Television news media industry believes it lacks in cultural diversity

Television news media industry believes it lacks in cultural diversity

A report from Media Diversity Australia (MDA) has revealed that a majority of television journalists believe the Australian television news industry’s representation of cultural diversity is lacking.

The report, Who Gets to Tell Australian Stories?, was released in partnership with four Australian universities. It looks at the representation of culturally diverse Australians in television news. Telum Media provided in-kind support to the study.

Key findings:
  • More than 75 per cent of presenters, commentators and reporters have an Anglo-Celtic background, compared to just six per cent having an Indigenous or non-European background.
  • 100 per cent of free-to-air television National News Directors have an Anglo-Celtic background - and they are all male.
  • 77 per cent of respondents with culturally diverse backgrounds believe their backgrounds are a barrier to career progression.
As part of the study, 314 Australian journalists opted to answer a survey about cultural diversity in the Australian media. A majority of respondents (70 per cent) rated the representation of culturally diverse women or men in the media industry as either “poor” or “very poor”.

Journalists aged under 35 were more critical of the news media’s cultural diversity, while those aged 65 and above were more likely to think media diversity was stronger. Women were more likely than men to have a negative perception of cultural diversity in the media. Notably, whether a respondent identified as culturally diverse had little to no impact on their view.

Most respondents agreed that culturally diverse people face greater barriers in securing work in the news media industry, both in front of and behind the camera, compared to Anglo-Saxon journalists. Those in lower-level media jobs were more likely to agree that cultural barriers exist, compared to those in senior management positions. 

The study found that more than 75 per cent of presenters, commentators and reporters have an Anglo-Celtic background, yet just 58 per cent of Australians, on estimate, have an Anglo-Celtic background.

“It is abundantly clear that Australian television news and current affairs media doesn’t reflect its audience and this has a flow on effect as to which stories are covered and how they are framed and told,” MDA Director and Senior Journalist Antoinette Lattouf said.

When questioned about cultural diversity, nine unnamed senior news and current affairs leaders across the five free-to-air Australian television networks gave varied responses when attempting to define the issue. This means that a lack of understanding about the issue may be a key reason that efforts to improve cultural diversity are not more active.

Leaders who were questioned also believed their respective networks were becoming more culturally diverse, but these perceptions did not align with other findings in the report.

“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.”

Nine points out Brooke Boney’s contribution to the TODAY programme doesn’t appear to be reflected accurately in the research. “This is not reflective of the real changes and proactive appointments we have been making in improving diversity in our television business”, said Darren.

ABC said in a statement that the report’s findings broadly reflect the results of its own tracking. “While we’re making good progress in how we reflect the diversity of the Australian community, we can certainly do better. We’re taking steps to ensure the make-up of the news team is more diverse as well as to increase diversity in our stories to better reflect the community.”

Network 10's Director of News Content, Ross Dagan, acknowledges that more needs to be done when it comes to diversity, and says the network is working to ensure better representation. "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."

So what’s next?
The report makes five recommendations for newsrooms to improve their cultural diversity:
  • Make the case for diversity - educate and train the existing workforce about the benefits of cultural diversity
  • Collect data on cultural diversity - media networks should establish measurable data collection practices so change and improvement can be monitored
  • Establish targets to increase cultural diversity
  • Recognise the economic benefits of a culturally diverse workforce
  • Prioritise diversity in the organisation’s approach to recruitment and promotion

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