[News] Logie Awards are taking a long time to catch up on diversity

It’s been seven years since a whitewash among Oscars nominees sparked the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag and demands for greater diversity within the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the body that governs film’s most prestigious awards.

The 2015 backlash – which eventually led to significant reform in terms of the makeup of the Academy – was in response to every single nominee in the acting categories being white. This year’s TV Week Logie Awards, thankfully, weren’t quite that bad. The complete whiteout in terms of nominations was restricted to the popular and outstanding actor categories, outstanding supporting actor category, and most popular actor or actress in an international program.

This year’s Gold Logie nominees Karl Stefanovic, Julia Morris, Hamish Blake, Tom Gleeson, Sonia Kruger and Ray Meagher. MasterChef host Melissa Leong is also nominated.

This year’s Gold Logie nominees Karl Stefanovic, Julia Morris, Hamish Blake, Tom Gleeson, Sonia Kruger and Ray Meagher. MasterChef host Melissa Leong is also nominated.Credit:Chris Hyde

Total Control’s Deborah Mailman and New Gold Mountain’s Mabel Li were nominated in the actress categories, preventing a repeat of the infamous 2015 Oscars, though neither won. Overall, every individual winner at this year’s Logies was white, except for the ABC’s Tony Armstrong, who picked up the Graham Kennedy Award for most popular new talent.

Let’s get the obvious caveats out of the way: pointing out the lack of racial diversity at the Logies is not a criticism of the actual nominees or winners, nor is it a suggestion that Armstrong’s win isn’t significant and deserved. Australian TV is about telling the stories of the nation, and exploring how we live our lives. What it looks like, and what is rewarded by viewers and the industry, is a statement on what we value. When Australians who aren’t white make up 24 per cent of the population but a vastly smaller proportion of those on TV, and an even smaller number of those rewarded with nominations and awards, it should be a wake-up call.

Love them or hate them, awards like the Logies are the only measure we really have to determine what we collectively as viewers (in the case of the popular awards) and industry insiders (in the case of the outstanding awards) believe is worthy of merit on Australian TV.

The idea that not a single non-white male actor was considered deserving of a nomination across three awards and 16 potential slots is a pretty explicit statement on what kind of stories and portrayals the Australian TV industry values. The same can be said of the most popular international actor and actress category. Dichen Lachman, Charlotte Nicdao, Chai Hansen and Geraldine Viswanathan are all extraordinary Australian actors who have performed in successful overseas productions (respectively Severance, Mythic Quest, Night Sky and Miracle Workers) yet none were deemed worthy of a nomination.

Geraldine Viswanathan, the Aussie star of Miracle Workers.

Geraldine Viswanathan, the Aussie star of Miracle Workers. Credit:AP

There’s no specific individual, production company or broadcaster to blame here – it’s a problem across the industry, and across the country. The lack of diversity on Australian TV is itself indicative of the structural barriers that face many non-white communities in this country, and of course those barriers won’t be magically erased if TV starts looking more like Australia. But that’s not an excuse not to act.

Network executives and producers are shifting on this issue. Across drama, comedy, news and reality, TV is starting to look a bit more like the country we live in. But that doesn’t seem to have flowed through when it comes to Logies nominations and wins. When the Oscars were faced with this kind of criticism they responded by transparently sharing the makeup of the Academy who votes on the awards, and committing to making it more diverse.

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