ABC’s ‘Insiders’ Has Not Had A Person Of Colour On Its Panel In At Least A Decade

We can find no evidence that a person of colour has ever sat on the 'Insiders' panel.

ABC Insiders

Want more Junkee in your life? Sign up to our newsletter, and follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook so you always know where to find us.

UPDATE: The ABC’s Insiders has not featured a person of colour on its panel in at least a decade — and possibly never — a further analysis shows. We’ve looked through every available episode of Insiders on the ABC’s website, and could find no evidence that a person of non-European background had ever been asked to contribute to the show’s panel discussions.

Consistent with our previous reporting, which you can read below, a small number of people of colour have been interviewed on the show over the years, but it appears none have sat on the panel. Certainly, there have been no people of colour as regular panellists in at least the last 15 years.

The publicly available archives are patchy between 2005 and 2010, and there are no archives available before 2005, so it’s impossible to be certain, but an ABC spokesperson was unable to nominate a single person of colour who had appeared on the Insiders panel in the show’s history.

And ABC spokesperson has confirmed that former ABC Indigenous Affairs reporter Bridget Brennan, who is a proud Dja Dja Wurrung and Yorta Yorta woman, will appear on this week’s panel, alongside News Corp’s Annika Smethurst and Simon Benson.

For almost two decades, the ABC’s Insiders has been a must-watch show on Sunday mornings for Australia’s political junkies. Featuring interviews with federal parliament’s heavy hitters and analysis from the biggest names in the Canberra press gallery, the show often helps to set the political agenda for the week ahead.

And while the show features a wide array of political viewpoints, and has been used to bolster the careers of some of Australia’s most well-known political journalists from an array of media organisations, it has consistently failed to give a platform to people of colour.

The issue was never more clear than last weekend, when Insiders came under fire for failing to feature a single Indigenous voice in an episode focused largely on Indigenous disadvantage and Black Lives Matter protests in the United States and Australia.

The failure to feature Indigenous voices came after a week in which many Australian institutions, including Australian media organisations, were asked to examine the role they play in re-enforcing structural racism and disadvantage.

But a Junkee analysis reveals that the show, which is considered one of the ABC’s flagship news and current affairs programs, has not featured a single panellist from a non-European background in at least the last three years — and likely even longer.

People of colour are also drastically under-represented as the show’s interview subjects. From June 2017 to last Sunday, Penny Wong was the only Asian Australian guest or panellist on the show (featuring six times). Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie, who has Indigenous ancestry, has appeared once, and Labor MP Ed Husic is the only Muslim Australian to have appeared as a guest or panellist.

The show’s ‘Talking Pictures’ segment was not included in our analysis because it does not substantially contribute to the debate or analysis.

It’s Not Just Insiders

Insiders’ failure to feature people of colour is symptomatic of a larger problem in the Australian media industry, in which access is often limited if you’re a person of colour, from Australia’s regions, or from a lower socio-economic background.

The show largely draws its panel from the Canberra Press Gallery, and interview subjects are almost always federal MPs — hardly the two most racially diverse groups in the country.

Antoinette Lattouf, a former ABC senior journalist and current Director of Media Diversity Australia (MDA), said the ABC had previously resisted a push for Insiders to showcase more diverse talent.

“When we [MDA] pointed out a few journos who were people of colour, we were told they only have a few years’ experience. So the show either needs to back and elevate emerging talent or rethink its format — because the status quo isn’t working and the justification loop isn’t providing an answer to representation,” Lattouf told Junkee.

Lattouf said the failure to include diverse voices in Sunday’s episode was “disappointing but not necessarily surprising”.

“Forty-nine per cent of Australians were born overseas or have a parent born overseas. While we applaud Insiders efforts to include female panelists, its important not to think diversity is showcased by simply having white women on the program,” she said. “Interestingly, some commercial networks are elevating Indigenous voices as permanent co-hosts and panelists, something Insiders can learn from.”

ABC “Can Do Better”

In response to questions from Junkee, the ABC acknowledged that it needs to do better when it comes to reflecting Australia’s diversity on its programs.

“Throughout this season the program has been adding new voices to its roster, and that will continue, with a particular focus on broadening the range of voices and perspectives to better reflect the diversity of the Australian community,” an ABC spokesperson said. “We believe we can do a better job on that, which will make the program even better.”

The spokesperson also pointed to several diversity initiatives currently underway at the ABC, including a Diversity and Inclusion Plan and a Reconciliation Action Plan. In an email to ABC employees this morning, the broadcaster’s News Diversity Lead, Gavin Fang, acknowledged that the broadcaster has a huge task to increase diversity on the broadcaster.

“The simplest thing for [ABC News employees] to do is to think about the stories you are telling and how you are telling them. If we all increase diversity in our content then naturally we’ll be telling stories that are more relevant and more reflective of the community,” Fang wrote.

An optimistic Lattouf praised other ABC shows for doing more to promote diversity, and called on Insiders to follow the lead of shows like The Drum and Q&A.

“We are missing nuance, we are missing empathy, we are missing lived experience as well as skin in the game. With Australia’s media more centralised than ever before and with the closure of suburban and regional outlets, newsrooms are fast losing connections with the communities they are meant to report on,” she said.

“We often hear about the Canberra bubble, and the media is increasingly operating in an affluent inner city, Anglo bubble — both are dangerous to our democracy.”

Rob Stott is the Managing Editor of Junkee Media. Follow him on Twitter @Rob_Stott.