Politics

This New Report Has Confirmed What We Already Knew About Aussie TV: It’s Very White

"Cows are better represented on Sunrise than culturally diverse Australians"

sunrise media diversity

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Australian media is extremely white.

It’s clear when we turn on the TV news every day; it’s even clearer when the powers-that-be decide Pauline Hanson or Prue MacSween are the ones to call for commentary on Indigenous issues.

A new report has put a figure on just how white it is — it turns out, just six percent of on-air talent were found to have an Indigenous or non-European background (despite making up about 24 percent of our population).

Meanwhile people with a lily-white, Anglo-Celtic background are unsurprisingly overrepresented — they take up 75 percent of our screens despite only consisting of 58 percent of the population.

That’s the reality according to a new report called Who Gets To Tell Australian Stories?, which is the first in-depth study of the level of cultural diversity in Australian broadcast television news and current affairs.

It shows we have a very, very, very long way to go.

How Diverse Are The People Telling Our Stories?

Firstly, let’s take a look at the people pulling the strings. To sum up: it’s a lot of white men.

In fact, 100 percent of Australian free-to-air TV national news directors are white men. The board members aren’t exactly a beacon of multiculturalism either — within this group of 39 directors, one was Indigenous and three were non-European.

When looking at on-air talent, the report analysed 81 news programs (excluding NITV) over two weeks in June 2019, and categorised 270 presenters, commentators and reporters.

It found that only six percent of have an Indigenous or non-European background. Meanwhile, more than 75 percent have an Anglo-Celtic background.

In five out of eight states and territories — hello to Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and the NT — there was no Indigenous presenters, commentators or reporters seen at all. Tasmania, the NT and South Australia also saw no one with a non-European background.

The report also surveyed more than 300 TV journalists on their perception of cultural diversity. This showed that 77 percent of respondents with diverse backgrounds believe having a diverse cultural background is a barrier to career progression.

 Who’s The Worst Offender?

The results are even worse when you break it down by network.

By far, Channel 9 was the worst offender — it had the highest level of Anglo-Celtic talent (87.8 percent) and the lowest number of non-European or Indigenous talent (2.9 percent).

While the SBS managed to skew the data by having 76.6 percent of their talent from a non-European background, even they only had 0.2 percent of on-air talent with an Indigenous background. In fact, at no network did Indigenous Australians make up more than 5.4 percent of on-air talent.

The report also singled out breakfast news for rendering cultural diversity “more or less invisible” in the daily news agenda.

Across all of Channel 7, 9 and 10’s breakfast shows only 0.1 percent of on-air talent was Indigenous. Only 7.1 percent was non-European.

I should point out that Channel 10’s breakfast programming had exactly zero percent of either (and they also had Kerri-Anne Kennerley, who was famously slammed for comments about child sexual abuse in Indigenous communities).

Channel 7 is also currently being sued for racial discrimination over a Sunrise panel where commentator Prue MacSween effectively called for another stolen generation.

And until recently Channel 9 had Pauline Hanson as a regular guest on The Today Show, until last month when she was dropped due to a backlash over racist comments on the lockdown of Victoria’s public housing towers.

Outside of the commercial networks, a Junkee investigation recently found that the ABC’s Insiders program had not featured a person of colour on its panel in at least a decade.

Diversity is particularly lacking in regional news — in the entire two week slice of programming, researchers found virtually no cultural diversity. Across six different regional news stations there was zero Indigenous talent, and only one non-European.

Currently SBS and the ABC have Charters that require them to measure cultural diversity, but commercial networks do not.

The Who Gets To Tell Australian Stories? report was based on research from Western Sydney University, Deakin University, University of Sydney and Macquarie University,

It was initiated by not-for-profit group Media Diversity Australia.