The researchers behind a massive investigation into the cultural diversity of Australian TV news have defended their findings, after Nine’s news director claimed the report overlooks the work of Today entertainment reporter and Gamilaroi woman Brooke Boney.
Media Diversity Australia (MDA) and four Australian universities analysed roughly 19,000 news and current affairs segments shown on free-to-air television over two weeks last year.
Their report, Who Gets To Tell Australian Stories?, states only one Indigenous presenter, commentator, or reporter was identified at Channel 9, and that the network “had no Indigenous presenters, commentators or reporters identified in the two-week slice”.
Researchers say that when data was limited to Channel 9’s breakfast news programs, Indigenous presenters made just 0.1% of all appearances.
The report analysed both the number of presenters and tallied their on-screen appearances.
In a statement provided to PEDESTRIAN.TV, Darren Wick, Nine’s Director of News and Current Affairs, said that methodology undercuts Boney’s impact on Today. (Full disclosure: PEDESTRIAN.TV is wholly owned by Nine Entertainment.)
“This report has clear errors” and “ignores the significant contribution of someone like Brooke Boney on Today, where she is one of four main hosts on the desk,” Wick said.
The research is “not reflective of the real changes and proactive appointments we have been making in improving diversity in our television business,” he added.
Newsreader Tracy Vo, who replaced Tom Steinfort in January, departed Today in April to be closer to family during the coronavirus pandemic.
But Antoinette Lattouf, Director of MDA and a senior journalist at Channel 10, backed the report, saying researchers followed a categorisation system used by the Australian Human Rights Commission.
“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,” she said.
The report states 87.8% of Channel 9’s on-air presenters have Anglo-Celtic backgrounds, a sharp contrast to the 58% of Australians in the general population with an Anglo-Celtic heritage.
“If the network’s diversity and inclusion policy hinges on one person, then I would suggest that that isn’t really a diverse and inclusive whole of network approach,” Lattouf said.
Boney has not publicly commented on the report.
Lattouf further denied Wick’s claim the report was the result of “simply counting surnames,” pointing to a survey of more than 300 journalists and interviews with senior news media leaders as evidence of lacking diversity on Australian news television.
The report calls for Australian news organisations to take more proactive measures to increase on-screen diversity, including the introduction of diversity targets instead of concrete hiring quotas.
Earlier, Today host Karl Stefanovic appeared to question the report, claiming he is “pretty sure” his family background is diverse, prompting MDA to state he was categorised as having a European background.
Of 270 presenters and reporters identified in the report, 204 had Anglo-Celtic backgrounds, 35 were listed as having European backgrounds, and 25 were found to have non-European heritage.
Just six Indigenous on-screen figures were identified.