Lenny Henry: ‘peppa pig has more rights than black people’

The ‘second most influential black Brit’ lashes the BBC about ‘mistreatment’ of ethnic minorities.

Lenny Henry is furious they ring-fence kids programmes over ethnic minority programming
Getting in a Tiswas Lenny Henry can’t keep his mouth shut about a perceived BBC bias. Image Picture Rosie Greenway/Getty Images

It seems Sir Lenny Henry isn’t getting the value of the good night’s sleep he says is guaranteed at the hotel chain he plugs.

He’s got grouchy with his BBC bosses – claiming cartoons have more rights than ethnic minorities on TV. The Dudley comic lambasted the corporation for not ring-fencing funds for ethnic minority programming in the same way they do for children’s shows such as CBeebies’ Peppa Pig.

Henry was this week ranked second on the Powerlist 2016 – the annual list of the 100 most powerful people of African and African Caribbean heritage in Britain.

He said, “The BBC ring-fences money for children’s programmes. All I’m asking is to have the same rights as Peppa Pig, dammit. If ethnic-minority programmes were given the same status as children’s TV, classics such as Goodness Gracious Me and Desmond’s wouldn’t just be fond memories.

“All I’m asking is to have the same rights as Peppa Pig”

“I dream of the day when we have an ongoing comedy series that renews its cast every two years, that seeks out the best black and Asian comic performers – a Real McCoy meets Saturday Night Live.”

Henry lashed the Beeb even though he recently made a BBC1 drama about his upbringing called Danny And The Human Zoo.

The 57-year-old attacked the corporation in a column for the New Statesman magazine.

He opened the brutal attack on telly bosses with the line, ‘The television industry is 94 per cent white and, like some bad washing detergent commercial, it seems to be getting whiter all the time.’

Henry ‘whited up’ for 1991 film True Identity and was formerly a member of the Black And White Minstrel Show at the start of his career. He has expressed regret he appeared on the controversial stage version of the Black And White Minstrel Show in the 1970s, recently saying minstrel footage he showed a young director almost reduced her to tears.

Lenny Henry appeared in the Black And White Minstrel Show
Not as simple as black... Henry appearing in The Black And White Minstrel Show. Image Picture Kevin Holt/ANL/REX Shutterstock
Lenny Henry ‘whited up’ for the film True Identity
...or white Henry also whited up for the 1991 film True Identity. Image Picture Moviestore/REX Shutterstock

Henry also accused executives at ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Sky for not paying enough attention to programming for BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) people.

Henry was beaten to the top of the Powerless 2016 by 64-year-old businessman Ken Olisa, who is tasked with supporting the Royal Family and advancing social inclusion in the capital after he became the first black Briton to serve as a director at a FTSE 100 company with Thomson Reuters.

His attack comes after he joined Idris Elba and other stars, including Emma Thompson and Richard Curtis, in writing an open letter to British broadcasters urging more cash for ethnic diversity on TV.

Henry commented on the message, “What happened to the open letter we sent last year, I hear you ask? So far we’ve heard nothing back. I signed a letter calling for the change. To misquote Beyoncé, ‘If you like it then you should have put a ring-fence on it’. When the industry really likes something and wants to make sure it works, it ring-fences money for it.”

“I dream of the day when we have a Real McCoy meets Saturday Night Live”

Henry, now dating make-up artist Lisa Makin after splitting with fellow national treasure Dawn French, has persistently hit out at racism on TV. Henry, whose parents came to Britain from Jamaica, has suffered his share of vicious racism.

In his early career he said photographers would ask him to pose in white make-up and eating watermelons.

Last year a UKIP candidate tweeted that he should go and “live in a black country”.

Dawn French recently told of someone once putting an oily rag through their letterbox when they were together, trying to burn the house down as they slept upstairs. They were also once targeted by members of the Ku Klux Klan, who smeared excrement on their front door.

Henry has previously said the “Alf Garnett” generation of TV programme makers is alive and well and has questioned why Idris Elba’s character Luther is never seen “with any black mates”.

The BBC said in a statement last year: “BBC Television is committed to diversity both on and off screen but we’re always looking at how we can improve, including the recent launch of apprenticeship schemes with both the Mama Youth project and Stephen Lawrence Trust for example.”

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