THE BLOG

Has Steve Paikin Looked Hard Enough for Female Pundits?

03/18/2014 11:46 EDT | Updated 05/18/2014 05:59 EDT

The Cloak of Invisibility is a magical artefact used to render the wearer invisible. It was the only known invisibility cloak that would not fade with age and would provide everlasting protection invisibility to the wearer. As such, it was the only Hallow known to have been successfully passed down from generation to generation. In 1991, it passed to the possession of Harry Potter who used it to great success. Potter resolved to pass it down to his own children.

The Cloak is a fictional component of the famous J.K. Rowling series, but the concept is very real for minorities on television. Generations ago, women and minorities were invisible in panel discussions. It seems that the issues which affected their everyday lives were fodder for Caucasian men, usually unilingual Anglophone. Some things were just too important to allow the tentacles of diversity to seep through.

But the times, they are a-changin'.

Ontario granted their Francophone minority their schools, their services and, recently, their teaching hospital. There is a woman in the Premier's Office, and she's not there to serve the coffee. Visible minorities now make up half of Toronto's population, and are responsible for the province's blossoming onto the world's stage (and to last month's NY Times).

The Blind Side

"This is not the same country it was 25 to 30 years ago," Sportsnet president Scott Moore declared last week as he revealed the all-white-male roster of HNIC commentators.

"I think one of the beauties of Hockey Night in Canada is that is does get a broader audience, and we want to broaden that even more." Moore suggested the revamped HNIC will appeal to a new demographic. (such as white men with brown hair and white men with darker brown hair.)

Last week it was HNIC. This week, the glaring gaffe belongs to TVO's The Agenda.

The Agenda with Steve Paikin is Ontario's flagship current affairs program. According to its website, "it engages public-minded individuals in current affairs and social issues in an absorbing and insightful manner".

The engagement piece came by way of a blog post entitled "Where, Oh Where, Are All the Female Guests?" written by the TV host himself.

The Invisible Halves

Since females make up 52% of the population, can women pundits be so difficult to find? In a city oozing with competent women in practically every field of activity, it begs the question: how hard are the producers really trying? What accommodations have been made to cater to working moms? What services have been offered to address the hair and makeup issue which does not affect the omnipresent gender? With millions of tax dollars spent on the public broadcaster, surely someone could carve out 1% from the sunshine listers' pay to refocus on the priorities (if the priorities are genuine, that is).

Last year, The Agenda admitted they also have a severe visible minority gap. Like women, visible minorities constitute roughly half of Toronto's vibrance. It's not clear what the reasoning is for all-lily-white panels in a "multicultural mecca" like Toronto. TVO just can't figure out how to make room for the most visible groups in town. Blind? Deaf? Or just dumb excuses?

Shaking the Spell

Women and minorities have shed never wore the Cloak of Invisibility, yet the TV muggles still can't see them. The changing changed demographics have not shifted the ubiquity of whiteness, masculinity and unilingualism around the national discussion tables. Is homogeneity a relentless coma from which broadcasters cannot awake

Which formula will break the spell?

Hocus Pocus?

Beluga, sevruga?

Rennervate?

Nope. It's much simpler than that. Putting off the homogeneity hex is a matter of muggle magic called "sheer will."