MEDIA MONITORING

Racism and social commentary in Australian mainstream media

 

All Australians should be equitably represented by the media, regardless of their racial identity. 

 

All Together Now defends the notion of a free press. We believe it is vital that journalists have the ability to inform citizens about public affairs without fear or favour. However, we also note that this freedom comes with the responsibility to present information fairly and accurately. All Australians should be equitably represented by the media, regardless of their racial identity. Our research indicates that opinion pieces published on some mainstream newspapers are failing to do this.

The media is often the only exposure audiences have with people of different racial identities. It has the power to inform interactions between everyday people, and to challenge or uphold systems and structures that inhibit or support racial equity. Importantly, research shows that the majority of media consumers expect social commentary (opinion pieces and current affairs) to present the world fairly and accurately, much like news reporting. We know that race is often debated in opinion pieces and social commentary. With this in mind, social commentary plays a crucial role in forming and shaping public perceptions of race. In 2016, we worked with our partners at the University of Technology, Sydney, to develop a media monitoring framework that collects and analyses racialised opinion pieces from the mainstream media.

Since 2017, we have published the results of our monitoring in periodic reports, and worked with communities targeted by racism in the media to address this pressing issue.

We hope that our research will contribute to the push for much needed media reform, and to a more just and equitable Australian society.

 

What we do

Our media monitoring project takes a three-pronged approach. This includes:

 

  • Media monitoring: Using All Together Now’s media monitoring framework developed in partnership with UTS, we assess race-related opinion pieces from Australian mainstream media. We analyse media pieces to see if they portray race inclusively, neutrally or negatively, and use qualitative analysis to better understand how racism is mobilised. Specifically, we read the opinion and editorial sections of major Australian newspapers and collect all race-related articles. We then do the same with television current affairs programs, and select all race-related segments. In 2019, we sampled 281 opinion pieces. In 2020, that number was 315.

 

The newspapers and television programs we monitor are:

NewspapersTV shows
The Age60 Minutes (Nine)
The Australian7:30 (ABC)
The Courier MailA Current Affair (Nine)
The Daily TelegraphThe Feed (SBS)
Herald SunThe Project (Ten)
The Sydney Morning HeraldSunday Night (Seven)
Channel 7Today Tonight (Seven)

We also work with the Cultural and Indigenous Research Centre Australia (CIRCA) to quantitatively analyse the cultural background of media commentators in order to understand the issue of diversity in media. In 2019, our research showed that racist social commentary (96%) was overwhelmingly authored by people of Anglo-Celtic (72%) and European (24%) backgrounds. Details of this can be found in our 2019 report.

 

  • Community-lead solutions: We work with communities targeted by racism in the media to better understand its impact. We then work collaboratively to identify and prototype possible solutions. In 2019-2020, ATN partnered with the Islamic Sciences and Research Academy to consult sections of the Muslim community, and found that a lack of diversity in media was an ongoing issue. Together, we designed and implemented the Muslim Women’s Leadership Program (MWLP), aiming to combat Islamophobic narratives and address some of the barriers that prevent Muslim women from entering and engaging in the media industry. In this program, young Muslim women are mentored by senior Muslim women with experience in media and community advocacy. The program also includes a series of workshops, and experiential projects to facilitate networking and immersive industry experience.

 

  • Audience impact: Using the data from our media monitoring, we analyse user comments made in response to racist content online. We use text-analytics software and qualitative analysis to understand the relationship between audiences and this content, and how racism in the media is interpreted and reproduced online. More information and the results of this pilot project can be found in the Social Commentary Case Study section of our 2019 report.

 

Our Media Monitoring Framework

We assess the content and context of a media piece to determine whether it portrays racialised communities in an inclusive, neutral or negative way. These categories are defined using the Racial Discrimination Act and the UNESCO Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice, in addition to contemporary literature and our previous media monitoring research results. For more information on our framework, visit the methodology section of our 2019 report.

 

Reports

2019 Report: Social Commentary and Racism in 2019

2017 Report: Who Watches the Media? Race-related Reporting in Australian Mainstream Media