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The prospects are improving fast for Black and Asian youngsters trying to break into a career in the media. Their hopes are being boosted by a rapidly changing population, and an even more rapidly changing media landscape. Those were the optimistic messages emerging when some leading figures in the industry visited the University of East London to share their wisdom and experience with students keen to pursue a career in the field.

“You have to get the idea of TV out of your head,” former BBC senior executive Pat Younge told the audience. “It’s a screen. Whether it’s on your phone or your laptop, it’s a screen. That’s how advertisers think now.

“And with ethnic minority population being disproportionately young, the demographics are shifting our way,” said Mr Younge, who now works as an independent content maker.

Among the others at the event at UEL’s University Square building in Stratford were:

  • Samantha Johnson -  sports anchor and producer at Arise News
  •  Donna McConnell - former Showbiz Editor of the MailOnline
  •  Sebastian Thiel - filmmaker and the founder of Upshot Entertainment
  •  Yasmin Evans - host of BBC 1Xtra’s breakfast show
  • Claudia-Liza Armah -  London Live newsreader

The discussion was hosted by Fernand Frimpong Jnr, the award-winning presenter on cable TV station, Vox Africa.

The debate was the latest in a series of monthly events designed to inspire students enrolled on UEL’s Young Black and Ethnic Professionals mentoring scheme.  The panellists shared their experiences of climbing the media career ladder with a receptive audience of students. Getting a foothold in this most competitive of careers is a challenge for the best of us.  But those without an Oxbridge education or high level contacts can find it even harder. 

 “It is still very much a private club in the media,” warned Samantha Johnson, who got her big break at Sky Sports. “People give jobs to who they like.  “There are going to be a lot of people ahead of you, so try and get out there as soon as possible and get your foot in the door.”

But Donna McConnell, who was partly responsible for turning the Daily Mail’s website into a huge media success, warned that once your foot is in the door, keeping it there won’t be easy.

“The hardest aspect is, when you’re starting out you have to do a lot of work for free,” she said

But though much early work experience may be unpaid, it is essential if you want to get on, as Pat Younge explained.

“For an entry level job at the BBC they may get 2,000 applicants. So you need a lot of luck. What they look for is not just a degree. Loads of people have a degree.  It’s people who have a passion to communicate.”

Notes to Editors

The University of East London (UEL) is a global learning community with students from over 120 countries world-wide. Our vision is to achieve recognition, both nationally and internationally, as a successful and inclusive regional university proud of its diversity, committed to new modes of learning which focus on students and enhance their employability, and renowned for our contribution to social, cultural and economic development, especially through our research and scholarship. We have a strong track-record in widening participation and working with industry.