Politics

Channel Seven And Nine Are Being Slammed For Their Weak Response To Report On Media Diversity

Darren Wick -- Nine's director of News and Current Affairs -- said he didn't think "counting surnames" was an effective way of addressing the issue of media diversity.

sunrise media diversity

The white men at the helm of two of Australia’s biggest TV networks are being slammed today for dismissing criticism that the media has a massive diversity problem.

Today a new report — Who Gets To Tell Australian Stories? — took a scathing look at the (basically non-existent) diversity in Aussie broadcast television news and current affairs. To put it bluntly, it’s whiter than a carton of milk in a snowstorm.

It’s led to a lot of people of colour crying “well, duh”, but a lot of white people crying “meritocracy” and trying to downplay the report.

Only six percent of presenters, commentators or reporters were found to have an Indigenous or non-European background (despite making up a quarter of our population). In comparison, 75 percent of on-air talent were Anglo-Celtic (despite making up only 58 percent of the population).

You can find more detail here if you’d like more information on how broken everything is.

As news directors at Channel 9 and Channel 7 respectively, Darren Wick and Craig McPherson are in unique positions to affect change within media organisations. Clearly it’s change that’s sorely needed — but instead of committing to help improve things, they’ve both gone on the defence. They’re now being slammed for their victim-blamey response to the findings.

How Have TV Execs Responded To The Diversity Report?

Another fun fact is that 100 percent of national news directors on Australian free-to-air TV are white guys, and so are the majority of board members.

But according to Seven’s director of news and public affairs Craig McPherson, it’s not their fault that only 4.8 percent of their on-air talent seen during a two week sample were non-European and zero percent were Indigenous.

“There is scant acknowledgment in the report that free-to-air TV employers simply aren’t hiring culturally diverse employees because they’re not applying,” he said in a statement to News.com.au.

“It writes that reality off with the untested reasoning people aren’t applying because those doing the hiring have been somehow collectively diagnosed with an ‘unconscious bias’.”

McPherson also called the report “shallow” and said it “does nothing to help the industry as a whole”.

So basically, it isn’t their fault they aren’t hiring people of colour — it’s that people of colour aren’t applying. Unsurprisingly, people called the response out for being a poor excuse.

Many journalists have since taken to Twitter to speak about the barriers they’ve faced while trying to crack the media industry — from being called “too brown”, or being used as the token person of colour, or feeling like commercial TV is not an accepting place for culturally diverse people.

Their stories reflect a wider statistic, also mentioned in the report, that 77 percent of TV journalists from diverse cultural backgrounds believe their background is a barrier to career progression.

Many also pointed out that allegations of racism are nothing new to the commercial news networks — breakfast television for Channel 7, 9 and 10 have all been criticised for the way they’ve covered issues relating to race.

Over on Studio 10 Kerri-Anne Kennerley was slammed for comments she made last year about child sexual abuse in Indigenous communities.

Channel 7 is also being sued for racial discrimination over an all-white Sunrise panel where commentator Prue MacSween effectively called for another stolen generation.

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

In response to the report Darren Wick — Nine’s director of news and current affairs — said he didn’t think simply “counting surnames” was an effective way of addressing the issue of media diversity.

“This report has clear errors and ignores the significant contribution of someone like Brooke Boney on Today, where is she one of four main hosts on the desk, instead simply listing her daily and regular contribution on the program at somewhere between 0.1 percent and 0 percent,” he said.

“This is not reflective of the real changes and proactive appointments we have been making in improving diversity in our television business.”

Today show co-host Karl Stefanovic also put his two cents in, and has turned into a bit of a meme as a result. On Twitter he identified himself as having a British and Yugoslav German background, and said he was proud of this heritage.

In response Media Diversity Australia, who initiated the study, confirmed they had counted him as European in their data set.

The report broke down cultural backgrounds by Anglo-Celtic, European, non-European or Indigenous.

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

You can check out more from the report here.