11 April 2010

CBC News executive Heaton Dyer will provide a keynote address at the UNESCO World Press Freedom Day Indigenous Voice Closing the Gap Forum on May 1 at The University of Queensland in Brisbane.

Mr Dyer is the Executive Director, Programming, Strategy and Innovation at CBC News and has been a News Executive in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Britain, working for Public Broadcasters (CBC, ABC, SBS & TVNZ) as well as commercial networks (Nine, Seven, CNBC and Sky News UK).

In Canada, Mr Dyer has run the CBC's 24 Hour News Network: overseeing News programming and helping set the strategic direction for CBC News on all platforms.

CBC News has more than 1300 employees across Canada's six time zones.

It is Canada's largest journalistic organisation and includes network and local news and current programs affairs on radio, television and digital platforms.

CBC News Network is Canada's Number One 24-Hour News Channel and CBCNEWS.CA is Canada's Number One news and information site. The CBC operates local television/radio/online newsrooms across Canada and has journalists in a dozen bureaus around the world.

As someone who claims three lands "as home" (born in Australia to New Zealanders and now a Canadian citizen), Mr Dyer has a strong personal interest in issues of identity and promoting understanding between countries, communities and cultures.

“Even though we have different issues and different populations to serve, broadcasters and journalists around the world all face the same challenges. The forum provides an invaluable exchange of ideas and learnings,” Mr Dyer said.

“Different perspectives and different voices are essential to a diverse and dynamic media.

"This forum is a tremendous opportunity for journalists and media professionals to engage in discussion and debate and ultimately leave with a better understanding the issues, the challenges and the strategic opportunities that come with reporting indigenous content for audiences of many different backgrounds.

Mr Dyer said CBC had been trying to implement diversity strategies to bridge the gap.

“Canada is one of the most diverse countries on earth. Our indigenous population is an important part of that diversity. As a public broadcaster we must be the place that reflects their needs and aspirations. And we must be the employer of choice for journalists who have diverse views and approaches,” he said.

“The role of a public broadcaster is to serve our population, to reflect the issues and concerns and rich diversity of Canada to all Canadians.

"The CBC recognises that the diversity of our country is also one of its greatest strengths. We have made conscious efforts to make our programs and programming reflect the country and its many different communities, including the many different indigenous communities.”

Mr Dyer said CBC was facing manage challenges.

“Everything from ensuring there is a pool of trained programmers and journalists, and ensuring they maintain their voices when hired, to ensuring that our programming and leadership ladders reflect the same values,“ he said.

“Our strategy is based on the recognition that what we put on air drives our image and in turn makes us a welcoming place to work, the employer of choice for diverse talent.”

Mr Dyer said Indigenous populations in Canada shared many experiences and had common perspectives, but they were also diverse communities with unique challenges and differences.

For the CBC the challenge was to reflect not only the common concerns of indigenous communities, but also the richness of differences that they contributed to Canada.

“The Challenge of Canada is often one of geography. Our indigenous communities are urban and rural, coastal, prairie, mountain and arctic First Nations, Inuit and Métis,” he said.

“These populations are spread over many thousands of kilometres and and many different time zones.

For a national public broadcaster, the challenge is twofold: one of serving these audiences by reflecting communities to themselves; and also one serving all Canadians by connecting these communities to the nation as a whole.”

Dyer said CBC’s very survival as a public broadcaster was at stake if the network did not appeal to diverse audiences in general (Aboriginal, visible minorities, new immigrants).

“If we are not relevant to a significant (and growing) percentage of the population then we are not doing our jobs,” he said.

“There is also a strong business case for diversity. It is a growing demographic, a younger demographic and an increasingly affluent demographic. Diversity = dynamic broadcasting and media... People got rid of their black and white TVs decades ago for a reason, the real world is much more colourful than that... and a hell of a lot more interesting.”

Mr Dyer will be joined by Duncan McCue – also from CBC, Professor McCue is an award-winning journalist who has been with CBC News in Vancouver for 12 years.

His award-winning news and current affairs pieces are featured on CBC's flagship news show, CBC News The National.

Professor McCue's recent honours include a network RTNDA Award for Best Long Feature, and his second regional RTNDA Diversity Award for his coverage of aboriginal issues.

He is also an adjunct professor at the UBC School of Journalism, and has taught journalism to indigenous students at First Nations University and Capilano College.

Before becoming a journalist, Professor McCue studied English at the University of King's College, then law at UBC. He was called to the bar in British Columbia in 1998.

Conference Convenor, Associate Professor Martin Hadlow said the Forum was a critically important part of the three-day World Press Freedom Day conference.

“We are delighted that the global UNESCO World Press Freedom Day event is being used as a platform for enabling Indigenous media professionals from all over the world to gather and discuss issues of mutual interest and concern,” he said.

“The forum outcomes can only be positive in further nourishing a respect for cultural and societal values, not to mention identifying the specific needs of indigenous broadcasters and journalists internationally.”

SBS Head of News Paul Cutler is also a keynote speaker at the Forum. Both public broadcasters are attempting to increase the number of Indigenous journalists in their organisations.

The Indigenous Voice Project is a joint collaboration with the UQ JAC and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Unit headed by Michael Williams to get more Indigenous student graduates.

Industry Project partners include SBS, ABC, NIRS, NITV, National Indigenous Times, National Native News (US), CBC in Canada and 989fm in Brisbane.

Education partners include Triple-A Training, QUT, Griffith, Edith Cowan University and Murdoch University.

The project has new links with Cherbourg, Warwick, the Drumley Walk in Beaudesert and organisations including Australia’s peak Indigenous Media body AICA, IRCA and in Canada SABAR, the (Strategic Alliance of Broadcasters for Aboriginal Reflection.

Project Leader Heather Stewart said the gathering would not have been possible without the sponsorship, particularly from QUT and Griffith universities, and SBS, ABC and CBC public broadcasters involved in the event.

“Further to this the support and guidance from our project partners has been invaluable,” she said. “This project is a collaboration and crucially relies on Industry, Community and Education sector in-kind input. The Indigenous Voice project relies on this support and that includes Project partners covering their own airfares and expenses to attend.”

For further information about the Indigenous Voice Project and the Closing the Gap Forum contact Project Leader Heather Stewart heather.stewart@uq.edu.au Mobile: 0418 830 938

To register for the World Press Freedom Day Conference: http://www.unesco-ci.org/cgi-bin/events/registration/page.cgi?g=World_Press_Freedom_Day_2010%2Findex.html;d=1

Indigenous Voice is a project run by the University of Queensland School of Journalism and Communication to develop cross cultural awareness, investigate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander journalism and communication student intake, retention and graduate outcomes and develop resources for journalism students about covering Indigenous issues under the guidance of the UQ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Unit and Education and Industry Media partners. More information can be found online at www.indigenousvoice.com.au

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