Mark Scott the outgoing Managing Director on the ABC regretted his failure to ensure that the ABC reflected the ethnic diversity of Australia. He should also have added that the ABC has failed to help us equip ourselves for our future in Asia.
It is therefore welcome that the new MD Michelle Guthrie has said she is going to change this. The problem is so obvious with the ABC’s main TV Channels across Australia dominated by ‘Anglos’. Less than 12% of ABC employees are from non English speaking backgrounds and the story is getting worse each year. I am also not aware that the ABC Board has any members who have worked in Asia, have any interest in Asia, let alone having any Asian ancestry.
Not surprisingly this Anglo’ bias is reflected in the content.
But that bias in content is not peculiar to the ABC. It is much worse in other media.
A person from Mars who read and listened to Australian media would conclude that we are an island parked off London or New York with little relationship to Asia. Our news and media coverage is so derivative, relying heavily on the BBC, CNN and other news and entertainment houses in the UK and the US .We are recyclers of news, current affairs and entertainment from the UK and the US. We are being colonised by their cultures and conditioned to accept their foreign policy and military follies.
The one media organization that could and should redress the imbalance in our media coverage is the ABC. It has a particular responsibility to project and respond to our regional interests? The Asian region accounts for almost 60% of Australia’s two way trade. Seven of our top trading partners are from the Asian region. Asian investment is increasing. China, Japan and Korea are our three major sources of tourists. Our educational institutions depend very heavily on foreign students, particularly from China and India. India is now the top source of migrants. These trends are clear and are likely to accelerate. Most importantly our security future is tied to our region, not what happens in the US or UK.
We speak glibly about our future in the ‘Asian Century’ and the need to equip ourselves for our future in Asia, but our media remains fixated on London and New York.
The ABC should not be cutting its foreign correspondents in our region. A Board that is seriously interested and concerned about Australia’s future in Asia would insist on expanding our coverage in and of the region and cut costs in lower priority and domestic areas. Less coverage of car accidents, shootings and sporting and social ‘celebrities’ would be a good start.
Our media, including the ABC to respond appropriately to the facts of our geography and our national interests. The structure of our media was laid down over 100 years ago. It is still North Atlantic oriented.
In the White Paper ‘Australia in the Asian Century’, October 2012, the government was advised in the following terms about our media.
‘Media is central in shaping perceptions and enhancing communications between Australia and the region, and the information revolution offers unprecedented opportunities to connect in new ways. … The content and coverage of the region in Australia’s media needs to improve. This is the responsibility of media organisations themselves. It is an important part of the whole of Australia approach to building links and engaging with Asia that is needed. … We will request the boards of the ABC and the SBS to examine how to promote more extensive coverage of the Asia region in all aspects of their content and programming, with special attention to news and information coverage, to ensure their content reflects the depth and diversity of our regional connections.’ P271/2
We have been warned and told directly, and in quite explicit terms, about the importance of our media for our future in the region. But as far as I can see the ABC and SBS have not promoted ‘more extensive coverage of the Asian region.’ They have done the reverse.
The commercial media has failed its responsibilities in regional coverage. The ABC has done much better, but that is now at risk.
We really do have a White Man’s Media that is failing to advance our interests and responsibilities in the Asian region.
Instead we get a deluge of Donald Trump. What happens in Indonesia, China and Japan is seemingly much less important to our future that what happens in an American Republican Primary election. But news feeds are cheap and easy from Washington and New York, so that is what we get
We are being drawn back time and time again to the past and the patterns of our media laid down over a hundred years ago.