Growing up Asian Australian, I relied heavily on SBS to see culturally diverse content. There were times when I thought, “hey, they really hit the mark on cultural diversity”, and other times when I thought “damns, they really missed an opportunity”. Irregardless of my thoughts, it was one of the very few Australian TV networks which showed cultural diversity – mostly because it was created and Government funded for this reason. You would think that being funded the way it is, its leadership would also be culturally diverse, but unfortunately it isn’t and is literally as white as snow.
A post has been circulating all over social media showing the faces of the SBS leadership team, and looking at it gives you a feel of looking at channel 7, 9 or 10’s leadership team. You would think logically, it would make sense to have a culturally diverse leadership team to lead a broadcaster which is meant to promote “culturally diverse”content right? Wrong! In Australia it seems to be normal practice to have white people control everything, because it is still a country which is centered on whiteness. Just take a look at this image – like seriously!
Even more disgusting is that since 1978 the director of news has always been a white man, with the exception of Irene Buschtedt between 1993 and 1995. With the upcoming retirement of current director of news Jim Carroll, who has held the position since 2013, SBS staff are pushing and advocating for the next person to take on the role to come from a culturally diverse background. They have written a letter which was seen by The Guardian Australia:
“We ask that the board of directors take this opportunity to reflect on SBS’s charter and aspirations as a world leading broadcaster and advocate for a candidate drawn from Australia’s multicultural and diverse communities.”
In addition, former staff have expressed on social media that they faced racism whilst working at SBS. Many of those who have voiced their experiences are Indigenous Australians. Screenwriter Kodie Bedford is one of those, and her Twitter thread on her experiences will make you angry as hell.
Others who have experienced racism at SBS include – Indigenous journalist Allan Clarke, the presenter of Guardian Australia’s Full Story podcast, Laura Murphy-Oates and Journalist Antoinette Lattouf. If you look through that thread there are others as well, and it shows that there is a toxic culture brewing within SBS. Cultural change needs to happen in all levels of SBS and it starts from right at the top. In addition, there needs to be anti-racism measures implemented and those making decisions on diverse content need to be those who are from a culturally diverse background and not white.
What will it take for SBS to have a cultural change? Well, I would say now with the push and the racism incidents will force the broadcaster to change, but this is Australia, so we will just have to wait and see.
To read the original The Guardian Australia article, please click on: SBS staff urge leadership change as former journalists air claims of racism