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The Australian media landscape is a predominantly conservative one. The ABC stands out as a beacon of social inclusiveness and a leader in this regard. The national broadcaster was the first to feature Indigenous presenters on their roster and to break through the colour barrier. Similarly, the inclusion of presenters with a disability has paved the way for more Australians to see these members of our community in a new light. The commercial networks are never leaders in this space, rather they revel in the comfort zone by featuring attractive exemplars from the dominant white cohort.

“For the reporting period, the representation of Indigenous staff is 3.3% (August 2021) which is an increase from 2.9% (August 2020). This is against a target of 3.4% for 2021. The ABC aims to have a representation of 3.6% of Indigenous staff by 2022.

4.6% of employees at the ABC identify as having a disability (August 2021), unchanged from the previous reporting period (August 2020). This data is based on employees who have provided Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) data and disclosed whether they have a disability. The ABC aims to reach a diversity target of 8% employees with a disability by August 2022.”

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The ABC Leading The Way In Aussie Media

Some Australians condemn the personnel changes by the ABC as examples of political correctness and are dismissive of it. They miss the point that it is only by seeing members of these groups on our TV screens will we get to know them in a culturally inclusive sense. For too long television was reserved for a much more narrow conception of what was thought our best and brightest. This was in fact our whitest and most beautiful sons and daughters – a policy the conservative free to air networks continue on to this day. Television hosts on networks perform socially instructive roles as members of archetypal families in the minds of their most loyal viewers. The Channel 7, 9, or 10 family. Younger viewers grow up watching these exemplars on their TV screens. Narratives are spun which direct the more impressionable audience members as to how we should behave and what attitudes we should hold.

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Media Reflects Cultural Assumptions In Australia

Neurodiversity is a fairly new label to describe those that do not think and therefore act in the same way as the dominant cohort within a community or population. Television has played a big part in disseminating cultural norms. Yes, its grip may be lessening due to the rise in popularity of social media and other digital platforms. However, the box or screen in the corner still plays a major role in determining what’s hot and what’s not. New ways of thinking and the inclusion of neurodiverse people are examples of progressiveness within the media landscape.

We are beginning to see neurodiverse characters popping up inside formulaic TV drama scripts. They may just be exotic window dressing at this juncture but their inclusion is important for the reasons already mentioned here.

LGBTQIA Pride In The ABC

Sexual preference diversity has graced our screens for some time now. Homosexuals, Gays and Lesbians are making their presence more seen and heard on TV. The LGBTQIA community has much more to offer in terms of non-specific gender identity and transexual input. The ABC is again leading the way here by featuring presenters and panellists of various persuasions in this regard. Advertisers have embraced the queer world more quickly than the commercial TV networks. You see more ads now containing characters from the LGBTQIA community. Australia is growing up in this regard after many years asleep at the wheel in terms of acknowledging who we truly are.

“ABC Pride is an employee network group that is committed to LGBTQIA+ diversity and inclusion and creating a working environment that supports and embraces differences. The group supports employees of diverse sexualities and gender identities, and those with intersex variations.

“Women make up 54.9% of the ABC’s workforce as at 31 August 2021. 44.7% of the ABC’s workforce are men and 0.4% identify as gender diverse.”

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Conservatives Forces Mug ABC

Politically, the ABC has taken a sustained beating from the Coalition and conservative forces. For more than a decade members of LNP governments attacked the ABC accusing it of political bias in favour of the ALP and leftist leanings. Budgets were slashed and managers threatened with worse to come if things did not change. The ABC denied the bias existed but the campaign against it was unstinting. Eventually, a level of political emasculation has been effected. The overarching need to be seen to be balanced in interviews and coverage has impacted the quality of its political incisiveness. There appears to be a conservative filter over the ABC in the 2020’s. On the current affairs front, the ABC has become more superficial, as it seeks out the contested political angle in every story.

This has a tendency to reduce the sphere of ideas to a perpetual agonistic encounter between opponents. It is click baitish in its politicising of policies. David Speers epitomises the cynical political observer never taking sides.

Australian Media Eco System

If you look at the Australian media as an eco-system it was previously in balance, within its conservative bent. You had the rabid right wing tabloid TV Sky News Australia at one end, the Australian and other Murdoch newspapers abutting it in their arch-conservative outlooks, then, the Nine Fairfax network and newspapers centre right in perspective, Seven probably to the right of them, Ten in the middle with SBS, and the ABC the only progressive network in the mix. The Guardian online and a few other independent online media outlets are on the left but their presence is tiny. The ABC had to be more leftist to balance out the preponderance of conservative views within the Australian media landscape. What the Coalition did was to isolate their observation of the ABC as a tax payer funded entity and demand that it be judged accordingly on that basis alone.

The ABC has an important role to play as the progressive voice within our media landscape.

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“Two giant firms dominate the media landscape, making Australia’s media landscape one of the most concentrated in the world. Nine Entertainment group, run by the Packer clan, has consolidated its position in recent years by buying parts of Melbourne-based Southern Cross Media and by absorbing the Fairfax Media newspaper chain and the Sydney Morning Herald, the country’s newspaper of record. Meanwhile, News Corp., controlled by the family of Australian-American magnate Rupert Murdoch, is emblematic of the dangers that media ownership hyper-concentration pose to media pluralism. The company’s Australian subsidiary controls more than two-thirds of the country’s leading papers, including The Australian daily, as well as most online news portals.”

Robert Sudha Hamilton is the author of Money Matters: Navigating Credit, Debt, and Financial Freedom.  

©MidasWord

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