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Raymond Sheppard: Nova Scotia broadcast media remain overwhelmingly white

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – At this time there seems to be no greater power on earth than the media. Controlled by billionaires or government, it all adds up to a few dozen of our oppressors dictating what we hear, see or read. 

This undeserved, unearned and privileged power reaches into every home in Canada, and shapes and manipulates unsuspecting minds. A well, it perpetuates racism, injustice and an apartheid mindset. 

These media shape and influence what we think of the world we live in and it alters what most know is true or not true. It’s the ultimate salesperson that sells us what we falsely believe we need. Depending on how much time one spends watching television, surfing the internet and listening to radio, or reading a news publication, our thinking is altered. It tells consumers how to think and what to think.  

Often the media takes the side of police officers after they have harmed a person of African descent. Similarly, the media seems to support and prop up governments, large corporations and other entities. They also seem to limit the number of African persons they hire and limit even further the number of African persons they allow in front of the cameras or microphones.  

In Canada they throw African Canadians a few crumbs from their privileged table when what we need is a full meal. There is a small increase in hiring African people these days as a direct result of the Black Lives Matter movement, this is to demonstrate that they are not racist in their hiring practices, something major advertisers ask for to indicate that they are not racist and support BLM. Although it is nice to some African Canadians who find employment, individuals say they are paid less than their white counterparts.

Although most broadcast media in Canada employ thousands, very few are of African descent and quite often when stats are given those few African employees are lumped in with other brown people. This is to show their fair hiring practices and their lack of racism.

In Nova Scotia the situation is even more dire. Over the years lip service has been given and that continues to be the case. Still, there are fewer than 20 Persons of African descent working in broadcast media and there are no public affairs shows for us, by us and about us. Community Broadcasting Channel 10 is on point as is CKDU FM on the radio side of things.

Some members of the broadcast management say in justification of the lack of African Nova Scotian representation, we have two or three African Nova Scotians doing podcasts, we will provide a few historical archival materials if requested and or we support the development of short films. This is the same as saying well here are a few crumbs, enjoy.

There seems to be no true will to have African Canadians interview one another, truly tell our own history and to cover our news stories as it pertains to our heritage, culture and lineage. How can anyone on earth speak better to our heritage, culture, lineage, traditions, truth and customs than we can? 

Equally, a non-African Person will not ask the most appropriate questions with sensitivity from a position of understanding when interviewing African people. This is not to suggest that white interviewers or journalists should not interview African people, it is simply to strongly point to the inequality and unfairness in decision making. It is too bad we are not in a position as African People in Canada to demand to be interviewed only by another African person. 

Like society as a whole, the media in Canada can be classified as racist. They are only willing to apply bandages to mortal wounds.

Back is the year 2000, there was a Mediascope publication, Picture This: Diversity in Film and Television, which elaborated on attempts to diversify film and television. It also examined film and television depictions of age, gender, ethnicity, physical/mental health status, socio-economic status, race and religion. 

Nothing seems to have truly changed, three inches forward and two inches back.

Close to five hundred years of oppression, depression, attempted genocide, inequality, intolerance, anti-Black racism and so on and still our oppressors are closing their eyes and ears to our concerns about issues that they created and maintained. Meanwhile they bend over backward to say they are not racist. 

Their strategy seems to be, if we create more problems than African people can bear, then they will just go away and we can totally enjoy our undeserved/unearned privilege.

The media in Canada can and should do better, it’s not about me, it’s about justice for African People. 

Raymond Sheppard

See also: Raymond Sheppard: Listening to Black voices –African Nova Scotians and the CBC

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