New research has confirmed what many have been saying for a long, long time: Aussie news presenters and reporters are overwhelmingly white, making around 75% of all appearances on air.
The research comes from four unis (Macquarie, Deakin, University of Sydney and Western Sydney University) in partnership with Media Diversity Australia (MDA), an organisation of journalists looking to make news reporting more reflective of the whole country.
“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 Network 10 journalist Antoinette Lattouf said.
Researchers analysed every free-to-air TV channel in the first two weeks of June last year. This 14-day sample included 81 different news programs across all time slots.
From this, they identified the cultural backgrounds of 270 presenters, reporters and commentators who appeared in almost 35,000 different segments.
Of these, a massive 75.6% had an Anglo-Celtic background, while 13% were European. Just six people were Indigenous, while only 25 people were from other, non-European backgrounds.
Compare this to a nation where its estimated 58% of Australians have an Anglo-Celtic background, 21% have a non-European background, 18% have a European background, and 3% have an Indigenous background.
They also found Channel 7 and Channel 9 had no Indigenous reporters anywhere, while SBS only had 0.2% Indigenous reporters.
The researchers found that all of the news presenters analysed in South Australia and Tasmania had a European background. The same is true for the Northern Territory, despite Aboriginal people making up a larger proportion population in the state than in any other part of the country.
Using publicly available information, the study also looked at the cultural backgrounds of editorial leaders in TV newsrooms. 100% of national news directors had an Anglo-Celtic background. (They were also all male.)
MDA Chair Isabel Lo noted that this kind of situation is why the media in Australia is so unequipped to discuss issues of race, something reflected time and time again.
“We continue to see all white panels who are there to comment on issues impacting our very multicultural nation – on both commercial TV and the ABC,” she said.
“Unless we see change in both the composition of leadership teams and talent on screen – our media will remain disconnected from audiences whose engagement is already waning.”
The researches recommended TV networks take a long, hard look at the makeup of their presenters and reporters, and introduce targets for more diversity among their ranks.
In a statement, Nine’s Director of News and Current Affairs Darren Wick said the network was well aware a lack of diversity was a challenge for all newsrooms, both in Australia and globally.
“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,” Wick said.
“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.”