Today presenter Karl Stefanovic has challenged a new report on the racial makeup of Australian television news programming, saying he is “pretty sure” his family’s Serbian, German, and British background should qualify as diverse.
The new report, compiled by a group of universities and Media Diversity Australia (MDA), found around 75% of all on-screen appearances in Australian news and current affairs programs are by presenters with Anglo-Celtic backgrounds.
Today was one of the 81 programs analysed for the report.
In a Twitter post linking to its own article on the findings, News.com.au used an image of Stefanovic with the headline “Australian TV networks have failed audiences”.
The post’s caption added “the worst offender is Channel 9,” which broadcasts Today. (PEDESTRIAN.TV is also owned by Nine Entertainment.)
Stefanovic tweeted in response, saying he was denigrated over his family background in school.
“Im (sic) not sure how diverse you need to be to qualify for diverse but I’m of Yugoslav German and British heritage with a surname Stefanovic,” he said.
“I used to be called wog at school. I’m proud of my heritage. Im (sic) pretty sure it’s diverse and nine have always supported that.”
Im not sure how diverse you need to be to qualify for diverse but I’m of Yugoslav German and British heritage with a surname Stefanovic. I used to be called a wog at school. I’m proud of my heritage. Im pretty sure it’s diverse and nine have always supported that.
— Karl Stefanovic (@karlstefanovic) August 16, 2020
The researchers used four categories when when describing the backgrounds of on-screen presenters: Indigenous, Anglo-Celtic, European, and non-European.
In a response to Stefanovic, an MDA spokesperson confirmed he was “counted in the data as having a European background.”
Thanks for being interested in our research Karl and the Iseue of representation in TV news You were counted in the data as having a European background. https://t.co/5yd7k1v2zM
— Media Diversity AU (@MediaDiverseAU) August 16, 2020
Stefanovic’s paternal grandfather, Dragic “Steve” Stefanovic, migrated to Australia after World War II from Serbia, which once comprised part of Yugoslavia. His paternal grandmother, Elisabeth Henze, was German.
He has previously discussed the treatment he faced in school. Speaking to The Sydney Morning Herald in 2011, Stefanovic said “I was always the wog and had the wog name; I always felt a bit conscious of the fact these kids had flash cars and big houses and we were struggling.”
The report highlights deep disparities between the screen time of reporters with Anglo-Celtic backgrounds and that of presenters with non-European backgrounds.
“With the exception of SBS, where 76.6% of presenters, commentators and reporters have a non-European background, at all other networks they comprise less than 10% of presenters, commentators and reporters; in the case of the commercial networks, they count for less than 5%,” the researchers said.
Australians with non-European and Indigenous backgrounds make up nearly a quarter of the population.
MDA Chair Isabel Lo warned if the onscreen disparity is not addressed, “our media will remain disconnected from audiences whose engagement is already waning.”