BBC attempts abuse of Ligali to promote anti-African film

By The Ligali Organisation | Wed 30 August 2006

A desperate BBC campaign abusing and misquoting Ligali commentary to promote an anti-African film has backfired as the African British community pledge support for a licence fee boycott.

Support for abstaining from paying the BBC licence tax continues to grow in the community following the corporation’s latest anti-African film aimed at satirising the socio-political inequality faced by the community. ‘Shoot the Messenger’, originally titled ‘Fuck Black People’, has been summarised as a “nauseating repetition of negativity… Rather than challenging these age old stereotypes or presenting them as more than one dimensional caricatures, the film capitalises on the opportunity to present them as icons of entertainment. The lack of balance in this film is overwhelmingly obvious”.

The film specifically targets African people with Caribbean heritage inviting the audience to laugh at the myriad of problems they encounter. It makes light of issues such as mental health, academic attainment, poverty of aspirations, the loss of African identity, the marginalisation of African history and culture, gun crime, single parenthood, unemployment, eurocentric perceptions of beauty, religion and morality. It has been predictably hailed by the mainstream european media as a ‘dynamic’ insight into the African British community despite its unrealistic, myopic focus.

The BBC have lazily resigned to allowing the mainstream media to run off comments made by the Ligali organisation at the preview screening of the film earlier this year and completely avoided promoting or defending the film on its own merits and content. This mimic’s the symbolic stance of the BBC Two Controller Roly Keating who remained conspicuously silent during the Q & A session that followed the preview screening, choosing to shield himself behind members of the African British cast and crew. A BBC Online news article unashamedly lies about Ligali’s position on the film by claiming that Ligali founder, Toyin Agbetu “argues the film… should not be screened.” In fact, Ligali’s official position on the film is that it needs to be screened to help assist African Britons examine whether they should continue to fund the BBC or refuse to pay the £131.50 tax imposed by the media corporation and British government. Ligali believes it is important that the BBC remain transparent about the racism at the heart of their organisation. The commissioning of and unrepentant support for ‘Shoot the Messenger’, irrespective of near universal criticism in the African media (and perverse praise in right wing media) is merely the tip of the iceberg.

The BBC have since featured the story on the front page of its in-house publications whilst trotting out the film’s writer, Sharon Foster, for various interviews with racist media organisations such as the Evening Standard, the Daily Mail and LBC radio all of whom have an established history of anti-African prejudice. Significantly, the Beeb have avoided entangling BBC representatives in the defence of this film, preferring to allow Foster to take the heat.

Toyin Agbetu: Shoot the messenger is nothing more than the celluloid version of gangsta rap

Hilarious but disappointing

Toyin Agbetu said “This situation is hilarious. Instead of the BBC promoting the film on its own merits and discussing the issues they claimed the film highlighted, they have chosen to use the full weight of their marketing department to both misquote me and base their feeble publicity drive solely on the fact that Ligali finds the film offensive.” Foster meanwhile continues to repeat ad nauseaum that the film highlights “the blame culture” in the ‘black’ community. Her discussion of the issues rarely goes beyond the repetition of this disingenuous statement and, like her film, falls far short of any tangible solutions.

Toyin went on to state that he was very disappointed that the BBC had chosen to marginalise the contributions of the talented director, Ngozi Onwurah, and the film’s actors by focusing on the headline grabbing antics of Foster. He said; “Shoot the messenger is nothing more than the celluloid version of gangsta rap; anti-African, misogynistic, relentless in its negativity, supported by closet racists who are not Africans and produced by ‘artists’ and executives who hide behind a fake defence of ‘keeping it real’ while using the n word”.

Sharon Foster and the BBC: Failing African Britons

External Links
Observer - Blatant racism, or painful truth?
Daily Mail - BBC accused of making perfect
Only guns and gangsters

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Sophisticated racist programming from the BBC
BBC previews its most sophisticated racist film ever

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Instead of the BBC promoting the film on its own merits and discussing the issues they claimed the film highlighted, they have chosen to use the full weight of their marketing department to both misquote me and base their feeble publicity drive solely on

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Out of what could only be considered sheer desperation, the BBC marketing department with its exorbitant £40 million annual budget have chosen to launch a publicity campaign for the film ‘Shoot the Messenger’ designed around the single fact that Ligali does not like the film. This speaks volumes about the lack of confidence that the BBC have in discussing the offensive anti-African undercurrent of the film. In its attempt to deliberately exploit the inflamed ethnic tensions used to market the film, the BBC even included its flagship Radio 4 Today programme on the act by inviting the film’s author and diversity ‘expert’ and fellow film supporter Linda Bellos to ‘impartially debate’ the positive aspects of the film to its audience.

However, in an ironic twist, the BBC, Sharon Foster and other racist media have unintentionally given our organisation a great deal of publicity and more importantly, raised awareness of the need for African people to withdraw their moral, political and economic support of the BBC. One commentator on the Ligali online forums said of the film, that it is “A good reason not to pay your TV licence. Why pay for a service that takes the michael out of Africans?” And one community member took the matter one step further by donating £131 to the Ligali organisation in protest at what she called ‘the decades of exploitation of [African Britons] for white people’.

A current online poll revealed that the mood of discontent with the BBC is not a recent phenomenon, neither is the utter contempt with which the BBC clearly hold the opinions of the African British community. 100% of voters stated that they would not be paying their licence fee. The BBC continue to make little effort to produce the quality and quantity of programming that has been demanded by African Britons who have been paying their licence fee for decades. Something inevitably has to give.

