In a move designed to strengthen the BBC news team, Sony Award-winner Nikki Fox is set to join three other journalists who will focus on disability issues from their base in Salford’s ‘Media City’. The appointment of this talented young broadcaster and documentary maker will not only give the disabled community a stronger voice, but will no doubt encourage more up-and-coming journalists to pursue a career in the media.
The decision to create the role of disability correspondent is, in itself, a significant one. In putting together a dedicated team, the BBC has demonstrated its belief that such issues deserve an important position on the national news agenda.
This is not to say that disability has been previously overlooked by Auntie. On the contrary, such initiatives as BBC Ouch have given valuable air time to stories with a disability slant. However, there is no doubt that this new team will boost the profile of disability issues whilst approaching the subject matter in a fresh new way.
The arrival of Nikki Fox at Media City is hardly surprising. As Gary Smith, UK news editor for the BBC commented, “she is a talented broadcaster, with an in-depth understanding of disability issues…”
This in-depth understanding has no doubt come, in part, due to her own experiences as a person living with muscular dystrophy. Though there is far more to being a disability correspondent than simply being disabled.
Despite her disarmingly honest attitude to her condition, not-to-mention her admission that she is quite probably the most disorganised disabled person on the planet, Fox clearly benefits from a number of key qualities that have assisted her in forging a successful career in what is a highly competitive environment.
Chief among these, is her fierce commitment to the job. For instance, her first role, involved fielding telephone calls for BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, and meant that she had to get up at 2.30am, just to make the drive to Peterborough! As she observes, to be a good broadcaster, “you don’t need a degree in media studies, you just need to prove you’re enthusiastic, a hard worker and passionate about TV.” Clearly there is far more to this presenter than her attractively dizzy persona might suggest!
It was Channel 4’s Disability Researcher Training Programme, which gave the young reporter her big break, placing her with Maverick TV. Here, she gained valuable experience on shows such as ‘How to Look Good Naked’ where she worked with the likes of Gok Wan. She was also afforded the opportunity to run with her own short film as part of a Channel 4’s programme, ‘The Shooting Party’.
Since then, Nikki has worked for ITV and more recently for BBC Radio Five Live which saw her win the Sony Radio Academy Award in 2012 for ‘Beyond Disability: The Adventures of a Blue Badger’, a revealing documentary on what it is like to be disabled in the 21st century. This was followed by the equally insightful ‘Disabled and Desperate to Work’ in 2013.
Seeing her on television, one is immediately struck not just by her beguiling character, but by her effortless positivity. This is not simply someone who puts on a brave face despite her muscular dystrophy, this is a lady who has fully embraced her life as a disabled person. For Nikki, her condition is the thing that got her into TV and radio in the first place. Furthermore, she maintains it allows her to witness the kindness of strangers towards her on a daily basis. If anything, what gets her down is the negative views of other disabled people towards their own disabilities.
Having seen Nikki Fox in action, I have absolutely no doubt that many exciting new stories and documentaries will follow her appointment. I also expect to see other would-be journalists following her lead. We need driven dynamic personalities to give a louder voice to disabled people. But more importantly such individuals are essential to remind us that having a disability is not necessarily as awful as we may sometimes believe.
Nikki Fox joins the BBC news team in June this year and I, for one, can’t wait to tune in.