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Does Australian television feature diverse voices?

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MDA CEO Mariam Veiszadeh says the findings "hold up a mirror" to the industry's slow progress in "creating a representative media landscape that looks and sounds more like Australia."
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A new study by the organisation Media Diversity Australia (MDA) has found First Nations people and people from non-Anglo-Celtic cultural backgrounds remain underrepresented in news and current affairs coverage on Australia’s free-to-air television networks.

MDA CEO Mariam Veiszadeh says the findings “hold up a mirror” to the industry’s slow progress in “creating a representative media landscape that looks and sounds more like Australia.”

About the study

The study measures the diversity of on-screen talent and executive leadership in the newsrooms of Australia’s mainstream free-to-air television networks (ABC, SBS, 7, 9, 10 and NITV). It also includes a survey of staff and audience perceptions of diversity.

It considers four categories of cultural background: Anglo-Celtic, European, non-European and Indigenous. People were placed into categories using publicly available data and the judgement of the researchers.

Findings

In total, people from an Anglo-Celtic background made up:

  • 78% of on-air appearances on news and current affairs programs;
  • 78% of senior news leadership positions; and
  • 70% of board members.

Anglo-Celtic people make up 54% of the total population based on Census data, meaning they are overrepresented in each of these areas.

First Nations

The representation of First Nations presenters improved since the last time the study was conducted. First Nations presenters accounted for 5% of total on-air appearances.

However, First Nations people made up only 2.8% of total presenters, which the report authors say shows representation is “concentrated in a relatively small number of presenters and reporters”.

NITV, which specialises in First Nations reporting as part of SBS, had the highest representation. Channels 9 and 10 improved since the last time the study was completed in 2020. SBS’ main channel did not improve, and the authors could not identify a single Indigenous presenter at Seven in the period they considered.

SBS was the only network with First Nations people on its board, and NITV the only channel with First Nations people in senior news leadership positions.

Cultural diversity

European presenters made up 10% of appearances and people from non-European backgrounds made up 6%.

Both of these groups were significantly underrepresented: Europeans make up 18% of the Australian population, and non-Europeans are 25%.

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