For French Blacks, a Face on TV News Is Only a Start

For French Blacks, a Face on TV News Is Only a Start 1PARIS, Aug. 12 — When it was announced that a black reporter would anchor France’s most popular news program for six weeks this summer, it was front-page news. No need for a snappy headline, the facts were striking enough: ”He will present the 8 p.m. news on TF1,” Le Parisien observed flatly, Harry Roselmack’s face splashed across the page.

Four months later Mr. Roselmack’s news value is unabated. He greets about 7.3 million viewers every evening as he fills in for Patrick Poivre d’Arvor, whom he replaces until the end of August and who has anchored the broadcast since 1976.

”This is certainly no sign that we have arrived at a normalized situation,” said Mr. Roselmack, 33, whose parents are from Martinique, in the French Caribbean. ”That will be the case the day people no longer make such a fuss when a black, North African or Asian colleague is hired.”

In a country with more blacks on its national soccer team (13 of the 23 players) than in the 577-member National Assembly (10, none from the French mainland), Mr. Roselmack’s sudden celebrity has highlighted how rare it still is here to see minorities in prominent posts.

”It’s very good news, not just for black people, but for France in general,” said Patrick Lozes, president of the Representative Council of Black Associations, an umbrella organization for black advocacy groups. ”It shows that black people can succeed somewhere other than sports and music.”

After the rioting in immigrant suburbs in November, much attention was focused on the plight of France’s largely North African Muslim communities. Less publicized has been a quiet but determined push by blacks to assert their place in society.