A pioneering BBC broadcaster who helped to create the groundbreaking radio programme Black Londoners in the Seventies has claimed he was “exploited and bullied” at the corporation for years due to racism.
Alex Pascall, who was made an OBE in 1996 for services to community relations, was one of the first regular black voices on the radio in Britain through his weekly magazine show which featured guests such as Muhammad Ali.
But despite its success, Mr Pascall today claimed bosses at the BBC never wanted it to work and exploited him for nearly 15 years by failing to pay him properly or provide him with a pension, which he is now demanding.
Mr Pascall, 81, one of the founders of the Notting Hill Carnival and Britain’s first national black newspaper The Voice, told the Standard he faced “institutional racism” at the corporation throughout his making of the programme, which began in 1974.
He said the recent Windrush scandal had prompted him to “fight for equality”, and he has formally written to the NUJ and Bectu unions informing them of his grievance.
Mr Pascall said: “I was exploited in regards to pay and lack of professional support. I was bullied at the BBC. My programme became the showcase, but I had no accreditation, I used my own contacts, my own money to build the programme. I never got a pension. I never had a contract except for one year. I was badly paid.
“To build a programme from zero and make it known about worldwide … I should never have been treated like that. It was driven by racism.”
Mr Pascall said he received “about twenty-something pounds a month”, worked around 55 hours a week, never had a holiday, and had no training. But he said he could not turn down the opportunity at the time to make what he knew could be a seminal programme for the black community.
The show began as a test series once a month in response to the 1968 Race Relations Act, Mr Pascall said, but its popularity grew, becoming something the “establishment could not control”. It was shut down in 1988 with many of his belongings “thrown in a skip”. Mr Pascall said: “It was designed to fulfil a brief on paper. It was not really meant to do anything but to keep a lid on race relations.”
The BBC said managers at the time left the corporation “a number of years ago”, and that contracts of this kind used to be “standard practice”.
A spokesman said: “This programme began more than four decades ago and ran for 14 successful years. Since it ended 30 years ago, Alex has continued to appear on the station and our other networks.
“The BBC has a clear commitment to reflect the diversity of today’s UK in our workforce and our content and to treat everyone fairly.”