the default on TV'

Anita Singh
Anita Rani: 'I feel I have to justify why I should present things' - Andrew Crowley

“Posh white men” are the default option as television presenters, according to Anita Rani, who says she has been asked to justify working on programmes that are not linked to her Asian heritage.

The Countryfile host said she had tried to follow up her BBC Bollywood documentary with a second film about Hollywood but was asked: “Why you, Anita?”

Rani has become one of the BBC’s most accomplished presenters, seen on TV this week in the BBC One documentary War on Plastic with Hugh and Anita, but said she had faced prejudice in her career.

In a speech to Channel 4’s diversity festival, reported by The Guardian, Rani said: “I feel I have to justify why I should present things more than anyone else because I’m an Asian woman, and on top of that I’m blimmin’ northern.

“I’m expected to explain why I should be presenting something much more than others. You would never think to ask the number of posh white men on TV, ‘Why did you get to present shows about train travel in India?’ or whatever it might be because, you know what, they are the default.

“They don’t need to worry about authenticity or what space they are taking up. I do, all the time.”

She did not name particular presenters, but Michael Portillo and John Sergeant have presented BBC series on Indian rail travel.

Speaking to an audience in her home city of Bradford, Rani called for more diversity behind the camera.

Recalling her job on Bollywood: The World’s Biggest Film Industry, part of the BBC’s Big British Asian Summer season last year, Rani said: “Walking into the production office to meet the entire team, guess what? I was the only brown face in the team… it was a missed opportunity.”

Her proposal to make a follow-up film on Hollywood was turned down by executives, she said. “The question that came back was, ‘Why you, Anita?’ Of course they could understand me making a programme about Bollywood, but Hollywood? ‘What has it got to do with you?’”

A BBC spokesperson said: “We’re proud that Anita presents some of our most popular programmes including BBC One’s War on Plastic with Hugh and Anita, Countryfile and The Victorian House of Arts and Crafts on BBC Two as well as the BBC’s recent coverage of the Royal Wedding.

"We have a wider variety of presenters and programmes than any other broadcaster, a range of initiatives to increase diversity on and off air, and commission ideas on their merit.”