And then there is the issue of the writer, Sharon Foster, who originally claimed that she wrote the film to ‘discuss the issues’ within the community. However, it seems that she has since changed her mind and instead when given the opportunity to do so has ended up avoiding discussions on solutions (just like David Matthews did with BBC series ‘The Trouble with Black men’) and regurgitated the usual right wing Daily Mail rhetoric blaming the entire African community for its historic socio-political problems in Britain.

You have to wonder why someone who claims to be writing a film for the African British community has shown relatively little interest in the actual opinions of that community. Far from attempting to address the concerns of the film’s critics, she has sought to dismiss and belittle the arguments that even the film’s director had to accept were utterly valid. Foster continues to refuse to accept that there is anything positive about her community and thereby undermines the work of thousands of African Britons who are selflessly devoted to progressing the community and unlike her do not receive a pay check for their efforts.

Foster promotes the film on the back of the notion that she feels she is somehow doing something novel and necessary. She talks of a the need for a new approach because the ‘old one’ isn’t working but fails to discuss a single noteworthy solution for empowerment and progression of the community highlighting the fact that her intentions are at best misinformed and at worst, a cheap and easy attempt to advance her career whilst diminishing the community. Of course time and history will be judge of whether a film made about us but not for us will really have any impact on the community other than contributing to the mass of ever growing negative visual media and perpetuating the notion that we are bone idle when it comes to determining and improving our cultural and political destiny. Our message to Foster, undoubtedly soon to follow in the historical footsteps of other ostracised and deeply compromised ‘black’ liabilities such as Trevor Philips, Amina Taylor, Tony Sewell and Lola Ayonrinde is enjoy the infamy whilst it lasts.

Supporting the film, the apologist commentator, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown recently wrote ‘If powerful gatekeepers ensured a flow of films, books, articles and programmes by Britons of colour, there wouldn't be this intense scrutiny of creative individuals, nor such impossible expectations on the few who break in.’ The major flaw in this statement is that she fails to acknelowedge Foster as one of those ‘gatekeepers’ and instead puts the responsibility for producing media on the community who have little access, resources or finances to produce such media. Having said that, there are a myriad of independent production companies, writers and culturally aware Creatives that produce diverse quality media but are not necessarily enabled to distribute their material on a national scale through the mainstream media. Brown, who is often quick to jump to the defence of Britain’s ethnic majority is part of that hypocritical movement who will criticise the ‘black’ community and expect to be granted special privileges to do what they want, how they want and when they want based on the fact that they have the power to do so.. Simultaneously, they reject any sense of responsibility and have no moral sense of duty or the integrity to utilise their positions to empower the community. Apparently, our problems are our problem, not theirs. They have officially bailed out. These individuals will then audaciously complain that they receive little support from the community. For reasons best known to them, whilst they do not feel any responsibility when it comes to multidimensional portrayal, they do feel a responsibility to contribute to the ever-growing mountain of one-sided misrepresentation of the African community. When pay checks are involved, it is sad to see that there are some who are happy to abandon a wider moral imperative for narrow self gratification disguised as mere ‘creative expression’.

Whilst Foster has been the face of the BBC film, the other contributors have been marginalised. However, in a rare instance on the BBC, an article featured the opinion of Shoot the Messenger’s director Ngozi Onwurah. Unfortunately, Onwurah appears to completely misunderstand our position on the film. She claims that “Ligali wanted to only see positive black characters on screen, which would also be misrepresentative.” We are unsure as to where Onwurah got this assumption but we can only assume that it suits her sensibilities to gloss over the fact that there is a need for multidimensional portrayals as opposed to the myopic, caricaturing misrepresentative and wholly negative one dimensional notions of Shoot the Messenger. Onwurah goes on to state that “The starting point for some of their arguments is very valid - there are a lot of negative portrayals in the media and there needs to be somebody watching what's going on. But that doesn't mean that you counteract it by having almost pure propaganda".

It is indeed tragic that someone who is clearly talented in her art and seemingly aware of the continuing and unrelentingly negative media portrayal of her community can be so narrow-minded and disingenuous in her vision. She talks of ‘pure propaganda’ which is what the BBC have been broadcasting for decades in regards to the African British community and yet she defends this by saying that Africans should not retaliate by producing programming that counters this racist portrayal. We have never said that media professionals must only portray positive aspects of our community. But there is a need to convey us as more than a mass of problematic, morally vacant, destructive, self hating individuals.

We strongly suggest that the BBC eat some humble pie and consider ensuring that the work of the cast and crew is not subsumed by their panic driven defence of the films abhorrent content. They should also ensure that their journalists refrain from sloppy journalism and sensationalist fabrications in order to promote controversy.

Finally, we have a serious message to all African people in the UK. The BBC this year collected over £3 billion in licence fee payments whilst paying its 10-strong executive board £3.7 million a year. This represents an average increase of 30% in salary and bonuses to its senior executives whilst the corporation is paying media personalities such as Jonathan Ross over £15 million for three years, and simultaneously cutting jobs, pension benefits and offering a below-inflation annual pay rise of 2.8% to most of its 21,000 staff.

The film ‘Fuck Black People (Shoot the Messenger)’ was made with existing African British licence fee money and is to be sold worldwide to provide a profitable revenue stream for those involved in the film and their pay masters.

We did not ask for this film, we do not want this film. For decades we have demanded good value for money and an end to the BBC’s relentless stream of anti-African programming and services to no avail, leaving us no alternative but to withdraw our moral, political and economic support of the BBC.

Therefore, we continue to suggest that you consider withholding payment of the BBC’s media tax until African people do not have to put up with a BBC that seeks to predominantly portray African people as entertainers, clowns, sports personalities, criminals and intellectually stunted ‘black’ people.

Their lack of integrity now comes at the expense of £131.50 a year.

Multiplied by two million Africans in Britain.

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