Rede TV network makes history featuring the first black duo to anchor a news program
By Marques Travae
In a follow-up to a story presented here just a few days ago, the Rede TV! Network recently went into the history books when featured two black journalists as anchors on a news program. On last Saturday’s broadcast, Luciana Camargo and Rodrigo Cabral brought more color to a news program than had previously ever been seen on a Brazilian television channel.
As this blog has documented for a number of years, the standard for ALL of the nation’s major TV networks is for white Brazilians to occupy roles as important as bringing the Brazilian people the latest in events that affect their lives. Usually, that means a white and a white woman, two white men or two white women. On the occasion that a black journalist is allowed to occupy the anchor’s seat, they are ALWAYS paired with a white partner.
The importance of the moment was not lost on the journalists themselves. When Camargo saw that the lineup for the night’s newscast was to be her and Cabral, she made a phone call to her mother to share news. Her mother, recognizing the significance of the moment, replied that it was about time. Camargo, in turn was elated to participate in such a moment for a population that continues to be mostly under-represented in so many areas.
Cabral also weighed in on the moment.
“Years ago it was not common to see this on a news bench in any way. I don’t distinguish between skin and gender, they all have their beauty to be highlighted, but for a long time the television has had this white standard, good looking, or a blonde host. This barrier has been broken a little bit. It was a watershed,” celebrates Rodrigo.
Although it was clearly a memorable moment, it was a great decision for the network to move forward with the lineup with no fanfare. It wasn’t scheduled any particular day in which the media traditionally reflects on the black population, such as the May 13th day of the abolition of slavery or the November 20th Day of Black Consciousness. The even happened on a regular Saturday as if it was no big deal, which in the future, such a pairing shouldn’t draw any attention as it will be seen as normal.
Franz Vacek, the superintendent of journalism and sports at RedeTV! also recognized the excellence of the two experienced journalists, expressed the desire for this to happen more frequently, but also thought it was sad that seeing two black anchors at the same time on one news program took so long.
Camargo described her nervousness and excitement as the moment drew near, an anticipation that left her with an accelerated heartbeat, something she didn’t feel often during a broadcast. And then as their places in history were being sealed, in recognition of the historic moment, the two journalists actually spoke on the event at the end of the program.
Luciana Camargo and Rodrigo Cabral commemorate a historic moment in Brazilian television (Photo: RedeTV! Reproduction)
“And RedeTV! comes out in front. For the first time in our country a TV station gives an opportunity to two black journalists, right, Rô, to present together the main television news of the house. We thank the board of RedeTV! for this opportunity,” said Luciana Camargo.
In turn, Rodrigo Cabral also felt the need to speak on the meaning of the broadcast. “No doubt. Thank you, Lu. Thank you, RedeTV!, for allowing us to participate in this historic milestone. It’s a great honor and a great responsibility too,” concluded one of the São Paulo network’s most experienced journalists.
Cabral acknowledged that the colleagues were both very emotional, joining hands as the credits of the news program rolled by. With a voice of the joy and relief of an accomplishment, Luciana, with eyes welling up, full of emotion said, “We did it!”, and as if it were meant to be, the crew told them that her words may have leaked live on TV. Backstage, the euphoria continued with as the crew formed a circle as all began to share hugs of a victorious moment.
If you’ve never watched a Brazilian television production, the meaning of this event may leave you scratching your head. But day after day, month after month, decade after decade, watching Brazil’s television productions, especially news programs, one could come to the conclusion that they were watching a programming from a country like Denmark. In the past, this dictatorship of whiteness was sort of quietly accepted by the masses. But in today’s Brazil, black voices are demanding more representation in areas such as the media. These same voices are also demanding black dolls, more black political representation. For some, these demands may seem frivolous, but the changes have been noticeable such as in 2016 and 2017 when the Miss Brasil contest crowned two consecutive black women as the winners. A milestone when one considers that only one black woman had won the competition in the previous 62 years and that woman had won 30 years ago.
Both Luciana Camargo and Rodrigo Cabral can speak of hardships they’ve endured as black journalists trying to succeed in a Brazilian media that has maintained a standard of whiteness for decades. Camargo laughed when asked if she had experienced any incidents of racism during her career. “Do you have 24 hours to talk?”, she joked when asked the question. Having plenty of stories she could reveal, Camargo used incidents of racism to help her develop a thick skin.
Cabral also revealed the ugly society of Brazilian society, remembering having been called a “macaco” (monkey) by a fan while covering a sporting event in which one of the teams had lost. Rather than raising the roof about the incident, he decided to just put it in the vault and carry on.
In this recent episode in which Cabral partnered with Camargo for another “first time” event, he sees in the opportunity the possibility of changing how Brazilians see themselves on the small scene. And a change really is necessary.
In the media, this under-representation of black journalists is striking. A 2017 study on the topic by Vaidapé revealed that black hosts make up only 3.7% of all presenters on Brazil’s television networks considering 204 programs, with 272 hosts on 7 TV networks in a period between the second semester of 2016 and the first semester of 2017. According to the raw numbers, in that period, there only 10 black journalists hosting these programs against 261 white journalists. And RedeTV being the network that presented two black journalists hosting the news also makes sense because the network is the station that presents the most racial diversity, even being minimal. 9% of RedeTV’s hosts are black while networks such as Record and SBT continue to be the leaders of the whitewashing of the news. Neither can count even one black host among the ranks of journalists. SBT became one of those networks with no black news hosts after the network owned by Silvio Santos fired Joyce Ribeiro last year.
This is not to say that capable, well-respected Afro-Brazilian journalists don’t exist. They are simply few and far between who get the opportunity to shine as Luciana Camargo and Rodrigo Cabral did on August 4th.