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August 2020

Barbara Blake-Hannah became the first black person to appear on British TV, outside of entertainment, in 1968 - four years after she arrived from Jamaica.

More than 50 years later, Press Gazette has created the Barbara Blake-Hannah Award to celebrate journalists from ethnic minority backgrounds - in the hope of inspiring others in the future.

Barbara Blake Hannah, 79, paved the way for Moira Stuart and Trevor McDonald after she made her debut in 1968.

But she told how Thames TV bosses renewed her colleagues' contracts, but not hers and justified it with the appalling notes complaining about her presence.

On her first day she reported from the East End of London, where a gang mob had committed a crime - but went on to interview Prime Minister Harold Wilson and actor Sir Michael Caine.

Her career was not without its difficulties, however.

She was sent out of the office after right-wing politician Enoch Powell – fresh from his anti mass-immigration ‘Rivers of blood’ speech – was due in.

She revealed he had only agreed to be interviewed on the condition she was not in the studio at the time.

Now recognition of her importance in broadcasting has seen a new journalism award named after her.

Press Gazette has launched the Barbara Blake-Hannah prize to recognise up and coming non-white journalists.

Editor in chief Dominic Ponsford said: ‘I’m ashamed to say I was not aware of Barbara’s story. But having spoken to her and read up about her history I can’t think of a better role model for the next generation of BAME journalists who are breaking through barriers in the way that she did.”

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