NTAs: Trevor McDonald says he always had a drink before hosting
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Sir Trevor McDonald, 81, has become something of a TV icon over his iconic career at the helm of ITV News. He was ITN’s first black news reporter four years after he moved to London from Trinidad in 1969 to work for the BBC World Service. But the presenter revealed that he actually turned down a job at the Beeb early on in his career after finding out it was just about ticking diversity boxes.
I turned the job down because I didn’t want to be seen only in that light
In a new documentary that airs tonight, he and ITV colleague Charlene White, investigate how the death George Floyd by Minneapolis police in 2020 changed Britain in the year of a pandemic.
In the ITV special titled Has George Floyd Changed Britain? Trevor details his own experience of being judged on the colour of his skin, and strongly believes people from all backgrounds should succeed on their merits alone.
“It turned out that the BBC was being pressured by the Race Relations Board to hire more black and ethnic presenters,” he said of the position he was offered.
“I turned the job down because I didn’t want to be seen only in that light. I considered myself a reporter, somebody who could present the news.
“But I didn’t want to be seen as somebody who could only do it because I was a black West Indian.”
He added: “People who are employed must be able to do the job — and not just be put there because of the colour of their skin. There must be meritocracy.
“People should be given positions because they can do it. And there must be no discrimination on the basis of someone’s colour.
“There’s much more progress to be made but it has to be done well and not clumsily.”
Express.co.uk has approached BBC for comment.
Sir Trevor has paved a way for black journalists in Britain, and recalled the meeting he had with the headhunter at the Beeb on the the Jonathan Ross Show in 2019.
“I got a call from somebody at the BBC saying, ‘Could you come over? I’d like to interview you,'” he told the show.
“There was a lot of white wine and smoked salmon sandwiches and I thought all my ships were coming in at once. I thought getting a call from BBC TV meant that he [the interviewer] had heard that I had done some TV in the West Indies.”
But instead, Trevor was told: “‘You know, we’d really like to have you because we have come under pressure by the Race Relations Board to hire more black reporters.’
“The smoked salmon suddenly stuck in my throat and the white wine tasted not as nice as it had done before,” said the veteran broadcaster, who retired from News At Ten in 2008.
“I wanted to be employed on merit.”
He revealed the person had “not even heard of Trinidad and Tobago TV in any way, shape or form”.
“So I made my excuses and left,” Trevor scoffed, “I turned down the job.”
The TV star reveals in the ITV special that the reason he chose to live in Britain was because of the “decency and fairness” its society is known for.
But even he was surprised at the level of outrage that took place in the UK following Floyd’s murder and the iconic rise of global Black Lives Matter movement.
He says: “One of the reasons I chose to come to live in this country is that this society has always been known for its sense of decency and fairness.
“We have come a long, long way but there is still progress to be made.
“I could never have predicted that it would have sparked something so widespread.”
Trevor McDonald & Charlene White: Has George Floyd Changed Britain? airs tonight at 9pm on ITV.
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