'Whose stories are our TV dramas exploring? What experiences are their creators drawing from? What kinds of characters are we asked to identify with? Who is being cast in roles that seek to capture our imaginations?
'The image of Australia that is reflected to us on television has been the subject of much recent debate, headlined by some impassioned speeches at the television industry awards night, the Logies.
'In her 2015 Logies acceptance speech Aboriginal actor Miranda Tapsell called for Australia’s screen industry to “put more beautiful people of colour on TV and connect viewers in ways which transcend race and unite us”. The 2016 Logies saw further voices added to this, including Waleed Aly’s powerful acceptance of his Gold Logie award on behalf of all the people in the industry with “unpronounceable names” and Hall of Fame new entrant Noni Hazelhurst Introduction criticising the glacial pace of change in the TV sector.
'Australia has one of the most culturally diverse populations in the world, with at least 32 per cent from non-Anglo-Celtic backgrounds. Further, more than one in 10 Australians now identify with diverse sexual orientation or gender identity; and just under one in five people report having a disability.
'Commentators are questioning why our TV dramas are not reflecting the diversity that is now such a ubiquitous feature of our workplaces, schools, commutes and neighbourhoods, and, for many of us, our own family backgrounds.
'Is the TV production industry merely responding to consumer demand and audience expectations? Screen Australia’s 2013 Hearts & Minds study revealed a perception amongst audiences that mainstream Australian content failed to reflect the multicultural reality of urban life. At the Logies, after winning the popular award, Aly said he felt that his nomination carried the expectations of many CALD (culturally and linguistically diverse) Australians because there were so few ‘avatars’ for them on television. He declared: “if tonight means anything it's that as far as the Australian public, our audience, is concerned, there's absolutely no reason why that couldn't change.”
'TV drama, of course, is not ‘real life’. It is developed, commissioned, financed, scripted, cast, directed, edited, programmed and marketed as a carefully constructed product. Any number of decisions along this pathway shape the final content that reaches our screens. What is influencing these decisions around which stories matter, what audiences want and, indeed, what characters our audiences will and can identify with?
'This report aims to provide useful benchmarks for the industry on questions of diversity. It also explores some of the potential barriers that have limited change. We know this is an issue that will require an industry-wide approach. The support for this study across the industry has suggested a great willingness to engage with the issues – we seek to carry this enthusiasm and momentum forward.' (Introduction 1)