Views / Opinion

Peter Mansbridge: Surely one less white male on TV won't kill us

Here's hoping that the longtime CBC anchor's successor can be a gravitas-meister for the rest of us

Does this dispenser of self-satisfied solemnity come in any other colours?

The Canadian Press file

Does this dispenser of self-satisfied solemnity come in any other colours?

Flagship television news hasn’t evolved much from its origins.

For most channels, news is still read by a person who is often a white man in an expensive suit. After some gravitas-laced reading aloud, he will throw over to a handful of correspondents dotted across the world then to a weather person. Then he’ll wrap up with a lighter story.

“And finally, a waterskiing parrot has raised over $2,000 for the children’s hospital. Our correspondent reports.”

For Canadians, our Head of Gravitas has been Peter Mansbridge, CBC’s host of The National, who has announced that he will longer host the flagship news show as of Canada Day 2017.

In 1993, Mans — as he’s called by his very close friends/me — introduced Canadians to “a computer network called Internet.” It’s been 23 years now and it’s time for Internet to replace him. Video supposedly killed the radio star and yet we still know who Ira Glass and Anna Maria Tremonti are. So, yes, in the future, we will have news anchors. Sort of.

Ideally, the CBC will be at the forefront of existing technology and find a way to bridge Snapchat’s filters and Pokémon Go’s augmented reality layers onto broadcast news. Since Nahlah Ayed is going to trek to a tunnel under the Israeli-Palestinian border, why not allow the viewer to experience it from the safety of home? Maybe we can even keep Mans as a hologram, only now that reassuring voice and grey suit can wear a flower-crown filter.

Nothing from the CBC suggests that they have the ability to create a digital host. But on at least one front, they have the ability to push Canadian media past a major frontier: Do not give the National anchor job to another white man.

There’s nothing essentially wrong with white men, but there are enough on TV at the moment, thank you very much. If you’re not thrilled that a white man isn’t reading the news, just wait an hour and a blinding array of white men can joke about the news on the late-night shows.

The CBC has a mandate to reflect Canadians back to Canada, and yet the corporation is incredibly white in a country that is at least a quarter visible minority. Recently, the CBC replaced Shad, a black man, with Tom Power, who is white, as host of Q. So they owe the Mansbridge replacement to the rest of us, who are paying to see our reflections, at least some of the time.

Peter Mansbridge exits the anchor’s chair on Canada’s 150th birthday. Let’s step forward into our bright future by letting a person of colour tell my mom the day’s sad news seven hours after I’ve read about it on Twitter.

Vicky Mochama is a writer and host of Commons, a political podcast. She can be reached at victoria.mochama@gmail.com

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