How diverse is Australia’s media?

While Australia prides itself on being a multicultural country - how much of Australia actually reflect this?...

Australia prides itself on being a multicultural country. We’ve known this our whole lives. But how much of Australia actually reflect this?

Who we see on television is meant to mirror our society and communities, but Australia doesn’t seem to be getting this right. To put it into perspective, the media is the body that represents our voices, our stories, and ultimately – our people as a nation. Media Diversity Australia (MDA) conducted a report into news and current affairs, focusing on the people who tell, frame, and produce the stories we see with some alarming research.

The report found that 75% of presenters, commentators and reporters have an Anglo-Celtic background, where only 6% have an Indigenous or non-European background. This clearly illustrates who the industry is largely dominated by, and for a multicultural country like Australia – our media doesn’t appear to truly reflect its citizens. A survey conducted by MDA in June 2020 found that more than 70% of participants measured the representation of culturally diverse men and women in the industry as either “poorly” or “very poorly”.

The MDA report also found that most respondents felt there were greater barriers for culturally diverse individuals when it comes to finding work both in front of and behind the camera. Nearly 86% of respondents from a non-European background believe that having a culturally diverse background is a barrier to career progression. This shows how the possibility for opportunities and success is challenging and limited for culturally diverse backgrounds in an industry that should be representative of its audience, and beyond.

And it’s not just the topic of diversity that we find underrepresentation. The same report found that, as of July 2020, every national news director in the country is both of an Anglo-Celtic background and male. Although our society increasingly preaches gender equality, women are still missing out on high-level jobs and opportunities that supposedly frame, manage and deliver our media.

While the personalities, individuals, and voices in our newsrooms form a large part of the media, it is more than just media representation that needs work. According to research from Deakin University published in The Conversation, Australia found that more than a third of media articles reflected negative views on minority communities. Reporters should be fair and balanced when it comes to presenting cultural issues in the media, but no matter how hard we try to deny it, underlying tones of racism and bias remain.

This includes our beloved, and immensely diverse Western Sydney region, where Josephine Parsons says to The Guardian that the region has traditionally been associated with all the markers of poverty, disadvantage, and distinct lack of cultural sophistication.

“More recently, as Western Sydney has become increasingly multicultural, the stereotypes have focussed more on ‘ethnic crime’ and immigrant ‘ghettoes’” Josephine adds.

When we think about news and media, we need to consider that it covers a lot of government-related information and news, particularly during the 2020’s testing COVID-19 outbreak. In saying this, many culturally diverse individuals and communities have been seriously disadvantaged when it comes to COVID-19 information as governments do not alter their messages for these communities. In another report by Media Diversity, Australia found that the country’s Notifiable Diseases database lacked data on the ethnicity, languages spoken, and country of birth of Australian residents. Without this information, government officials, and the media that recycles government information, could not accurately cater to the needs of culturally diverse communities.

It’s pretty clear that Australia is not as progressive in the realm of diversity or equality as we claim to be, especially when it comes to the media. There’s no better place to start than the media.