An early finding of the ARC-funded research I and my QUT colleagues are doing on the Australian political media is the gradual withdrawal of free-to-air commercial TV from the current affairs space. If I may paraphrase an old Soviet joke – there’s as much current affairs in A Current Affair as there is truth in Pravda. Which is to say, not very much.
The reasons for this are clear. What we like to call “serious” current affairs – as opposed to the glorified product placement that comprises most of the program of that name on Channel Nine – rarely attracts the audience ratings that game shows, reality TV and other cheap and cheerful formats achieve.
In a hyper-competitive media marketplace, with more platforms and more choice for consumers than ever before, prime-time free-to-air is just too important to the shareholders’ bottom line to be given over to anything that won’t bring eyeballs to the screen.
This is a global trend. All over the world, commercial TV companies that used to make high-quality, high-impact current affairs shows such as the UK’s World In Action have abandoned the territory.
Don’t get me wrong. I love a dose of well-made reality TV as much as the next person, and can even see the point of the Kardashians. And by “quality” current affairs I don’t mean white middle-aged men in suits talking about interest rates – it can be about topics of undoubtedly human interest, dramatic and sensational, but hugely important to people’s everyday lives such as the epidemic of domestic violence, or corruption in FIFA.
Current affairs TV can and should address the personal and the private, the things that matter to us all. And there’s nothing wrong with making that material, along with the big picture issues of economic and politics, accessible to an audience not all of whom have uni degrees.
My point is that even this broad definition of current affairs is increasingly scarce in the free-to-air commercial landscape. We have the ABC, legally mandated to provide such content. And Sky News does an excellent job of providing real time news coverage of public affairs, although its audience is restricted to subscribers of Foxtel. And there are exceptions in the free-to-air space.
Andrew Bolt’s Sunday show on Channel Ten is an increasingly rare free-to-air political debate slot. And as long as you accept its provocatively controversialist style – which helps in the ratings competition, of course – it is very watchable.
And then there is 60 Minutes on Nine, which this week demonstrated what can still be done in the field of current affairs journalism by the commercial broadcasters. In 2002, Cardinal George Pell was interviewed by Richard Carlton on 60 Minutes about payments he had allegedly authorised to victims of paedophile priests, including the nephew of convicted abuser Gerald Ridsdale.
On YouTube, you can watch Pell obfuscate with cringe-inducing obviousness as the journalist pressed him on “the conspiracy of silence”. This was tough adversarial journalism of the very best kind, and very courageous for its time.
The most recent 60 Minutes update interviewed Peter Saunders, a Vatican-appointed commissioner who is investigating child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Saunders condemned Cardinal Pell in the harshest terms, to the extent that Pell is reported to be consulting his lawyers. A bevy of Australian archbishops subsequently wrote an open letter defending Pell, so damaging was the item perceived to have been.
Now, like most stories of this kind, there is more than one side to it, and there can be no rush to judgement until Pell has had his say before the Royal Commission. But this item, when taken alongside the statements of abuse survivors who have already testified in Ballarat and elsewhere, and other evidence such as the minutes of a Church meeting where the need to move Ridsdale to another diocese was discussed, has performed a real service to the victims of paedophile priests – a public service.
Commercial television has a long and honourable history of fearless current affairs journalism, in Australia and overseas. 60 Minutes’ work on Pell exemplifies that tradition. Long may it continue.
Originally posted on TIME:
Indian police say they have arrested five men in connection with the alleged rape and kidnapping of a Japanese woman.
The woman, who claims she was abducted for 12 days, told police a man pretending to be a tour guide led her from Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) to Gaya district in Bihar, where she was raped by two men who held her at gunpoint, the New York Times reports.
Kolkata police official Pallab Kanti Ghosh said Saturday that the roles of two of the five men arrested still need to be confirmed, as well as the exact amount of time she was held captive during the incident, which is believed to have taken place some time after November 20, 2014.
Violence against women in India has drawn national more scrutiny and international attention in the last two years, the NYT wrote, following the horrific gang rape and murder of…
View original 11 more words
I remember a year or so back when an Indian student or two had been bashed here in Australia that there was a great outcry from India about racism and the like in Australia. The odd bashing doesn’t make the whole country guilty of the crimes that had taken place at the time. Perhaps India could get serious about dealing with what is very obviously a major problem in that country – sex crimes against women. Deny it they may, but hide it they can’t – there is clearly a major problem there. I would suggest this isn’t the only major issue facing India, as this Blog clearly demonstrates time and time again.
The link below is to an article reporting on yet another example of major sex crimes against women in India.
Originally posted on Quartz:
A 14-year-old girl has alleged that she was abducted and raped in Uttar Pradesh’s Badaun district on new year’s eve.
The suspected rapists, according to media reports, are two police constables who sexually assaulted the minor at a police station in Badaun.
This incident, once again, underscores the continuing problem of crimes against women in Uttar Pradesh, which has population of about 200 million, comparable to that of Brazil.
But crime data indicate otherwise.
According to India’s National Crime Records Bureau, the rate of crimes against women in Uttar Pradesh is mostly lower (and in some cases, significantly so) than the national average. This is in spite of the endless wave of reports and events pointing in the opposite direction.
One explanation for these low crime numbers has been that victims often do not report these crimes—and that the state’s police force is loathe to record them. As a result, the…
View original 168 more words
Originally posted on Quartz:
Being sexually harassed on public transport is unfortunately all too common for women in India, but last week two sisters struck back: they slapped, punched, and beat up three men who were harassing them on a bus in Haryana, and the men were arrested two days later after a video of the incident went viral on social media.
The video shows Aarti Kumar and Pooja Kumar, aged 22 and 19, aboard a government-run bus from Rohtak to their hometown of Sonepat. The driver, conductor, and other passengers were all mute spectators to the assault. The police have announced a cash reward for their bravery, but it’s unclear how that will help prevent future incidents.
It’s clear that Haryana—where two minor girls recently committed suicide to escape being stalked and harassed by a group of young men—is one of the country’s toughest places to be female:
View original 261 more words