TV host Karl Stefanovic has hit out at a landmark study of Australia’s television news and current affairs that found that presenters, commentators and reporters are overwhelmingly white.
Media Diversity Australia says its report – which found almost 76 per cent of those on Australian screens were from Anglo-Celtic backgrounds – is the first in-depth study of cultural diversity in Australian television news.
According to MDA, just 6 per cent of TV hosts and presenters were from Indigenous or non-European backgrounds, despite these groups making up a quarter of the Australian population.
MDA singled out Stefanovic’s employer, the Nine Network, as having “by some distance, the highest level of Anglo-Celtic representation with its journalists on air (87.8 per cent)”.
However, the report conceded, none of the commercial networks had more than 5 per cent of presenters, commentators and reporters from non-European backgrounds.
The Today host – isolating at home on Monday morning while awaiting the results of a coronavirus test – took issue with the report.
“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.”
(Oh, and the COVID test came back negative. “It was a great relief and it’s great to know that the system is working in NSW,” Stefanovic told his own show later in the morning.)
But Stefanovic’s response to the media report drew a mixed reaction.
“Maltese Serbian here. We’re pretty damn white in the scheme of things, Karl. This isn’t our fight mate,” wrote fellow journalist Mike Stevens.
“I’m a 4th generation Australian with a French surname. I got called a wog at school too. Didn’t make me any less white,” wrote another follower.
The report also found the boards of the ABC, Seven and Nine all had “overwhelmingly Anglo-Celtic representation”, although the ABC’s board is 67 per cent female.
The report found SBS had the “most gender – and culturally diverse” board, with an even gender split and the only Indigenous board member across the networks.
In a statement, the ABC said it welcomed the report, and its findings “broadly reflect the results of our own tracking”.
But Channel Nine and Seven both questioned the report’s methodology.
“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,” Darren Wick, Nine’s director of news and current affairs, told news.com.au.
“This report has clear errors and ignores the significant contribution of someone like Brooke Boney on Today, where is she one of four main hosts on the desk, instead simply listing her daily and regular contribution on the program at somewhere between 0.1 per cent and 0 per cent [an early copy of the report rounded Channel Nine’s overall Indigenous representation to 0 per cent but was revised to 0.1 per cent in the final release].
“This is not reflective of the real changes and proactive appointments we have been making in improving diversity in our television business.”