Outspoken journalist Tracey Spicer has partially lifted the lid on the joint Fairfax-ABC investigation she is leading into sexual misconduct in Australia’s media and entertainment sector.
The Fairfax columnist published a piece yesterday afternoon claiming the media industry operates a “protection racket” for men like Don Burke, who has been accused of serial sexual harassment and bullying of women during his time as the star of Channel Nine’s iconic gardening show, Burke’s Backyard.
“So many people knew. But no one stopped it. The perpetrators were promoted, while the sufferers were silenced. It was – and remains – a protection racket,” Spicer wrote.
“During our investigation into Don Burke – the man whose name was mentioned more than any other – we spoke to more than 50 former colleagues and executives.
“Many men shared insights into his behaviour. Suffice to say, they knew about his history. Two executives at Radio 2UE refused to pair him with female producers, or rostered only male panel operators.”
However, Spicer wrote that few would go on the record out of fear they would lose their job, while some said they were ashamed about their impotence.
“Yet here they are – decades later – as still as statues,” she wrote.
Spicer noted that more than 500 women have come forward so far, naming 65 men.
“Some women have found it traumatic, with many triggered by memories. However, most have described it as ‘cathartic’, she wrote.
“Others were concerned about losing their livelihoods, or being trolled on social media.
“These women have internalised society’s misogyny – a culture of victim shaming and blaming. Of course, the only ones responsible are the perpetrators and power brokers.
“Many women did complain but were sidelined, silenced or sacked.”
Spicer argued that while some commentators want women to be quarantined from men in the workplace, it reduces promotion and networking opportunities.
“Other initiatives, like the anonymous hotline at Channel Seven, are good on paper but pointless in practice,” she wrote.
“Young women don’t believe their identities will be protected, and don’t trust HR after the Amy Taeuber case.”
Seven has made the headlines in recent months for how it treated Taeuber after the cadet journalist complained of sexual harassment by a senior male producer.
“Nothing will improve until the culture changes at the top. Greater gender diversity sends a signal that sexual harassment will be taken seriously,” Spicer continued.
“This is not happening at one of the country’s largest media organisations.”
The Fairfax columnist concluded by saying the investigation will take years, “until all workplaces are safe for those within their walls.”