The decision to appoint Althea Efunshile, a black and minority ethnic woman, to the board was vetoed by culture secretary Karen Bradley, while the other four candidates – all white men – were approved.
A group of women, including Bonnie Greer, former culture secretary Tessa Jowell, Valerie Amos and Gail Rebuck, the chair of the book publisher Penguin Random House UK, have signed a letter to Bradley, asking why Efunshile was turned down for the position.
“We are united in our belief that Althea was an outstanding candidate and would have been a tremendous addition to the Channel 4 board,” the letter said.
“Her record speaks for itself – she was recently awarded a CBE for services to arts and culture; she was a hugely respected executive director, chief operating officer and deputy chief executive during almost 10 years at ACE and she has significant experience in leadership roles across both local and central government.”
The letter, signed by 12 women, references the government’s corporate governance green paper, which emphasises the need to increase gender diversity and ethnic diversity in boardrooms. It goes on to cite the decision to block Efunshile as a “significant step in the wrong direction” for promoting diversity in leadership roles.
Former ACE chairwomen Liz Forgan and Sue Woodford-Hollick and broadcaster and former British Film Institute chair Joan Bakewell joined the others in asking Bradley: “We call on you to explain why the four successful candidates appointed to the board met the criteria set out by media regulator Ofcom, and why Althea fell short of meeting the criteria. What process did the department follow to reach this decision?”
Former senior BBC executive Jenny Abramsky and Lola Young, the former head of culture at the Greater London Authority, also signed the letter.
A Channel 4 spokesperson said: “The appointment of non-executive directors to the Channel 4 Board are made by Ofcom in agreement with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.”
An Ofcom spokesperson said: “Ofcom put forward a broad range of high-calibre candidates for the Channel 4 Board. It is then the responsibility of the secretary of state to decide whether to approve Ofcom’s proposed candidates.”
The four new appointees
to the Channel 4 board are Simon Bax, the chairman of Norwich-based media company
Archant and former Pixar executive; Paul Geddes, the chief executive of Direct
Line; Christopher Holmes, the former Paralympic swimmer who runs his own
consultancy; and former BBC executive and British Library chief Roly Keating.