THE BBC is under fire today after a report from Countryfile suggested that “many in Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups see the countryside as being a white environment”.
A message on their Twitter account at the time the programme was broadcast on Sunday evening provoked a confused and angry backlash as people didn’t understand why the countryside was seen as not for minorities.
The programme’s report report drew on research from the Government’s Environment Department, published last year, which said that some ethnic groups felt UK national parks were a “white environment”.
During the segment, Dwayne Fields, who presented it, said: “When I talk to people from the BAME community, it’s clear that they don’t view the UK countryside as somewhere that’s for them.
“It’s not theirs, they don’t belong there. And I want to find out why.
“As it happens, I am not the only one. Last September, a national review of England’s national parks was published by DEFRA.
“They found the countryside is seen by both BAME and white people alike as being very much a white environment.
“The review also concluded that if that is true today, the divide is only going to widen as society changes.”
Dwayne works with the Scouts and the National Trust – who are “working to get more diversity into the outdoors”.
He added: “We need to understand some of the barriers that black and ethnic minority people face when they come to the countryside.”
But users on social media were quick to vent their feelings at the suggestion that the countrywide wasn’t welcoming to all.
One hit back: “This is absurd. To imply that the countryside – a passive, welcoming phenomenon- is somehow racist is ridiculous.
“Worse, licence payers are funding this divisive propaganda.”
Another said: “The BBC labelling us all racist again. I’m sick of this.”
One person write: “What an utter load of large bulls testicles!!! BBC yet again causing a racism storm in a teacup!
“Nobody is preventing anyone from BME groups from accessing the countryside! Honestly, this is becoming so tiresome!!!”
Another said: “As a mixed person, living in semi rural Wales, I’ve never experienced racism in the countryside, I find people welcoming and friendly, long as you are the same towards them.
“Noone is stopping anyone visiting the countryside regardless of colour. Historically it’s white, so what??”
However, one person said their friend had agreed and did find the countryside uncomfortable.
They wrote: “To all the people mocking this; for 6 years I lived in a little village in the English countryside.
“Nearly every other person who lived there was white. I brought my black mate to the local for a drink. People stared at him so much he felt uncomfortable so we left. It is a thing.”
And others said the strong response showed exactly why the issue was worth highlighting.
One said: “Thank you @BBCCountryfile and @DwayneFields for doing this episode. It has highlighted more than ever the need for this conversation and for systemic change.”
Mr Fields, who featured in the show, tweeted after the backlash: “Anyone saying the countryside is open to everyone, is absolutely right!
“The piece looked at a Defra report that highlighted some of the barriers that people from the BAME community ‘felt’ was preventing them from enjoying the countryside.”
A spokesperson for BBC Countryfile said: “Countryfile based the segment on an independent Defra report published last September and we felt it was important to examine such issues now more than ever, particularly in light of recent events.”