News, Culture & Society

Meet the ABC’s ‘media equality guardian’

Australia’s national broadcaster is paying people to scour its website to ensure men and women are equally represented. 

Daily Mail Australia can reveal the ABC has employed a team of staff to check every story published each day to count how many women and men are pictured and quoted in its online content. 

The casual employees are believed to be paid about $39 an hour, or $77,000 a year pro-rata. 

The ABC has employed a team of staff to check every story published each day to count how many women and men are pictured and quoted in its online content

Flip Prior and Rhiannon Hobbins are leading the 50/50 project. Ms Hobbins says the project is being backed 'enthusiastically' by ABC staff

Flip Prior and Rhiannon Hobbins are leading the 50/50 project. Ms Hobbins says the project is being backed ‘enthusiastically’ by ABC staff

An ABC spokeswoman refused to answer Daily Mail Australia’s specific questions about the project, instead directing queries to a news report on its own website. 

The project in understood to have upset people on both sides of the community, with one militant source from the political Left labeling the project ‘a disgrace’. 

‘It’s outrageous to both left and right. The right will think it’s political correctness gone mad – and it kind of is – while the left think it’s typical modern corporate tokenistic crap, where everything is reduced to identity,’ he said. 

‘How about a class count where we measure the stories about rich boomers as opposed to people in poverty … the ABC’s homepage is the worst – usually the only women are domestic violence victims.’

The ABC posts dozens of stories each day in various regions throughout Australia. 

The initiative began late last year when management found it interviewed men far more often than women. 

Data analysis further revealed it was also under-representing women from indigenous and culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Senior editorial staff comprised of men and women formed a working group to  ‘accelerate change’, formally kicking off the ABC 50:50 Project in December 2018. 

Project leader Rhiannon Hobbins said the call-out took off and attracted more than 4,500 responses. 

Flip Prior and Rhiannon Hobbins are leading the 50/50 project. Ms Hobbins says the project is being backed 'enthusiastically' by ABC staff

Flip Prior and Rhiannon Hobbins are leading the 50/50 project. Ms Hobbins says the project is being backed ‘enthusiastically’ by ABC staff

ABC launches its 50:50 Project last year. Casual employees are believed to be paid about $39 an hour, which equates to about $77,000 a year pro-rata

ABC launches its 50:50 Project last year. Casual employees are believed to be paid about $39 an hour, which equates to about $77,000 a year pro-rata

‘We ended up adding more than 1,000 new names of expert women to our new national contacts database,’ she stated.

The project follows on from a similar one conducted in the United Kingdom. 

The BBC initiative started in 2017 with one news program, Outside Source, and in four months went from 39 per cent female contributors to over 50 per cent, Ms Hobbins stated.

‘From that trial, it grew organically, and today more than 500 teams across the BBC have joined with remarkable results,’ she wrote.

The ABC explained that teams of people record the gender of interviewees.

‘They measure what they can control,’ she told ABC News.

‘In News, for instance, we would not count someone, such as the Prime Minister, who is critical to a particular story but we would count an expert commentator, as we can choose whether we hear from a male or female expert,’ she said.

Ms Hobbins described the process as ‘hassle-free data collection and daily conversations about talent choices’. 

Going on to state the project had helped to ‘significantly raise the awareness of the importance of unearthing new diverse female voices to include in our programming’. 

Flip Prior and Rhiannon Hobbins running a workshop on the gender diversity project at the ABC in Perth

Flip Prior and Rhiannon Hobbins running a workshop on the gender diversity project at the ABC in Perth

ABC management claim staff have ‘enthusiastically’ embraced the idea and have been proactively coming forward with new ideas.

Daily Mail Australia has been told while reporters were initially told to report back on the genders of people they had used to compile stories, the system became unmanageable. 

Instead, ABC reporters are being reminded to keep the project in mind when writing articles and are updated regularly with how the organisation is tracking in regards to its gender equality goals. 

The broadcaster is working to expand the project across the ABC, holding content development and talent diversity workshops with teams across the country.

‘This project was originally meant to last for several months, but highly encouraging early results have meant that has now been extended into the foreseeable future,’ Ms Hobbins wrote.

The ABC maintains its ‘golden rule’ will continue to always to interview the best person for the story, regardless of gender.

‘Quite simply, we’re doing this project to make our journalism better and ensure we’re relevant to more Australians,’ it stated. 

 

 

 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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