Appetite for #MeToo movement in Australian media ‘drying up’

The #MeToo movement has been generally positive for both women and men in the workplace, however Australia’s restrictive defamation laws, combined with our drift towards conservatism and the lack of actual behaviour change, has prevented more change being enacted, a room full of radio executives has heard.

In addition, the movement has struggled to cut through in the media industry, with veteran news reader, media personality and activist Tracey Spicer saying commercial radio companies can be some of the most toxic environments in which to work.

Tanya Hennessy, Tracey Spicer, Virginia Trioli and Jonathon Moran on stage at Radio Alive 2018

“There has been less traction in [the #MeToo movement in] Australia for a couple of reasons. One is because we’re very conservative. Another is we have some of the most restrictive defamation laws in the western world, and we don’t have the proper free speech protections that they have in the United States. So it’s been very difficult from an investigative journalist’s perspective,” Spicer said of the challenges facing Australia.

“However, in the workplace, I’ve seen tremendous change happen at the very top end of town. There’s really hardcore stuff happening at the executive and board level of most of the blue-chip companies.”

Australia’s media industry, however, is falling behind – particularly commercial radio.

“Where I’m not seeing change happening in the workplaces is in the media sector, and particularly in places like commercial radio. I’ve worked across all the mediums, and some of the most toxic workplaces have been in commercial radio. And I think that’s a terrible change. I think the sector needs to really look at getting more women in positions of management, taking these things seriously, looking at world’s best practice. Diversity and inclusion is good for the bottom line, and you need to have safe workplaces,” she said.

Spicer: Commercial radio can be toxic for women

Jonathon Moran, entertainment editor at News Corp’s The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph, conceded that the appetite for the #MeToo movement had risen – and then fallen – very quickly locally.

“I think everyone was at first a bit more careful, but it’s not the same as it was in America. I think what’s been interesting is the appetite for #MeToo in Australia was really quite full on for a second there, and then the dust died down and it’s back to business,” he said, noting we discuss it less, people are no longer as closely monitoring their behaviour, and it’s generally “back to business”.

“And I think that’s the risk. I think we need to be more careful and I think we need to continue the conversation,” he said.

The balance of effecting positive change, and not going too far to the detriment of entertainment, creativity and challenging the norm, however, is something those in the media need to be conscious of, according to Hit Network’s weekend breakfast host Tanya Hennessy.

“Just generally, we’ve become more conservative, and, when I started in radio in seven years ago, I said things that I look back [now] and I [cringe] – not in the #MeToo realm, but just in the conservative realm. I just feel like everyone’s so crazy about political correctness, and sometimes it affects your art. So I think moreso what has changed is I think about things more and if it will offend people and what does that look like, because for media people, it looks like potential firing and losing your job if you’re not mindful of what you say.”


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