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Opinion

Fox League's decision to hire Ray Hadley is baffling

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Expert
18th May, 2021
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4146 Reads

Last year I watched on with tremendous sadness as many of my colleagues in the media industry lost their jobs.

Each week during the height of the pandemic in Australia there seemed to be more announcements about job cuts at some of our biggest media outlets and mastheads, including News Corp, the Sydney Morning Herald and of course Fox Sports.

For an industry that so many young people aspire to get roles in, this was really hard to watch. A lot of talented people lost their jobs last year, and many of them are still looking for work now.

During these job cuts I thought more broadly about the industry itself. I was fearful about what these cuts meant for the media landscape going forward and what message it would send to the next generation who are aspiring to get into sports media.

The message seemed to be: this is not a growing industry. Try something else instead.

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In that context, with organisations having to make tough decisions about staff numbers throughout 2020, I found it extremely surprising to hear over the weekend that Fox League had made a decision to hire Ray Hadley.

It was a big announcement made during Magic Round, with Hadley set to appear alongside Ben Ikin and Paul Kent on NRL 360 each Monday.

I find this a baffling choice.

While Hadley is a skilled and talented broadcaster, I’m not sure what he adds to a panel show that for the most part is made up of men who look just like him and who hold similar views to him.

Where is the diversity not just in the type of person hired but in the viewpoints held by the people that appear on the show?

There were already criticisms of the show, including that most nights it seemed to be just a group of older white men yelling at each other. I’m not sure how Hadley will help to change that perception.

To me this is another example of a media organisation taking what they perceive to be as the safe option by hiring a known quantity instead of giving an opportunity to a new voice.

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Ray Hadley

Does Ray Hadley really need more work? (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

Over the last five years women in rugby league have certainly become more visible. We now have an NRL Women’s premiership, and players like Kezie Apps, Corban McGregor and Millie Boyle are household names. We see women like Kasey Badger and Belinda Sharpe officiating in the middle and on the sidelines. Women are involved in the administration of our game and are fans, members and volunteers.

In the media women are also well represented. Niav Owens works at NRL.com alongside women like Alicia Newton. Pam Whaley covers the game with dedication and talent at AAP, and women like Emma Lawrence, Danika Mason and Jelisa Apps are visible on our screens.

When it comes to women in the media, Fox League has also led the way with talent like Yvonne Sampson, Lara Pitt and Hannah Hollis.

But I would like to see much more of these talented women.

I don’t pretend to know the career aspirations of Sampson, Pitt and Hollis, but I certainly miss hearing their viewpoints on League Life.

This was a panel show hosted by Sampson with Pitt, Hollis and Jessica Yates. It gave these women even more opportunity to be heard and also to share their views on rugby league and some positive stories about what was going on in the game.

League Life was axed at the beginning of 2020, and since then there seems to be very few opportunities to hear these women share their opinions on the game, the exception being Pitt, who appears on NRL 360 each week and also on The Fan.

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Decisions like the one to hire Hadley make me question just how committed to diverse voices Fox is.

I asked a similar question when I found out that the Australian government has given $30 million in sports broadcasting funding to “support the broadcast of underrepresented sports on subscription television, including women’s sports, niche sports, and sports with a high level of community involvement and participation”.

There has been very little detail provided about how this money has been spent, and while I applaud Fox’s decision to do a women’s sport ‘pop-up channel’ for one month a year, I question how they are spending their funding and whether more can be done to promote diversity and support women in sport.

With this decision Fox League joins a number of other organisations that are now giving Hadley a pay cheque. This is becoming far more common, whereby a small group of people seem to have jobs at multiple organisations, meaning the opportunities for new people to join the industry are dwindling.

I can’t help but wonder whether that opportunity or that pay cheque going to Hadley would have made much more of a difference to one of the many people that Fox Sports made the decision to sack last year.

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