News anchor told she is ‘too brown’ for Aussie TV
Former SBS and CNN news anchor Anjali Rao has spoken out about the rejection and hurt of being told she was "too brown" for commercial TV.
Rao says the news industry refuses to embrace diversity and it reduced her to tears to realise she would never be accepted.
"I basically kept my trap shut for years because I knew that if I said anything the fear of the backlash is real,'' Rao told the Herald Sun.
"Look at the make up of telly here and really, if you are diverse here you are a brunette and that's what it comes down to.
"One particular head of news once told me, and this was not very long ago, that Australian audiences are not ready for Australians of colour to front news.
"The things I would get told to my face were so painful.
"I'm too different, too brown, got a funny name, too foreign, too risky, that my British accent will never work in this country. If that happened to me at the top of my game I cannot imagine how awful it is for Australians of colour who are just starting out or trying to."
Rao commended the release of a report this week by Media Diversity Australia that only 11.4 per cent of on-air talent in news and current affairs come from a non-Anglo-Celtic and non-European background despite those minority groups representing 24 per cent of the wider Australian population.
Rao quit as host of Dateline in 2015 and had repeatedly been told "there's always SBS" when she returned to Australia. It took her years to realise that people were right.
"It was really soul crushing when it became abundantly clear after all that experience, the world's biggest breaking news I did, interviewing the greatest names on the planet doesn't mean anything,'' she said.
"It all came down to nothing to do with ability, and that was spelled out to me on many occasions.
"I look back on my show reel, I'm the most self deprecating person on the planet and I did some really amazing stuff and they do not care.
"Thank the lord for SBS because if they didn't exist the ethnic and racial make up of TV in this country would be even more woeful than it is."
Rao is half Indian and half Australian and her mother is from Bendigo in country Victoria.
A new member of Foxtel's Real Housewives of Melbourne cast, the mother of one makes a living as an MC.
"Look at the UK and the US and all mainstream channels, there's every skin colour, every accent. I'm not American, I'm not British, I am Australian,'' she said.
"My lovely friend Waleed (Aly), he says to me I still don't understand why you're not on TV every day.
"And my answer is always the same. I laugh and say because there can only be one job that's brown, and you've got it.
"You have to laugh otherwise you'll cry. And I have cried and cried so many times about this. "I don't anymore but just because I don't, doesn't mean I can't be bloody angry for all of us."
Originally published as News anchor 'too brown' for Aussie TV