David Olusoga: Some of the reaction to my MacTaggart lecture was disappointing

David Olusoga has said he was “disappointed” with some of the reaction to a recent lecture he gave about racism in the television industry.

In August, the historian reflected on his experiences as a black broadcaster in the annual James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture, the keynote speech of the Edinburgh TV Festival.

In a livestreamed interview on the festival’s YouTube channel on Tuesday, he said his earlier comments were used as a “political weapon” against the BBC and also got used in a “culture wars battle”.

David Olusoga delivers MacTaggart Lecture
(Jack Clark/PA)

His lecture reflected on his past experience of depression and wanting to quit television, and Olusoga said they would be understood by “many black and brown people” in the industry.

He also said there is a “lost generation” of black and brown people who did not stay in the business.

On Tuesday, he labelled the reaction to his comments from those who do not work in television as “pretty disappointing”.

Edinburgh TV Festival
(Ian West/PA)

Olusoga added: “I think there was a determination to use the points I’d made about diversity and the failings of the past as a political weapon in the ongoing debates about the media, particularly about the BBC.

“My great frustration with the reaction outside the industry was that I was quite careful to talk about the TV industry, not just the BBC.

“Some of the incidents and moments I described took place outside the BBC.”

However, he said that the reaction to his comments from those who work in television was more positive.

He added: “I think I was able and felt empowered to say what I said because of the spirit of the moment of 2020, because of the spirit of Black Lives Matter and I think the speech was a reflection of that moment, a historic moment that we are still living through and I think the reaction was a reflection of that historic moment.”

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