Over three-quarters of Australian TV news and current affairs presenters, commentators and reporters have an Anglo-Celtic background, while only six per cent have an Indigenous or non-European background, the study found.
Meanwhile, one hundred per cent of free-to-air television national news directors have an Anglo-Celtic background – and they are all male.
While perhaps unsurprising to many, the report still highlighted the ugly truth of just how unrepresentative the current state of play is in Australian media.
And now, free-to-air networks Seven, Nine and 10 have responded to the report.
While they did not argue the truth behind the report, they did critique the methodology of the MDA and that the report did not take into account any progress that had been made over the years.
“We all acknowledge that diversity in all media/newsrooms – not just television – is a challenge both in Australia and globally,” said Darren Wick, Nine’s director of News and Current Affairs.
“However, I don’t think simply counting surnames on TV is an effective way of addressing the issue or helps in finding practical solutions to these challenges.
“This report has clear errors / ignores the significant contribution of someone like Brooke Boney on Today, where she is one of four main hosts on the desk, instead simply listing her daily and regular contribution on the program at somewhere between 0.1 and 0 percent.
“This is not reflective of the real changes and proactive appointments we have been making in improving diversity in our television business.
“The methodology of this report is flawed and it is disappointing that Media Diversity Australia chose not to involve the networks in the project’s research questions, methodology or in focusing it on solutions which provide greater pathways into the media.”
Network 10’s director of news content, Ross Dagan had similar thoughts: “We are committed to diversity on and off-screen and have a number of initiatives in place to continue and grow diversity representation across our business.
“We also believe that diversity goes beyond just ethnicity but also includes a balance of gender, age, geography, economic factors and physical ability.
“While we acknowledge that more needs to be done when it comes to diversity, we are working to ensure better representation on and off-screen across these categories.
“In the last year alone, we’ve launched three distinct university scholarships that better enable students from diverse or disadvantaged backgrounds to embark on a pathway into our newsrooms.
“We will continue to look for ways to ensure diverse representation across all our platforms.”
Seven’s director of news and public affairs Craig McPherson said Seven’s lack of diversity isn’t the broadcaster’s fault, arguing people from diverse backgrounds simply weren’t applying for jobs.
“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 labelled the report as “shallow” and said it “does nothing to help the industry as a whole”.
However, Antoinette Lattouf, director of MDA and a senior journalist at Network 10 said researchers followed a categorisation system used by the Australian Human Rights Commission.
She said: “If there is still a belief that our findings aren’t accurate, even though we stand by them, one of our key recommendations is that networks themselves collect that data and publicly disclose them annually.”
Social Media Slams “Backwards Logic” Responses
People aren’t happy with how the networks have responded, however.
Many journalists took to Twitter to vent about the challenges they face while attempting to work in the media industry.
Channel 7 blaming the universities, the applicants and the students themselves…rather than the people in charge of hiring is incredible backwards logic.
You don't need a media degree to be a journalist. I don't have one. You just need to talk to people and tell their stories https://t.co/vEjA4XWsOM
— Naaman Zhou (@naamanzhou) August 17, 2020
As a brown journalism graduate I can say with absolute certainty that both networks would be receiving applications from diverse applicants. And in the instances where we decide not to apply to the commercial networks, it’s often because they feel culturally unsafe for us. https://t.co/ZgzSiaS5Zu
— Zoë Victoria (@Zoe__V) August 17, 2020
When I was a student – studying Law/MediaComms, with the aspiration of broadcast journalism, I was told to my face that I was ‘too brown’ to consider even applying for work at commercial networks in Australia. In law firms I was ‘too confident for a brown person’. Went to India. https://t.co/E4BHSlpTzK
— Pallavi Sharda (@pallavisharda) August 17, 2020
And I wonder why they're not applying?🤔
Maybe because the panels are racist and overwhelmingly white, telegraphing the strong message that diversity is not welcomed https://t.co/iff4UJv2XA
— thesaurically depleted pup (@LizDolphinfluff) August 17, 2020
This is so disingenuous. I’m Lebanese Australian. I’ve applied for a few jobs at 7 and 9 and haven’t even made it to interview stage. I have a masters degree in journalism and have completed a few unpaid internships in newsrooms. https://t.co/r4enzbAM23
— Shane Bazzi (@shanebazzi) August 17, 2020
People also pointed out that alleged racism is not new in Australia’s commercials news, with Seven, Nine and 10 all having been criticised in the past for coverage of issues of race.
I used to work for channel 7 and I probably won't again, specifically because of the African gangs coverage and the platforming of proud racists. So, Craig, that's why this non-white journalist isn't applying for a job. Wouldn't be surprised if other felt the same. https://t.co/mwSOKPt8zg
— Jim Malo (@thejimmalo) August 17, 2020
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