Antoinette Lattouf, Network 10 journalist and the director and co-founder of Media Diversity Australia, sat down for a chat with Yahoo for the ANZ Real Talk series with Editor-in-Chief of Yahoo Finance Sarah O'Carroll.
Media Diversity Australia famously released a damning report about the lack of diversity in Australian media and on our TV screens in August last year.
The study found that out of 81 news programs, over two weeks just six per cent of presenters, commentators and reporters had an Indigenous or non-European background – a number that does not accurately represent Australia's multicultural population.
Speaking about diversity in media with Yahoo, Antoinette was asked whether she thought Samantha Armytage, who recently announced she would be leaving Sunrise, might be replaced by someone of a more diverse background.
"Well there was one thing when our report came out, it was just this hilarious caption," she said. "It showed all of Sunrise, you know, including the sports and weather presenters, about six people and the Cash Cow, and the caption was... 'Cash Cows are better represented than culturally diverse people on Sunrise', because it was like there wasn't anybody who was different other than the cow."
"I would say it's important for appointments not to be knee-jerk, and if you don't have somebody in the ranks who's being trained up and able to take on a position like that, you don't just throw them into a hosting role for them then potentially to fail and everybody go, 'Oh well see what happened with that silly diversity policy'.
"What you need to do is develop a talent pipeline."
She suggested installing someone experienced, then backfilling their role with talent from a diverse background.
"Maybe when Nat Barr or Edwina Bartholomew get moved over, their position can be filled," Antoinette explained.
"It's an enormous amount of pressure, just to chuck somebody in the deep end and then go 'Perform, swim, swim!' And when there's a whole bunch of people hoping they'll sink, I think that those appointments just serve as barriers to the cause."
When asked if she thought there'd be enough people from diverse backgrounds out there ready to take on the role, Antoinette quickly responded: "At their network? No."
Sarah then questioned whether other networks might have someone that Seven could poach.
"Potentially, the pool of talent in senior on-air roles that is diverse is small, because networks aren't investing in that talent," Antoinette replied.
"So yes, there may be a handful, I suspect that they're going to hire and promote from within. If they take a chance from someone outside, I don't think it necessarily should be for Sam's role, I think it should be a seat at the table. Because there's just too much pressure and there'll be too much criticism and there'll be too much commentary that that was just token and that they didn't deserve it. I think it's really tricky."
She continued, saying the networks need to "cultivate that talent" which then "sets them up to succeed, not to fail and to be torn apart".
A viewer questioned what role TV viewers play in helping to expand diversity in the media and she responded that viewers can use social media platforms to call for change.
"With Sam Armytage [I've seen] people on Twitter and on Facebook saying, you know, 'I would like to see somebody else in that seat.'"
She did, however, say that she believed Seven already had a person in mind to take over from Sam.
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