SBS panel discussion calls for more diversity in media

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I was one of the invitees to a panel discussion at the MCA conducted by Pollinate Group (CEO Howard Parry-Husbands) on behalf of SBS, as part of Vivid Sydney. Other panellists included Prof Ian Buchanan, University of Wollongong and Dr Eman Sharobeem, Immigrant Women’s Health Service and Human Rights Campaigner. The discussion was attended by more than 150 key people from various segments including opinion leaders, media and businesses. SBS Managing Director Micheal Ebeid was there. Ricardo Goncalves, SBS News Presenter, was the MC.

The key points of the research were:

  • The representative sample had fair distribution of age, gender, location, income and language spoken at home.
  • Australians recognise the key Australian traits of optimism & positivity, give it a go, a fair go, a can-do attitude, easy connections, and an expressive nature devoid of overly deferential language.
  • Australians believe in seeing the good side of things, rather than dwelling too much on what went wrong or whingeing.
  • They are concerned about immigrants coming in and not buying into “our way of life”, the threats to work-life balance and the shrinking spaces in their neighbourhoods.
  • They recognise that the identity of Australia has changed significantly over the last 20 years.
  • Australian identity has shifted towards a more complex, progressive and cosmopolitan identity.
  • People are more individualistic and seek active and new experiences.
  • Australians are seeking meaningful connections on shared passions and interests.
  • There is a steep rise in materialism accompanied by open-mindedness and creativity, and there are sings of sociability too. This is held to be the consequence of consumerism.
  • Australia is becoming more diverse and yet more conservative because immigrants bring conservative values.
  • Those closest, ie family and close friends, are the most trusted.
  • People are certain of one thing: the future will be even more multicultural.
  • Australians are divided on their views of future prosperity: over a third think their lives will improve and over a quarter think it will deteriorate.
  • Australians are most concerned about the economic cost of living and housing, deterioration of healthcare and job/employment security.
  • Australians are also concerned about quality of Government/politicians.
  • Most Australians believe immigrants should adopt our values and also agree that we are all immigrants.
  • The overall theme is that Australia is a young nation of immigrants with a great lifestyle.
  • Recent immigrants often bring more conservative values with them and may in fact reinforce a more conservative mindset.
  • ABC and SBS have the highest credibility as media organisations, followed by Seven and Nine.
  • Diversity in programming is highest in SBS. ABC and others are far lower in this regard.

With approx. 25% Australians born overseas and approx. 50% of Australians having at least one parent born overseas, diversity is something which is undeniable and not invisible.

Despite this, diversity is  not visible in the media, debates on policies, views, marketing and advertising. This is neither smart nor right.

It is about time that this sad, regressive and disappointing reality in Australia is addressed effectively. Media houses like Fairfax, News Corps, ABC, Chanel 7, Chanel 9, Chanel 10 and Radio stations should review this and act positively.

Diversity is not a dirty word. It exists in the Australian population, and is needed and in fact overdue in many spheres of Australia including the media and politics.

Advertisers cannot only be the harbingers of change but will also do a great favour to themselves if they stop ignoring this significant segment of our society when allocating money for marketing and advertisement.

After all, the multicultural community is neither invisible nor stays away from spending money and buying (consuming) things.

Published in The Indian Sun (Indian Newspaper in Sydney)

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