No 106 February 2003  

Soap Operas and Telenovelas

No 106 February 2003

Abstracts

Contents

Editorial

Helen Wilson

ANZCA News

Mary Power

Soap Operas and Telenovelas

Telenovelas and soap operas: Negotiating reality from the periphery

Christina Slade

A soap of our own: New Zealand's Shortland Street

Trish Dunleavy

Realism and politics in Brazilian telenovelas

Mauro Pereira Porto

The telenovela industry: Markets and representations of transnational identities

Daniel Mato

Killing the goose that lays the golden eggs: A Mexican perspective on the industry

Angélica Aragón, edited by Christina Slade

Creating social reality: template or mirror? An industry perspective

Cuauhtémoc Blanco Arias, Greg Haddrick and Gillian Arnold,
edited and introduced by Felicity Packard

How reality bites: The production of Australian soap operas

Michael Sergi and Peter Dodds

Understanding telenovelas as a cultural front: A complex analysis of a complex reality

Jorge González

The communications environment

Steven Maras

Acts of war: Military metaphors in representations of Lebanese youth gangs

Greg Noble and Scott Poynting

Virtual countries: Internet domain names and geographical terms

Matthew Rimmer

'Popularising politics': This Day Tonight and Australian television current affairs

Graeme Turner

Reviews edited by Ben Goldsmith

 

Abstracts

Christina Slade: Telenovelas and soap operas:

Negotiating reality from the periphery Latin American telenovelas, like the Australasian soap operas, have been globally successful. It is a remarkable feature of this success that it has reversed the flow from the centres of production in Europe and the United States. I argue that we should assess these products from the 'periphery' in their own terms, and not through the lens of the industries of the heartland. I take the Mexican case as a specific example, and turn then to comparisons between the Australasian soap industry and that in Latin America.

Trish Dunleavy: A Soap of our own: New Zealand's Shortland Street

Shortland Street is a primetime soap opera that launched on New Zealand television in 1992 and was created to meet a combination of commercial and 'public service' objectives. Shortland Street is institutionally and culturally significant as New Zealand's first attempt at daily drama production and one of the first major productions to follow New Zealand television's 1989 deregulation. Placing Shortland Street in the context of national television culture and within the genre of locally produced TV drama, this paper explores several key facets of the program, including: its creation as a co-production between public and private broadcasting institutions; its domestic role in a small television market; its relationships with New Zealand 'identity and culture'; its application of genre conventions and foreign influences; and its progress - as a production that was co-developed by Grundy Television - in a range of export markets.

Mauro Pereira Porto: Realism and politics in Brazilian telenovelas

Telenovelas have been central to the constitution and development of Latin American cultures, becoming the most popular genre of television broadcasting. In the Brazilian case, the melodramatic serials soon became the basis for the commercial success of TV Globo, the dominant network. The prime-time telenovelas of TV Globo are currently watched in almost 50 per cent of the dwellings with TV sets every night. This paper argues that this popularity is specific to the Brazilian industry. The realism and treatment of political issues in the genre is traced to the role of scriptwriters.

Daniel Mato: The telenovela industry: markets and representations of transnational identities

This article discusses the process of transnationalisation of the telenovela industry from a perspective that seeks to articulate economic and cultural analysis (social symbolic). Two objectives guide this analysis. First, to contribute to the theoretical field on globalisation through a criticism of the attributes of 'deterritorialisation' and 'homogenisation' which are often associated with the idea of globalisation without being put to the test in at least some realms of experience. Through a close analysis of the telenovela industry, I examine those presuppositions in order to demonstrate both how new territorial references emerge (particularly the city of Miami) and how certain differences are erased while new ones appear. The second objective is to explore some tensions related to the production of markets and of representations of identities, especially relative to the construction of a transnational 'Hispanic' identity. A significant outcome of the analysis of the case of the telenovela industry is that it makes particularly evident the tight interwoven of cultural and economic factors.

Angélica Aragón, edited by Christina Slade: Killing the goose that lays the golden eggs: A Mexican perspective on the industry

The business of making telenovelas is immensely profitable, yet very few of the profits are fed back into the industry. The industry in Mexico is, according to Angélica Aragón, unprofessional and slapdash. She argues that actors and directors should insist on their artistic imperatives, and seek a professional structure within which to work.

