Seeking balance behind the news

While there is growing diversity on reality TV, this true reflection of Australia isn’t translating to news and current affairs.

But the team at Media Diversity Australia are hoping for, and driving towards, change in newsrooms across the country.

At the organisation’s launch in Sydney on Monday night, called The Changing Face of News, award-winning TV personality Waleed Aly said Australia’s media was dominated by individuals who thought and looked the same. He said while cultural diversity had increased on our screens through reality television, the news media industry still lacked true representation of the people who consumed it.

The Project’s Waleed Aly was keynote speaker at the MDA launch.

“You can’t stop brown people from cooking. They’re going to compete and they’re going to be really good at it,” he said.

“[But] there is still a strong lack of diversity in the industry, especially with people of culturally different backgrounds.

“It’s not about creating revolution, it’s about providing organic growth to an important initiative.”

Media Diversity Australia is a nationwide not-for-profit organisation seeking to promote balanced representation in Australian media that reflects the community it serves.

Founded by journalists Isabel Lo and Antoinette Lattouf, who also lectures at Macleay College, MDA has the support of high-profile journalists and institutions and bodies including Western Sydney and Macquarie Universities and Macleay College, and the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, who are collaborating on research into the composition of staff diversity in newsrooms across the country.

MDA board member and Macleay College head of journalism Monica Attard said she looked forward to seeing the results of the empirical study.

“I want to see a change. I want this research to broaden the media industry’s demographic,” Attard said.

“There is still significant structural obstacles for people of different cultural backgrounds in our industry.”

Aly said it was time for all media, not just ABC and SBS, to step up in this area.

The Project host noted that over a decade ago “if you looked at TV, it was incredibly narrowcast”, referring to it with the American term “a snowfield of faces”.

“If you looked at radio, you started to get a little bit more diversity, and if you looked at print you started to find occasionally some people with scandalously long names,” he said.

“The less visual the medium, the more comfortable with diversity we suddenly were. It was an extraordinary realisation.”

Aly believes a solution to the lack of diverse representation is an achievable task.

“I’m talking about infusion of newsrooms, of talent that is on air,” he said. “I don’t particularly think there’s anything that stands in the way of that”.

A 2016 PwC report on media diversity showed the average employee in Australia’s media and entertainment sector was 27, male, Caucasian and living in Sydney’s Eastern suburbs or the Inner West.

Editor of the Australian Entertainment and Media Outlook report, Megan Brownlow, said at the time, “Similar to the world we see depicted by media, entertainment and media businesses do not reflect an Australia that’s becoming more diverse by the day.”

“It’s a case of chicken and egg and means the industry is not as well equipped for growth as it should be,” she said.

“Studies have shown diversity improves business outcomes.  To move the dial in the entertainment and media industry greater focus needs to be placed on tackling unconscious bias and similarity attraction in recruitment.” – Story, pictures and periscope video by Jasmine Motti, additional reporting by Tom Livingstone, illustration by Fiona West.

About Jasmine Motti 5 Articles
I am an emerging journalist studying a Bachelor of Journalism at Macleay College. I love travel and photography, and combining both in the pursuit of visual storytelling.