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The push towards reality TV, real Australians, of all backgrounds

As 2020 pushes the world along on important social issues, will it be the turning point for a more representative reflection on Australian screens?

A new report has quantified the diversity of presenters and commentators on Australian networks. Somewhat unsurprisingly it found that the faces we see on free to air TV in Australia do not accurately reflect the diversity of consumers tuning in to watch. Almost 76% of presenters and commentators were of Anglo-Celtic backgrounds whilst in the general population they only make up 58% of people in Aus. Only 6% of reporters and commentators on TV in this country are of indigenous or non-European background. While networks did come back agreeing to improve, there was some backlash from them, and of course, from Australians with which it sparked a bigger conversation on the work that still needs to be done.

At the same time as this report caused a stir, particular shows like The Bachelor (and the wider franchise) continue to face criticism both for their casting choices and the way that conversations around race are handled. While just a few weeks ago The Bachelor in Paradise faced criticism for its "glaring lack of diversity" both in relation to race and sexual orientation, its latest instalment is now too under fire. Whilst on Bachelor in Paradise there was a lack of diversity to start with, there were also conversations about the lack of screen time and then racist comments made (and aired without any apparent repercussion) by other contestants. Following this the newest season of The Bachelor has aired and within the first episode similar issues again became clear. When a red-haired contestant started making comparisons to the challenges faced by people of colour, again controversy from the public, understandably ensued.

The Bachelor - Source; Channel Ten

In the wake of Black Lives Matter, it is no surprise that these issues are gaining momentum and the public is expecting a more equal representation. Nearly 80% of participants in a new global study have stated that "it isn’t enough to have people of various ethnicities, backgrounds, and appearances in advertising but that they expect companies to do a better job at capturing people’s true lifestyles and cultures".

With the utter mess of a year that has occurred so far, might this push towards better standards of representation on Australian TVs be one big positive. As SBS's director of Indigenous content puts it: "Seeing yourself reflected in the media – in the faces you see on screen, and in the way your community is represented – is a critical part of feeling included in our society."

Zara Cooper

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