You Don’t Know My Name

Posted on December 5, 2017


Alicia Keys sang it but we live it.

She was talking about the cute guy who never noticed her when she served him coffee and eggs in a New York diner. We are talking about the big news channels not giving two shits about what our names are and what we look like.

Yesterday the death was announced of the huge Bollywood actor Shashi Kapoor. Even though I was sad that another of my parents’ generation of stars had died, I was thrilled that it had made it onto the BBC’s Ten O’Clock News. Even ten years ago, this wouldn’t have happened. It’s a marker of how much news has changed to try to include people like me and my parents, who loyally watch it.

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Imagine my and their confusion and disappointment when the pictures rolling under Huw Edwards didn’t even feature Shashi Kapoor – an unmistakably handsome and talented guy. I am no Bollywood expert but I know what he looks like. And anyone could have checked – if they cared. You know, on the internet. And to make matters worse, they didn’t just feature the Wrong Brown Guy, they featured TWO Wrong Brown Guys – Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor. Who are still alive, thank God. I can’t even begin to imagine how you get something so wrong. Twice. What were they hoping? One of them must be him surely?

The BBC has apologised but here’s what it looks like. We really don’t know who is who so we’ll take a guess. We won’t apply the same checks and balances we would to someone who actually matters to us, whom we have actually heard of, whose films we actually watch. I mean it’s not Hugh Grant is it? We’re ticking a box, but our heart isn’t really in it.

This crap happens elsewhere. Earlier this year, ITV News used footage of Ainsley Harriott instead of Lenny Henry in a story about him receiving a knighthood.

One colleague has already been told to “chill out” about the Shashi Kapoor mistake. But this matters. If you really want to include us, make an effort. Otherwise don’t bother.

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If you think this stuff doesn’t matter, consider this. I read the news on a national radio station for 11 years and I tried my best to not only get people’s names right but to check how to pronounce them. I would get sharp emails from bosses if I got even a syllable wrong in a correspondent’s name or failed to pronounce correctly obscure places in the Home Counties that the editor probably holidayed in. But the same respect was never extended to ‘funny foreign names’ – mine or those in the news.

One other thing – do you know when we are at work how many of us are called the wrong name? I’m often called Anita, I bet she’s often called Aasmah. When I read the news at STV in the 1990s there was another Asian female who worked with me so people would shout ‘Shereen!’ at me in the street. Last week, a colleague referred to a female Asian colleague of mine as “The Other One”. I just suck it up. We all do. We pick our battles.

And I’m picking this one. This is different. The man has died. Give him his name. Let us see his beautiful face. Show him some respect.

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