Vote one for diversity at ABC Radio

As the ABC approaches the new budget year and the election period, Head of Radio Michael Mason has reminded radio staff to reflect the diversity of the modern Australian audience.
Earlier in 2016 the ABC established a Diversity Action Group (DAG) to focus on how ABC Radio can look and sound more like Australia by 2020. 
CBC Canada is also a champion for diversity. radioinfo reported in March that Susan Marjetti, the Executive Director of Radio at CBC Canada, gave her organisation “a demographic wake up,” when she joined from the private sector.
“Relevance has got harder” in this diverse multi media world but Marjetti believes that being inclusive of a diverse range of ethnic, religious, cultural and language backgrounds is one of the secrets to staying relevant and growing your audience.

This is Michael Mason’s memo to staff:

ABC Radio aims to look and sound more like Australia by 2020. To do this, we have to take every opportunity to make more diverse and inclusive content.

Our measure of diversity is pretty simple: do the voices we’re putting on air across the week reflect the broad range of people living in our communities?

As we enter the long 2016 federal election campaign, we know that for every political tragic in our audience, there’s another listener being slowly driven mad by repetition and spin.

Producing election content which genuinely includes and speaks to a diverse Australia will help to keep our coverage fresh and real.

Many of you will already have this front of mind and are doing great work, but to help you further, we’ve put together a checklist of key questions and some useful online resources. 

Key questions

  • Who are the voices we constantly hear on air? Who could we find who might be fresher or could add some different views?

  • Do our experts include a decent balance between men and women? Do they contain a healthy mix of ethnicities and accents? Could we set ourselves a target for finding X number of new voices during this campaign?

  • Is this also the case for our voxpops and talkback callers?

  • Do we (however unconsciously) avoid using talent because they have a ‘difficult’ accent?

  • How do we make sure that we’re not basing our scripts and interviews on old ideas and assumptions about the average Aussie?

  • Do we sound like we know that our listeners are people of differing ages, education, affluence, religious beliefs and

    sexualities? Are people with disabilities being heard?

  • Do we know enough about who is living in our town and cities?

  • People from different backgrounds will still have common needs and interests as citizens, but are there any issues that resonate with particular communities in my area?

  • Which ‘forgotten’ communities would it be good to seek views from? How do we do that? When we do OBs, for example, do we go to the same places every time? 

​Online resources

This great ABC site has the links to Local Radio’s ‘community snapshots’ with useful population data for each capital city and a wonderful array of articles on diversity issues for the media from around the world. If you have a spare half hour, you’ll find many useful and inspiring resources to read and share.

You can play with population data here, and go suburb by suburb with this one.

Planning an OB or reporting from a community not your own? This article is very interesting with lots of good pointers.

The Scanlon Social Cohesion Survey from Monash University has some good information on public opinion on social cohesion, trust, immigration, asylum seekers, and ethnic, cultural and religious diversity.

This is what happened when NPR tried very hard to find new interview talent.

Here are two interesting articles about how foreign accents shape perception and why it matters to hear them in the Australian media.

And lastly, this one has some very interesting reflections on the many ways in which the poor can be excluded from the media.

Tips for interviewing people with heavy accents

  • aim for face to face where possible
  • pre-recording allows for editing
  • ​be ready to re-phrase your questions if you’re not immediately understood
  • if appropriate repeat answers you’ve been given before moving onto your next question.

​*This election advice is brought to you by the Radio Diversity Action Group aka the DAG (sorry). 

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