A lunchtime section of ITV news covering Sir Lenny Henry‘s knighthood caused controversy today when footage of TV chef Ainsley Harriott was shown. The comedian and Comic Relief co-founder has been an outspoken critic of the lack of diversity in the British television and film industries; ITV’s blunder of mistaking him for another black celebrity seems cruelly ironic.
Henry began his career as by performing in English working men’s clubs, his sets consisting mainly of impressions of white celebrities of the time. He has since gone on to write and star in numerous shows, including Three of a Kind, Hope and Glory, and The Lenny Henry Show; acted in a number of Shakespeare‘s plays, including Othello; and starred in major Hollywood and British films, including Harry Potter.
ITV has apologised for the broadcast, however they have refused to comment upon the racial nature of the event. A spokesperson stated “ITV News apologises for the error broadcast in the lunchtime news package today regarding Sir Lenny Henry’s knighthood at the palace. This was the result of an error in the production process in a piece intended to celebrate Sir Lenny’s significant achievements in British entertainment“.
I have serious doubts that calling a recently knighted black celebrity, that you’ve just managed to insult, by their first name during your apology is a good idea. Henry spoke out against the lack of ethnic diversity in the media during a speech given at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts in 2014, calling the situation “apalling“.