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Spotlight on cultural diversity in the media. Whose voices are silent?

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Sometimes, when my half-Asian children are watching the television—especially on commercial channels—they wonder out loud why no one on the box looks like them.

One of my girls, who is just eight years old, has told me she wants to be a journalist when she grows up, like me. And that has, in turn, caused me to wonder if this small screen vision of a monocultural world will end up crushing her lively dreams and vivid talent for storytelling?

As the saying goes: You can’t be it, if you can’t see it.

A major academic study released last year analysed more than 19,000 news and current affairs items broadcast on free-to-air television. The paper found more than 75 per cent of presenters, commentators and reporters have an Anglo-Celtic background, while only six per cent of presenters, commentators and reporters have either an Indigenous or non-European background.

The study’s authors state: “100 per cent of free-to-air television national news directors in Australia have an Anglo-Celtic background (and they are also all male).”

They go on to say this is far from representing Australia’s diverse population, where “…21 per cent have a non-European background, 18 per cent have a European background and 3% per cent have an Indigenous background.”

ABC anchor Dan Bourchier

It’s not just academics who are frustrated about a lack of cultural diversity in the media. A recent TV ad campaign by Channel 9 was blasted for an ad campaign only featuring white celebrities.

Well, what are we going to do about this problem?

The Canberra branch of Women in Media invites you to come and consider this topic over with an all-star cast at a networking night at the National Press Club on Wednesday, July 28 at 7.30 pm.

Hosting the discussion will be Shalailah Medhora, Political Reporter for triple j’s current affairs program, Hack.

The Hack’s Shalailah Medhora

She’ll moderate a robust and lively discussion, delving into these questions and many more with:

  • Gabrielle Chan, political journalist and author of Rusted Off. Her upcoming book is Why You Should Give a F**k About Farming (to be released later this year)
  • Paula Kruger, former presenter and producer with the ABC. She’s currently the ABC’s Talent Manager, a role that supports efforts to attract, develop and retain talent.
  • Aarti Betigeri, Canberra correspondent for Monocle magazine and contributor to the Lowy Institute. She is also a former international correspondent.
  • Dan Bourchier, multi-award winning, multi-platform journalist with the ABC, where he anchors ABC Canberra’s flagship 7 pm news. Dan has Indigenous heritage. He has reported across the country and around the world for more than 20 years.

ABC talent Manager Paula Kruger

Speaking about the issue of cultural diversity in the media in the lead up to the WIM event, long-time journalist Aarti Betigeri says representation matters.

“The media is meant to be a mirror of society—so you have to ask, if it doesn’t effectively reflect the mix of people around, is it doing its job?”

“Diversity is about more than hiring practices; it’s about inculcating a workplace culture that is respectful of difference, whether it’s along the lines of age, ethnicity, gender, sexuality. A diverse newsroom is a stronger newsroom, because at its core, it’s one with access to a wider pool of ideas and contacts.

Journalist and author Gabrielle Chan

“There’s a lot of evidence showing that culturally diverse workplaces are beneficial to business. Other sectors have realised this and have done the work to diversify their hiring practices and workplace culture; sadly the media has lagged behind,” Aarti says.

THE ESSENTIALS

What: Spotlight on cultural diversity in the media. Whose voices are silent?  Women in Media Networking night and panel discussion.
When: Wednesday 28 July, 7.30 pm – 9.30 pm
Where: National Press Club, Barton
Tickets: Online from Eventbrite. Ticket price includes wine and hors d’oeuvres.

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