Cuauhtémoc Blanco Arias, Greg Haddrick and Gillian Arnold, edited and introduced by Felicity Packard: Creating social reality: template or mirror? An industry perspective

While much has been written by academics about television strip serials and telenovelas, a perspective less frequently discussed is that of these programs' writers and creators. What aspects of social realities do the writers, story editors and script producers of soap operas and telenovelas invest in their writing? This article draws together the views of practitioners from three very different backgrounds. Cuauhtémoc Blanco, a leading Mexican writer of telenovelas, Felicity Packard and Greg Haddrick of Home and Away, and Gillian Arnold of Going Home, discuss their understanding of the ways they create social reality on television.

Michael Sergi and Peter Dodds: How reality bites: The production of Australian soap operas

Soap opera in Australia is driven artistically by the bottom line, according to Peter Dodds, the producer of the archetypal Australian soap Neighbours, and to Michael Sergi, a freelance director and academic. The meaning of any particular episode is best understood as being filtered by constraints governing production and direction. The specific production and direction processes illuminate much debate about soaps.

Jorge González: Understanding Telenovelas as a Cultural Front: a complex analysis of a complex reality

The social phenomenon of televised melodramas called telenovelas in Spanish can be taken as a perfect example of a complex symbolic form in contemporary societies. There are a number of differences and nuances between Latin telenovelas and their electronic 'cousin', the soap opera. Nevertheless, the two genres are closely related. In this brief paper, I will stress some traits of a major theoretical and methodological framework of cultural fronts to analyse and bring into partial scientific visibility this global and local phenomenon. My aim is to set up a general framework to facilitate a necessary deeper reflection, and hopefully initiate some international comparative research, given the 'intriguing' global appeal of this symbolic form.

Steven Maras: The communications environment

This article discusses and evaluates different understandings of the term 'communications environment'. The article suggests that the term has a complex place in critical discourse, and is caught up within a process of media and communication theory rethinking its own ground. In the discussion that follows, I attempt to locate various uses of the term in relation to each other, and different traditions of communications research.

Greg Noble and Scott Poynting: Acts of war: Military metaphors in representations of Lebanese youth gangs

The media representations of the terrorist attacks of September 11 in the United States and their aftermath bear strong similarities to the media coverage of 'Lebanese youth gangs' over the last few years - both rely significantly on the metaphor of war. This paper explores two media narratives about Lebanese youth gangs which draw on this metaphor - the first deploys a simple us/them structure which, like the dominant Western reportage of the terrorist crisis, turns on a form of moral reduction in which the forces of good and evil are relatively clear. The accumulated imagery of Lebanese gangs, drugs, crime, violence and 'ethnic gang rape' articulates a dangerous otherness of those of Arabic-speaking background - echoed in the coverage of the terrorist 'attack on America'. This simple narrative, however, gives way to a second, emerging narrative about Lebanese youth gangs which also relies on the metaphor of war but acknowledges the moral duplicity of both 'combatants' - registering the culpability of the state and its police service but distancing 'the ordinary Australian' from this culpability. The second narrative, like the first, tries to recuperate a moral innocence for the 'ordinary Australian', but in doing so underlines a crisis in Australian multiculturalism.

Matthew Rimmer: Virtual countries: Internet domain names and geographical terms

This paper examines the dispute between the Seattle company Virtual Countries Inc. and the Republic of South Africa over the ownership of the domain name address southafrica.com. The first part of the paper deals with the pre-emptive litigation taken by Virtual Countries Inc. in a District Court of the United States. The second part considers the possible arbitration of the dispute under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Process of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and examines the wider implications of this dispute for the jurisdiction and the governance of ICANN. The final section of the paper evaluates the Final Report of the Second WIPO Internet Domain Name Process.

Graeme Turner: 'Popularising Politics': This Day Tonight and Australian television current affairs

This paper presents a history of the pioneering ABC TV current affairs program, This Day Tonight (TDT). This Day Tonight has mythic status in the history of Australian television news and current affairs, and is often used as a reference point for the kind of political journalism that is now generally held to have disappeared from Australian television. The research for this paper does endorse this myth to some extent but it also reminds us of the importance of the broader cultural contexts within which television programming must find its audience. There are significant differences to be noted, and important lessons to be learnt, from the comparison between TDT and its audience, and the kinds of current affairs programming and audiences we have today. Further, the history of TDT's demise challenges the basis for the industry nostrum that audiences find politics boring and that therefore political journalism is no longer a commercial option for contemporary current affairs television.

