We lose out when our TV networks fail to represent "true Australia"

We lose out when our major networks fail to represent what Australia really looks like

Nine

Ever played the kids’ game ‘One of These Things is not like the Other?’ Well, if you watched Channel Nine’s COVID vaccination ad this week, you’d have been forgiven for losing the game. Because deciphering physical differences in the faces portrayed within it, is close to impossible.

For starters, every single Channel Nine TV personality represented in the advertisement is white. And, in the case of the women (with the single exception of musician Amy Shark), they are all white, platinum blonde and seemingly have the same hair cut.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s a very nice haircut. And I’m sure these are all very nice people attempting to do a socially responsible thing by encouraging Australians to get the jab, but why didn’t one single Channel Nine producer recognise how mono-cultural this ad was before it went to air? Or what watching it would feel like for anyone in this country that doesn’t look the same?

The Block host Scott Cam leads the promo, titled “This is our shot” followed by a slew of Nine’s most recognisable faces including Eddie McGuire, Shaynna Blaze, Liz Hayes, Erin Molan, Deborah Knight, Peter Overton, Sylvia Jeffries, Allison Langdon, Georgie Gardner and Richard Wilkins.

The ad also pans to Karl Stefanovic in a doctor’s chair, ready and waiting to “get it done”.

And despite fierce public backlash, the ad is still up and running with Channel Nine yet to address the concerns.

Journalist and entertainer Jan Fran, led the debate yesterday on Twitter citing her own deep and personal resentment. As a Lebanese Australian, she spoke of her decision straight out of university to pursue a career at SBS and The ABC rather than a major network where she already anticipated quick rejection.

“I figured Channels 7, 9 and 10 didn’t want to hire someone who had curly hair and Lebanese features, especially not 3 years after the Cronulla riots where the only way a Lebanese person ended up on the news was to join a gang or denounce those who joined a gang. Good times!” she wrote.

“In this country, you grow up feeling that certain paths aren’t yours to follow because of the colour of your skin. It’s how it is. You get on with it. So I applied to SBS and ABC, the former of which was home to the Indira Naidoo, the wog ball, the “foreign” accent. The familiar.”

Questioning the MO of major networks in continuing to operate this way and exclude such a giant cohort of the populace, Fran queried: “Is it not worth thinking about the pipeline that diverts some people away from these spaces? A pipeline you don’t even know exists unless you’re the one being diverted. Would you have applied if you were me at university?”

She also noted her experience as one encountered by thousands of Australians each day– a sense that some careers and trajectories remain off limits because of the colour of your skin.

“You know that feeling I mentioned. The feeling of a path not being yours because of the colour of your skin. This is where it comes from. The message is subliminal. It’s what is not said that you hear the loudest. Everyday. It’s how it is. You get on with it.”

As an Australian of mixed cultural background– my mum is of Indian and Malaysian heritage and my Dad from country Australia– Jan Fran’s words ring bitterly true. Media in Australia is one of the least diverse industries. As a kid, I grew up watching these same faces and same haircuts across all major networks.

It would be nice to feel that in 30 years we’ve evolved, but this ad does everything in its power to prove otherwise.

Australia is possibly the most multicultural country on the planet. One in four Australians are culturally diverse– something which enhances and enriches our country; something we should actively celebrate each and every day.

But we are doing the very opposite when our major networks fail to represent the true essence of our nation on our screens. And in the process? We’re losing out on a wealth of talent. Knowing that Jan Fran may never have had a career if we didn’t have SBS, should be enough for us to realise that.

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