EXCLUSIVE | Commercial TV to avoid Indigenous issues in the morning from now on
Producers and hosts are now asking whether the inevitable backlash is worth it
Breakfast and morning television can do a lot of good, despite the eagerness of people to write them off as nothing more than fluff. Politicians face tough questioning live on air, important stories are brought to light and viewers can be mobilised to help a good cause.
Important Indigenous issues have previously been beamed into millions of homes across Australia but that is about to change due to fears discussing those issues will cause nothing but headaches for all involved.
While people I’ve spoken to in the industry don’t want to have a blanket rule they won’t cover these issues, they admit they will be asking themselves whether it’s worth the drama and backlash.
This week protesters marched outside the Channel 10 studios in Pyrmont after comments Kerri-Anne Kennerley made during a discussion about Australia Day protests.
“OK, the 5000 people who went through the streets making their points known, saying how inappropriate the day is. Has any single one of those people been out to the Outback, where children, babies, five-year-olds are being raped? Their mothers are being raped, their sisters are being raped. They get no education. What have you done?” asked Kerri-Anne.
Kennerley was accused of “sounding like a racist” in a heated exchange with guest co-host Yumi Stynes. The media quickly picked up the story and the clip reached far more people than the original telecast.
The issue has divided people on social media and has led to nasty threats from people on both sides of the argument.
Personally, I had an interesting 48 hours after posting a story on why I believe Yumi Stynes is not a good fit for morning television, based on her exchange with Kennerley.
Critics called me racist and others went further with their abuse and made personal attacks. My article was based on Yumi’s personality, not the colour of her skin, but apparently a producer is not allowed to do that. In fact Yumi must be allowed on television because she is a person of colour and me denying her a spot on Studio 10 proves I am a racist. It’s an argument that shows there is no room for a rational debate.
Some users pointed out most of the comments to me were negative, and they were. At the time of writing there were 615 comments between the two tweets and while there was some support, the majority were negative. BUT then I noticed the tweets had 1,456 LIKES, more than double the amount of comments. The vast majority had remained silent but shown their support.
And that’s the thing, it doesn’t take many people to influence the media bubble and previous discussions about Indigenous issues have led to a very vocal backlash on platforms like Twitter. That backlash ultimately leads to more headlines, protests and threats.
In past controversies across all channels, hosts and staff have been threatened. The people running these programs have a duty of care to their staff, so knowing there will be an inevitable backlash if people disagree with a point of view you air, producers must now ask themselves whether airing the segment is worth it.
The people I’ve spoken to in the industry say '“probably not” as “it’s just too much hassle”.
And for all the noise, all the controversy, if anyone was hoping the protests and outrage would affect the ratings of these shows, it never does. Ratings generally remain the same once the issue has died down, but those involved are left with the scars, describing their experiences as “traumatic”.
So, write off breakfast and morning TV all you like, but a major outlet for important discussions on Indigenous issues has just been closed and Australian television (and viewers) will be worse off because of it.