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Leaders of the black community in the West Midlands are demanding a meeting with the BBC’s director general Mark Thomson, following Robert Beckford’s shock departure from Birmingham-based BBC WM.

Beckford, one of the country’s most respected African-Caribbean broadcasters, is currently working out his contract on the Sunday morning religious programme.

The official version given to staff is that he is simply moving on to pastures new but The Stirrer understands that he is upset at the way he has been treated during contract negotiations.

He is also known to have crossed swords on several occasions with station editor Keith Beech over WM’s apparent lack of commitment to black issues in the region.

Beech is currently working at a more senior management level, leaving Radio Stoke boss Sue Owen temporarily in the management chair.

Beckford is a theologian at Oxford Brookes University, having previously lectured at Birmingham University. He has also made a series of thought-provoking documentaries for Channel 4.

He is the only black presenter to host a show on WM that isn’t aimed mainly at black listeners.

One of the key gripes of the African-Caribbean community is that they only have one dedicated show (hosted by Marverine Cole) lasting two hours a week on WM - and only then on a Saturday night.

Nikki Tapper also has a gospel show on Sunday, but otherwise there’s little sense that the station is broadcasting to what will soon become a city in which ethnic minorities make up the majority of the population.

The presence of the BBC’s Asian Network, a dedicated, 24 hour a day national channel for listeners from the sub-continent, only adds to the sense of injustice many black West Midlanders feel.”.

We understand that senior figures in the community are now demanding that Corporation’s Director General meets a delegation from the region to hear their concerns.

One prominent black figure in the West Midlands told us: “WM seems to be sending out a message to the community that we simply don’t matter.”

BBC WM have promised us a response later in the day - read it first, only on The Stirrer.

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