Pressure is growing on Karen Bradley, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and MP for Staffordshire Moorlands, after she made the unusual decision of blocking the appointment of an Ofcom-recommended candidate onto the Channel 4 Board.
Compounding the situation is the fact that the candidate-in-question, Althea Efunshile, former Deputy CEO of Arts Council England, is a female BAME applicant - while all other recomendees, white men, were accepted.
This means the 13-strong Board will remain all white and comprise of only three women. The broadcaster, The Guardian understands, is disappointed, especially as its new Chairman, Charles Gurassa, has been brazen about his desire for more internal Boardroom diversity.
Yesterday a dozen of respected female figures in the arts and creative industries – including former politician Tessa Jowell; Gail Rebuck, Chairwoman of Penguin Random House UK; and broadcaster Joan Bakewell – signed a letter to her demanding an explanation.
The letter asks: “We call on you to explain why the four successful candidates appointed to the Board met the criteria set out by Ofcom, and why Althea fell short of meeting the criteria. What process did the department follow to reach this decision?
“We strongly feel that the decision to block Efunshile’s appointment to the Channel 4 Board undermines the government’s warm words on Boardroom diversity.
“It represents a significant step in the wrong direction that will do real and lasting damage to efforts to boost diversity in leadership positions across business, the professions and public life. We simply cannot understand a process that excludes a highly competent and qualified woman, in total contradiction to the government’s stated objectives.”
The decision also came the same day that the Government released a Green Paper highlighting the importance of “improving the diversity of Boardrooms so that their composition better reflects the demographics of employees.”
Ofcom said in a statement: “Ofcom put forward a broad range of high-calibre candidates.
“It is then the responsibility of the Culture Secretary to decide whether to approve Ofcom’s proposed candidates.”
Matthew Hancock, Minister of State for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries and MP for West Suffolk, said, in response to a parliamentary question, that the appointment was based on skills and experience: “Non-executive members of the Channel 4 Board are appointed by Ofcom with the approval of the Culture Secretary.
“Ofcom advertised for four vacancies for candidates with specific sector skills and experience. [Bradley] approved the four candidates on the basis that they met the skills and experience set out in the advertised job descriptions.”