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A damning new report from Media Diversity Australia has found that despite non-Anglo-Celtic and non-European people making up 24% of Australia’s population, they make up just 11.4% of on-air talent in news and current affair across channels.
The report, published on Monday, August 17, found that there is a “distinctive gap” between Australia’s diversity as a population, and the diversity we see on screen.
Over a two-week observation of on-screen talent, Channel Nine came up the worst.
Just 3% of the channel’s audience-facing talent comes from non-European or non-Anglo-Celtic backgrounds, compared with a whopping 87.8% of Anglo-Celtic descent.
Not that other channels performed much better.
“None of the commercial networks (Channels 7, 9 and 10) had more than 5% of presenters, commentators and reporters, who were identified as having a non-European background,” the report reads.
The findings were found to prove a lack of diversity on Aussie screens overall when compared with Australia’s cultural breakdown as a society.
An estimated 58% of Australians have an Anglo-Celtic background, while 21% have a non-European background, 18% have a European background and 3% have an Indigenous background.
Karl Stefanovic slams ‘cultural diversity’ reporting citing European heritage
Now, however, Today frontman Karl Stefanovic has hit back at reporting on the findings which claimed just 3% of Nine’s on-air talent came from ‘culturally diverse backgrounds’.
The report’s own wording specified that the 3% came from non-Anglo-Celtic or non-European backgrounds.
Responding to a tweet about the survey, Karl revealed his own European cultural diversity, in a bid to refute the notion that the network was not supportive of diversity.
“I’m not sure how diverse you need to be to qualify for diverse but I’m of Yugoslav German and British heritage with a surname Stefanovic,” he wrote on Twitter. “I used to be called a wog at school. I’m proud of my heritage. I’m pretty sure it’s diverse and Nine have always supported that.”
In response SBS presenter Marc Fennell agreed with Karl’s claim to cultural diversity, pointing out the report itself distinguished it as such.
“Hey I think that’s a completely fair observation Karl which is why I suspect the report itself makes a crucial distinction between Anglo-Celtic & European,” he wrote.
Others were less generous in their response, pointing out that precise wording aside, the report showed off a pretty dismal attempt to show non-white diversity.
“Maltese Serbian here,” one person wrote. “We're pretty damn white in the scheme of things, Karl. This isn't our fight mate.”
“Instead of [taking] the easy white privileged middle-aged male option and dismissing or criticising the report, why not use your voice to support the principles and outline what you'd do to change things for the better, now and in the future,” another suggested.
Others were behind Karl, pointing out that those of European background were discriminated against in recent history as he said in his tweet.
“You speak for a lot of us, well done Karl I think you’re awesome!” one fan wrote.
Channel Nine’s on-air talent is made up of 87.8% Anglo-Celtic faces, 2.9% Non-European, and, despite Karl’s defence, just 9.3% European.
Nine has been contacted for comment.
Darren Wick, Nine’s Director of News and Current Affairs said in an earlier statement: “We all acknowledge that diversity in all media/newsrooms - not just television - is a challenge both in Australia and globally.”
“However, I don’t think simply counting surnames on TV is an effective way of addressing the issue or helps in finding practical solutions to these challenges,” he added.
Media Diversity says report a ‘win-win’ for all Aussies
In response, Antoinette Lattouf, Director of Media Diversity Australia and senior journalist at Network 10 told Yahoo Lifestyle the organisation agreed Karl should be ‘proud of his heritage’ and pointed out that the European category in the report accounted for this distinction.
"We are so glad that Karl has read our report and it is great to see he is proud of his European heritage -- as he should be,” she said in a statement to Yahoo.
“He was captured in our data as having European ancestry, so there's no confusion here. This is a great opportunity for the industry to reflect on the obvious gaps in representation within newsrooms and consider the story ideas, contacts and perspectives they are missing out.”
She went on to point out that rather than playing a blame game, the report endeavours to boost news and current affairs in Australia by opening it up to a wider array of voices and backgrounds which stand to benefit us all.
“There's a mountain of international research that shows diverse teams are more innovative and profitable,” she says. “So it's a win-win really.”