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Hit by flagging ratings, Australia-based Network 10 has reportedly pitched itself as a voice for “social justice, equality and inclusion” and telling advertisers to “go woke” or risk going broke.

In a virtual presentation on Thursday, the network touted its “ability to influence culture” and “socially progressive audience” as qualities that separated it from its competition. Executives also spoke about its emphasis on “integrity” and the need for “purpose-driven” programming.

“How can we better promote and employ social justice, equality and inclusion? How can we represent all Australians and their stories? How can we raise the conversation and not lower the bar?” said Rod Prosser, an executive from ViacomCBS, the network’s US-based parent company.

Noting these were “questions of integrity”, Prosser said the defining metric today for evaluating media companies and publishers was whether they are “doing all they can to align with the values” important to increasingly discerning consumers.

He added that brands should hold media companies “to account as strongly” as their “most progressive, switched-on, socially active, fan-heavy audience” did, raising the spectre of social media outrage and backlash against brands that align themselves with the wrong type of media partner.

The presenters continued to harp on the network’s younger audience demographic – supposedly the “market’s most elusive… and most prized” – by linking that viewership to social values. They warned against the risk to a brand’s reputation and bottom line should it ignore those values.

Noting that the network’s audience “thinks younger” and was “open to new products… and new ideas”, its national sales director Lisa Squillace said they did not “have the rusted-on viewers with fixed mindsets and habits that can’t be broken.”

However, the network’s competition – which include the free-to-air ‘Network Nine’ and ‘Network Seven’ – said the presentation showed that it was “absolutely clutching at straws.”

Claiming that Network 10’s woke turn “sounds desperate”, Seven West Media chief executive James Warburton told The Australian Financial Review that “three odd million people watch the Seven and Nine news brands every single night.”

“That [figure] absolutely dwarfs everything they [Network 10] do. They program for 90 minutes a day, they’re irrelevant in the back end of the week. Their biggest franchise [MasterChef Australia] just halved,” Warburton said.

The network’s shift toward ‘wokeness’ is in keeping with recent trends at ViacomCBS, which in April inked a deal with #MeToo movement founder and activist Tarana Burke to develop stories that “embrace complexity and highlight underrepresented voices.”

“Creating space for new narratives has always been an integral part of cultural change work,” Burke had said at the time, adding that the partnership would help “build new audiences for new voices.”

That move followed the signing in July 2020 of a multi-year agreement between CBS TV studios and civil rights group National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Also that month, the network announced a diversity push, mandating that at least a quarter of upcoming script developments be allocated to projects by Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC).

CBS has joined forces with the @NAACP to expand the range of voices developing its programming. The initiative includes scripted, unscripted, & documentary content for CBS Television Studios’ linear & streaming platforms. Learn more via @Deadline. https://t.co/JvVQ6uoYEK

Following months of stock volatility, share prices had nearly halved in value this month. However, a number of consumers pointed the finger at the company’s decision to “sacrifice” content at the “altar of wokeness” as the reason for its financial troubles.

ViacomCBS sacrificed Star Trek and The Twilight Zone on the altar of wokeness, and now their stock value has plummeted 50% over the past week. The failure of CBS All Access and ViacomCBS is more proof: get woke, go BROKE! 🤣 #viacomcbs#startrek#failhttps://t.co/kLwuUEngxppic.twitter.com/UIlcJWdRnI

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