Australian TV is a snowfield of white faces, hears Sydney launch of Media Diversity Australia

Australian television can best be described as ‘a snowfield’ of white faces, broadcaster Waleed Aly told the launch of Media Diversity Australia in Sydney last night.

“Where does diversity turn up on our screens?” Aly asked. “Reality TV mostly because you can’t stop brown people cooking. They’re going to be really good at it and they’re going to compete,” he said – noting that this diversity does not translate onto panel shows, comedies or scripted dramas.

“This can no longer be just SBS’ problem:” Media Diversity Australia co-founder, Antoinette Lattouf

The organisation, formed earlier this year by journalists Isabel Lo and Antoinette Lattouf, seeks to promote cultural diversity in the Australian mainstream media to reflect the wider community.

“There is no doubt that mainstream media in Australia is facing a crisis of sorts,” says MDA’s founder Isabel Lo. “In the face of transforming business models, news leaders are viewing the diversity issue as secondary priorities. We believe diversity is central to audience reach. Who are we trying appeal to? Newsrooms should be reflecting the vibrant and complex nature of the Australian people.”

Backers of the organisation include Google News Lab, Bloomberg and Deloitte.

“For too long Australian media has been dominated by what we believe to be a small and unrepresentative segment of our society,” Lattouf added. “This has to change and it’s not only because it’s the politically correct thing to do but it’s also the economically viable thing to do.

“Change is inevitable and necessary and we want to be part of that change process,”Lattouf continued. “This can no longer be just SBS’ problem.”

The organisation will also be carrying out research on newsroom diversity in conjunction with the Media Entertainment  and Arts Alliance,  Macquarie University and Western Sydney University.

“We’re advocating for a media that looks like Australia, one that truly represents the Australians you see in this room and when you walk down the street,” said co-founder Lattouf.

“A media that looks and sounds like Australia. It’s not just the faces you see on television, it’s the stories and the perspectives. That’s what we think really needs to shift.”

Aly who sits on the organisation’s board alongside fellow broadcasters Stan Grant, Hugh Rimington, Monica Attard and Tracey Vo noted: “If you looked at TV it was incredibly narrowcast, what some TV people in America call affectionally a snowfield”, said

Also sitting on the board is Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane and philanthropist Talal Yassine.



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