Nine content boss: We die if we do not reflect the audience in the stories we tell

Pippa Chambers
By Pippa Chambers | 16 November 2017
Adrian Swift

The so-called whitewash casting done in Australian reality TV and dramas needs to come to an end, but not unless the broadcast networks acknowledge the issue and make steps to change.

Speaking on a panel at an AdNews Live event on 'Reframing Australia', which explored the disconnect between the industry and our changing demography, Nine Network's head of content production and development Adrian Swift accepted that TV networks have failed to represent who Australians really are.

“We are very aware of that. We acknowledge that our casting lags the reality of the demographic changes in Australia,” Swift said.

“I think we are addressing it; we're addressing it slowly but we will die if we do not reflect the audience in the stories we tell.”

Australia is one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world yet time after time the TV shows the networks broadcast do not reflect that. Take Channel Ten's Bachelor 2017 casting as an example that created national headlines. Out of 22 contestants hand-picked for the show, not a single one appeared to be from an Asian background – our largest source of immigrants and now an important part of this country's genetic DNA.

Swift said the reality for broadcast TV networks at the moment is that five years ago they could all run American drama at 8.30pm and “it would rate its t*ts of, the world would be a better place and it wouldn’t cost us very much”.

Australian content ran between 5pm to 8.30pm, however, times have changed and viewers have changed.

“The reality of broadcast television now is that it's completely changed and almost no one, with the exception of Good Doctor on Channel Seven actually, no one can make American drama work in Australia,” Swift said.

“Therefore it's incumbent upon on us as broadcast networks trying to get a million people to sit down in one place at one time, to tell Australian stories. Therefore those Australian stories have to reflect the audience. It's no more complicated than that.

"If we don't reflect the audience the audience won’t come."

The morning event panel, featuring DDB ECD Tara Ford, Dawn founder Dai Le, SBS strategy manager John Turnbull was moderator by senior AdNews journalist Arvind Hickman and explored how media, TV and advertising needs to shape up, be mindful of who it is depicting, and how the representation of a more genuine Australia will better serve adland, brands, and Australia as a whole.

Keep an eye on AdNews for more from the event, which was sponsored by Val Morgan, Multiconnexions and Epoch Times. If you are keen to get involved with any of next year's half day AdNews events drop us a line.

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