The ABC is copping a wave of online backlash after revealing its upcoming line-up of news presenters for 2021, with people questioning the lack of cultural diversity among the broadcaster’s key programs.
The broadcaster released its 2021 programming schedule on Wednesday but it was the publicity photos of the presenters runnings its flagship news programs that left many unimpressed.
Viewers and even some ex-staff members were quick to call out the lack of diversity, with the majority journalists leading its top news programs, including Insiders, 7.30, ABC News Breakfast and The Drum, appearing to mainly be from caucasian backgrounds.
Former Four Corners and ABC News reporter Sophie McNeill tweeted a collated picture of the broadcaster’s white presenters, branding the lack of diversity “disappointing”.
Ex-deputy editor of ABC Life, Osman Faruqi, also shared the promotion images for the ABC’s leading news programs to his Twitter.
“Do the people who run ABC News not understand how weird this looks?” he asked.
“At some point, when you’re assembling these photos, you’d pause and think ‘Hmm something not quite right here’. It should so embarrassing that they shouldn’t be able get away with it. But who is going to hold them to account? Everywhere else is even whiter, lol.”
Australia’s former Race Discrimination Commissioner and Culture Strategy Professor at Sydney University, Tim Soutphommasane, said the ABC has a “long way to go” in terms of diversity.
“Let’s remember the ABC has it in its charter that it should reflect the cultural diversity of the Australian community. So where is it?” he wrote on Twitter.
“And thanks to those who highlight there is diversity elsewhere on the upfront. That is of course good to see. But the diversity is not there in many of the flagship and other high-profile programs, especially news and current affairs.”
In response to the backlash, the ABC released a statement saying it was proud of the “diverse talent” across its programs.
Our 2021 slate reflects our commitment to representing and reflecting modern Australia, across diverse backgrounds, ages, genders, abilities and cultures,” the broadcaster said.
The ABC said increasing diversity across its workforce and programming was a priority, pointing to its current Diversity & Inclusion Plan and Reconciliation Action Plan.
“There’s no doubt that, like all media organisations, the ABC has significant work to do to live up to our goal to reflect the full diversity of our community,” the ABC said.
“But we are making progress.”
The broadcaster also released a collage of all the diverse programs and presenters that will be appearing on the ABC in 2021.
However, this still wasn’t enough to impress some, with Mr Faruqi and Ms McNeill pointing out there was still a lack of representation in the ABC’s top news programs.
“There is a significant gap between what appears to be coming of factual and entertainment TV and news in terms of whiteness, but it’s very funny the ABC is responding to concerns about the lack of diversity on news shows by saying “We also make Superwog!” Mr Faruqi wrote on Twitter.
He added: “It’s really weird that the ABC’s response was to subtweet everyone by pointing to shows about Chinese restaurants (which I can’t wait to watch tbh). They really are in denial, it’s very sad.”
Ms McNeill said, while it is true the ABC has diverse talent across many of its programs, it was still lacking in some major areas.
“It’s not really diversity in ‘Super Wog’ or ‘Chopsticks or Fork’ that I’m chasing. It’s in the flagship, heavy hitting, political programs & at an editorial level,” she wrote.
Seemingly in response to these claims, the ABC released an image showing a few more of the people working as presenters for ABC News.
But not everyone was so quick to criticise the ABC, with some viewers praising the broadcaster for featuring a wide range of programming and working towards even more diversity on screen.
“This is an easy attack but if we move beyond the ‘glam’ of TV, the ABC provides a diverse but not perfect platform. It does provide a variety of voices. Let’s not belittle it or grandstand in front of nodding heads, let’s look at the alternative & commit to make the ABC better,” one person wrote.
“I think ABC Australia has done a much better job of diversifying its presenters than any other visual media here has. Well done ABC,” another person said.