The media diversity report excluded NITV, but we tell Indigenous stories everyday

This week's 'Who gets to tell Australian stories?' report highlighted the stark lack of Indigenous and non-European representation in TV networks. But, by excluding NITV, the report missed a big part of the picture, explains Rhanna Collins. As she sets out, NITV was "providing opportunities for Aboriginal media professionals far before diversity quotas were popular and certainly much earlier than Black Lives Matter has been trending in your social media feeds".

A report released on Monday titled Who Gets To Tell Australian Stories? analysed 81 news programs over two weeks in June 2019 to review how diversity was reflected on Australian TV. It equated to approximately 19,000 news and current affairs items broadcast across free-to-air television.

The report categorised the presenters, reporters and commentators who presented the news across the FTA networks, and concluded there was little to no Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representation available on our screens.

But that’s not quite the full picture.

The NITV crew at the Garma Festival in the Northern Territory last year

Notably, the report did not include the national Indigenous broadcaster, NITV, in its analysis. NITV is available to all Australians free-to-air as part of the SBS network, but it was the only free-to-air news service to not be captured in this review.

I lead the team that produces and presents NITV’s news and current affairs programs – NITV News, Living Black, Nula and The Point – and that brings news to audiences everyday.

Everyday, we ensure there is Indigenous representation on screen.

Everyday, we make editorial decisions and produce news from an Indigenous perspective.

While we don’t have the nightly audience of the mainstream channels, as an Indigenous team dedicated to ensuring our communities are seen and heard on Australian TV, we play a significant role in the Australian news landscape.

A report like this provides an important platform to highlight where we need to do better as an industry, and why representation is so important. Despite not being reflected as a part of the news landscape within it, it’s clear now is the time for greater recognition of the vital role of Indigenous media in Australia.

The Indigenous media sector is rich and diverse with unique access and Indigenous authorship. It is a sector in which we can tell our own stories on our terms.

NITV was born out of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. One of the 339 recommendations handed down in 1991 was for our communities to have a trusted source of news made by, for and about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. A place where our stories could be told with Indigenous authorship and primacy of our voices and perspectives.

Our programs are fronted by Indigenous hosts and the NITV newsroom has an all-Indigenous editorial team. It is a team that shapes the narrative of the stories we tell for our communities every day. Our most recent addition to the editorial team, Arrernte woman Lindy Kerin joins Karla Grant (Arrernte), Jack Latimore (Birpai), Jodan Perry (Worimi & Wiradjuri), Natalie Ahmat (Mudburra and Wagadagum), Julie Nimmo (Wiradjuri) and myself (Palawa) as an all Indigenous editorial team leading the black stories you need to know to begin to understand the diversity of experiences in this country for all Australians.

And on screen, it’s also people like Rachael Hocking (Warlpiri), John Paul-Janke (Wuthathi and Murray Islander), Rae Johnston (Wiradjuri), Ryan Liddle (Arrernte), Shahni Wellington (Jerrinja), Douglas Smith (Wirangu and Mirning), Keira Jenkins (Gamilaroi/Gomeroi) and Mikele Syron (Birpai) representing these stories and issues on-air on NITV, and also across SBS.

Not only does our roster of Indigenous journalists tell stories for our communities right across the country, our service is a gift to all Australians to understand our world and the pressing issues affecting our mob.

NITV has emerged as a unique voice in the Australian media landscape, launching on Foxtel in 2007. We have been available free to air since 2012 as part of SBS, available in 97% of Australian homes. Today, we reach around 2.2 million Australians every month. We also reach a wider audience with programs simulcast or available to watch again on SBS channels, and NITV presenters seen across the network. Our channel manager also now sits on the SBS executive leadership team, as SBS’s first director of Indigenous content. NITV has invested in our newsroom to ensure we can continue providing opportunities for Aboriginal media professionals, far before diversity quotas were popular and certainly much earlier than Black Lives Matter has been trending in your social media feeds.

Back in June, it was our coverage of how the Black Lives Matter movement resonates with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and the situation in Australia, which prompted media giant Netflix to tell its subscribers to switch off for the night, and tune into NITV to watch our current affairs program, The Point, instead.

Many Aboriginal journalists right across mainstream media have had their first taste of journalism in our newsroom or spent a stint delivering to NITV News or Living Black.

To name a few – Brooke Boney, Dan Bourchier, Laura Murphy-Oates, Ella Archibald Binge and many, many more recognisable names you see right across the media industry, providing critical representation of our people and our stories across the sector.

In our country’s history there have been too many occasions where our voices have been silenced or omitted. Aboriginal voices make a valuable contribution – to our communities and all Australians. I invite you to switch on NITV and hear them for yourself.

Rhanna Collins is a proud Palawa woman and is the acting head of Indigenous news and current affairs at NITV


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