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Cultural diversity drives ABC TV in 2017

AAP logoAAP 1/11/2016 Lisa Robinson

ABC TV still has a long way to go in representing Australia's cultural diversity in its program line-up, the broadcaster's director of television says.

Richard Finlayson says while the national broadcaster has a strong line up of programs with indigenous characters, it needs to build on that with programs that reflect the multicultural mix of Australian society.

Recent research by Screen Australia found Anglo-Celtic characters are over-represented in Australian TV drama.

It's something the ABC's new boss Michelle Guthrie is trying to change. She called for more diversity on and off the screen when she took over the top job in May.

Mr Finlayson says viewers will notice an increased emphasis on diversity and original Australian content in next year's programming.

"Increasing diversity has been something we've been conscious of for some time and Michelle's asked us to really make an extra commitment to that," he told AAP.

He said the ABC had done an outstanding job of indigenous representation, with five per cent of main characters in TV dramas being indigenous despite making up three per cent of the population, according to the Screen Australia report.

"The bottom line is in some areas we're doing reasonably well but in the broader cultural diversity we've got, frankly, a long way to go," he said.

Certain genres like reality shows and comedy are better than others at representing diversity.

"I think comedy does tend to be at the leading edge of change in these sorts of attitudes and allowing different voices to come through. Drama is probably is a bit more conservative. But it is changing," Mr Finlayson said.

The ABC's 2017 slate includes 20 new Australian shows with some big names and culturally diverse talent.

Comedy drama series The Warriors follows two young indigenous football players whose lives are turned upside down when they are drafted into the AFL and move to Melbourne.

Emerging indigenous actors including Gordan Churchill will star alongside Gold Logie winner Lisa McCune, The Wog Boy actor Vince Colosimo and stage and screen veteran John Howard in the eight-part series.

Three-time Silver Logie winner Claudia Karvan stars as a suburban solicitor in Newton's Law, while Hollywood heavyweight Hugo Weaving teams up with Susie Porter and Xavier Samuel for the new drama series Seven Types of Ambiguity about a boy who goes missing.

Hit shows Cleverman, Glitch and Anh's Brush with Fame will return with second series in 2017 as well as comedy staples Shaun Micallef's Mad As Hell, Utopia and The Weekly with Charlie Pickering.

Mr Finlayson said about 45 per cent of the ABC's prime time programs on its main channel was local content.

The ABC would like to significantly increase that proportion but it's a financial challenge because locally-commissioned shows can be five to 10 times the cost of an acquired show, he said.

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