The ABC’s just issued a new Diversity Inclusion & Belonging Plan for 2023-2026. It’s great that the ABC is paying attention to the under-representation of indigenous people and other oppressed groups, including people, of either sex, who don’t conform to sexist stereotypes. A major problem, though, is its doubling-down on its membership of trans-lobby ACON’s Pride in Diversity program, which publishes the AWEI index. This is bad news for women. AWEI point-scorers like gender-neutral toilets, ceasing to collect sex-disaggregated data, and erasing the term ‘mother’ from HR policy documents don’t actually make for an ‘inclusive’ workplace for women. One of the things the ABC intends to do under this Plan, for example, is to amend its parental leave guidelines so that they ‘use gender neutral language’ ie eliminate the word ‘mother’. 

Despite what AWEI promotes, the ABC hasn’t stopped collecting sex-disaggregated data – though they go out of their way to tell us they don’t believe in it, and they’re only doing it because of that pesky EEO Act. 

The Plan recognises that women are under-represented in technology roles (24.2%) at the ABC. It sets itself the modest goal – the overly modest goal, in our opinion – of raising this figure to 25%. But we can’t discern any strategy to achieve that. One strategy might have been an employee network group for women in technology roles. Women, talking together, might have been able to figure out what the obstacles are and what needs to be done to remove them. Getting together and talking things through, without the presence of the oppressor, is a time-honoured organising strategy of the oppressed everywhere. But the ABC’s devotion to gender-identity ideology won’t allow such a thing. Women don’t have an employee network group at the ABC, or at least not an official one. Instead women are expected to group in with men-who-say-they’re-women and even just ordinary men (‘allies’, presumably self-identified as well).

(And just by-the-by, lesbian, gay, and bisexual employees are expected to group in with TQ, despite being distinct communities facing different and potentially conflicting challenges.)

The ABC’s obedience to gender-identity ideology affects not just its workforce but its audience as well. In other words, us. We’ve been calling on Aunty to get out of ACON for a couple of years now, like the BBC got out of Stonewall

Last year Media Watch called for the ABC to review its arrangement with ACON in order to avoid perceived or actual bias in the content it broadcasts and publishes. The ABC responded by denying that its membership of AWEI was having any influence on its programming – despite the evidence unearthed by ACON Exposed that shows that both its AWEI ‘relationship manager’ and the ABC’s internal Pride Network had definitely influenced content. 

Now the ABC, as part of this new DI&B Plan, is going to hire ‘cultural guidance advisors’ for content:

The Murdoch media has played merry hell with this intention, in particular as it was announced not long after the ABC announced it would be sacking up to 120 employees. We support the adequate resourcing of the ABC, in staffing as well as all aspects of its operations. But we view these appointments as potentially sinister, given the ABC’s membership of AWEI. The ABC really goes to town on its devotion to gender-identity ideology in this Plan. Trans-lobby moonlighter Mon Schafter, of ABC Queer, gets to lead us into the document, featuring on the Contents Page. And Managing Director David Anderson makes kid-transing drama series First Day the very first show he mentions when listing the ‘ground-breaking programs’ that ‘demonstrate the quality and distinctiveness of the Australian stories we tell’. He also cites You Can’t Ask That, which notoriously included, in its lesbian episode, a man-who-says-he’s-a-lesbian. And he describes the ABC’s Commissioning Guidelines as one of the ‘great strides’ the ABC’s made in diversity and inclusion – these are Guidelines under which a program can meet the ‘gender’ representation guideline without having a single woman involved in any way with it, as long as 50% of the all-male cast, creatives, and crew identify as ‘gender-diverse’.

Given that the appointment of these new content advisors – scheduled for June next year – will take place in this context, we see it as a move to tighten orthodoxy round language and ideology and bring outliers like our posy recipients into line even more forcefully than has been done to date. We suspect it represents the ABC situating gender-identity content monitoring in-house to circumvent the accusation of having been captured by a lobby group, and putting it in the hands of dedicated staff members to pre-empt growing public scrutiny on self-appointed internal ‘Pride’ caucuses within media organisations who are being allowed by management to exercise censure of their colleagues’ content in the manner Julie Szego revealed is happening at The Age

Mind you, we wouldn’t be unhappy to see a lessening of the power exercised by the ABC’s Pride caucus. Founded by the ABC’s Head of Operations Manda Hatter at a time when she was a Board Member of ACON, it’s been in place since 2017 and by 2019 had ‘24 active committee members and hundreds more supporters across the ABC’.  From the sounds of things, a right lot of fanatics. But while we wouldn’t mind seeing ABC Pride knocked off its perch, we don’t want to see it replaced by even more tyrannical censorship and enforcement of this anti-women (as well as homophobic and anti-child) ideology.  We’ll be watching! 

And while we’re at it, Aunty, if you’re on about diversity and inclusion: How about some diversity in the women who get to be on TV? How about the inclusion of some women presenters who are grey-haired and wrinkly? Who don’t go in for stilettos and red lipstick? Why doesn’t your Plan talk about this?