Commercial radio sector leads Spicer’s list of ‘most toxic’ for women

Pippa Chambers
By Pippa Chambers | 19 October 2018
L-R: Tracey Spicer and Virginia Trioli

Commercial radio has been "the most toxic" media environment to work in, says Australian newsreader and journalist and advocate Tracey Spicer.

Speaking at Commercial Radio Australia’s (CRA) Radio Alive 2018 event in Melbourne today, Spicer, who featured in a panel hosted by the ABC’s Walkley Award-winning journalist Virginia Trioli, was responding to a question about the #MeToo movement and how this has impacted the media landscape.

Answering alongside Southern Cross Austereo radio host Tanya Hennessy; Mamamia head of podcasts Rachel Corbett and entertainment editor at the Daily Telegraph Jonathon Moran, Spicer agreed there has been less traction with the #MeToo movement in Australia due to the country being “very conservative”, coupled with “having some of the most restrictive defamation laws in the western world”.

“We don’t have the proper free speech protections that they have in the US so it has been very difficult from an investigative journalist perspective,” Spicer said.

“However, in the workplace I have seen tremendous change happening at the very top end of town – there’s really hardcode stuff happening at the executive and board level of most of the blue-chip companies.”

Spicer went on to talk about how better sexual harassment incident policies are being put in place, such as a ‘one strike policy’; if it’s proven. However, she said companies must have more than just an anonymous whistle-blower helpline.

“You have got to have a workplace where people are comfortable about coming forward; you have got to have perpetrators punished and that being visible - that’s the big change I am seeing happening at a corporate level,” she said.

The panellists

Spicer said there are lots of things happening at a working class level with unions doing “terrific” work, however she’s not seeing changes happening within the media sector.

In admitting what she was about to say, to a room full of 600 radio execs, would “not be very popular”, she said commercial radio is particularly bad in this respect.

“I’ve worked across all the mediums and some of the most toxic workplaces I have worked in have been in commercial radio and I think that’s a terrible shame,” she said.

“This is a terrible shame. The sector really need to look at getting more women in positions of management, taking these things seriously and looking at world best practise because diversity and inclusion is good from the bottom line and you need to have safe workplaces.”

The panel further discussed changes to the broader media and communications landscape and the influence and impact of the media on society.

Following the global conversation about sexual harassment and the #MeToo movement, a national inquiry into sexual harassment in Australian workplaces launched in June this year.

Late last year the #MeToo movement emerged as a call for action after the Harvey Weinstein scandal emerged. It was used as a way for others to share their experiences, show solidarity, and also display just how common sexual harassment is.

At the time Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins said the inquiry would involve an in-depth examination of sexual harassment in the workplace, nationwide consultation and extensive research.

She said a national inquiry demonstrates international leadership on this issue and she is not aware of any other country where a national inquiry or similar process has been established in response to #MeToo.

In February in the US, nearly 200 female agency CEOs, ECDs and MDs announced ‘Time’s Up Advertising’.

In May this year, a number of senior female leaders in Australian agencies then got together to have the same conversation here and find out what is needed in Australia.

Participants so far include incoming McCann CEO Nicole Taylor, managing director of Clemenger BBDO Sydney Emily Perrett, Leo Burnett head of talent management Sarah Palmer and Hogarth’s Lee Leggett.

Keep an eye on AdNews for more on Radio Alive.

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