 


No 107 May 2003  

The Uses of the Internet

No 107 May 2003

Abstracts

Contents

Editorial

Helen Wilson

ANZCA News

Mary Power

The Uses of the Internet

The uses of the internet

Gerard Goggin and Elaine Lally

We are all boat people: A case study in internet activism

Graham Meikle

Articulating an activist imaginary: Internet as counter public sphere in the Mapuche movement, 1997/2002

Juan Francisco Salazar

Gatewatching, not gatekeeping: Collaborative online news

Axel Bruns

Sharing control: Contesting distributed computing

Sherman Young

The straightedge subculture on the internet: a case study of style-display online

J. Patrick Williams

Internet use in Singapore: Politics and policy implications

Terence Lee

The spectrum auctions: Mismanagement, lost opportunities and the undermining of a critical communications conduit

Scott Smith

Commissioning difference? The case of SBS Independent and documentary

Belinda Smaill

Magazine features and infotainment values

Frances Bonner and Susan McKay

In search of the 'mysterious' Australian male:Editorial practices in men's lifestyle magazines

Janine Mikosza

Reviews edited by Ben Goldsmith

 

Abstracts

Graham Meikle: We are all boat people: A case study in internet activism

This paper uses a detailed case study in order to exemplify some key trends and characteristics of activist uses of the internet. It focuses on the We Are All Boat People campaign in support of asylum seekers, discussing this in relation to three main areas. First, it considers the campaign's media strategies in the context of what Scalmer has called 'the dilemmas of the activist' (2002: 41). It then discusses the campaign in the context of tactical media and its key methodology of detournement. Finally, the project is discussed as an example of what Tim Berners-Lee has termed 'intercreativity' (1999: 182-83).

Juan Francisco Salazar: Articulating an activist imaginary: Internet as counter public sphere in the Mapuche movement, 1997/2002

The article analyses the role of the internet in informing and shaping indigenous knowledge and offers a critical examination of the uses of internet by Mapuche indigenous activists in Chile. It describes the ways in which the internet has been appropriated as an efficient political tool to rearticulate a renewed Mapuche cultural imaginary, constructed in the realm of the virtual but grounded in the materiality of the everyday struggle for cultural survival and ethnic recognition. Through a critical reading of several Mapuche websites hosted in Chile and Europe, the paper analyses how and why new media have been embraced as a fertile field of symbolic and political struggle. It is argued that internet has been constructed, promoted and used as an incipient counter public sphere to the state, the national imaginary and corporate interests becoming an important mediator for the articulation of a Mapuche 'activist imaginary'. It is demonstrated how the World Wide Web has been a key tactic in the Mapuche responses to the mainstream media's distorted construction of a Mapuche conflict to refer to the current Mapuche uprising started on December 1997.

Axel Bruns: Gatewatching, not gatekeeping: Collaborative online news

This article introduces a new form of collaborative web-based editing which has become increasingly popular in recent years. It involves web users as reporters and co-producers for specialist news sites by allowing them to submit their own news reports and pointers to relevant articles elsewhere on the web, and sometimes even hands over editorial control to the online community altogether. Websites of this type move on from traditional journalistic gatekeeping approaches, where editors publish only what they regard as 'fit to print', to what is here termed gatewatching, where almost all incoming material is publicised, but with varying degrees of emphasis. Gatewatching sites frequently become major repositories of specialist information, turning into resource centre sites for their interest community, and are particularly common on the fringes of the open source software development movement. Some of these sites can be seen to directly apply open source ideals (direct involvement of the community, open access to all aspects of the development process) to the reporting of news, in effect making news itself an open source.

Sherman Young: Sharing control: Contesting distributed computing

This paper examines distributed computing projects in which users allow their unused computing resources to be used by third parties. As well as being the latest manifestation of an internet gift economy, these projects represent technological prototypes for resource sharing over the internet - ideas that are being pursued by capital for different reasons. The resultant tension between gift and commodity has led to competing claims for control over spare processing power. This paper examines examples of distributed computing and conflicts that have arisen over its control.

J. Patrick Williams: The straightedge subculture on the Internet: a case study of style-display online

This article discusses one way in which cultural studies theories can be applied to current research of subcultures on the internet. Starting from Clarke's and Hebdige's theories of subcultural style and Frith's theory of music and identity, a case study of an online subcultural website is used to highlight the ways in which resistance is displayed by members of the 'straightedge' music subculture. In particular, usernames and signature files are analysed to demonstrate how style is constructed to communicate subcultural values and beliefs. At the same time, a critique of semiotic analyses of subcultural style is raised. It is argued that ethnographic methods are better suited to interpreting social psychological and cultural meanings attributed to subcultural activities in cyberspace.

Terence Lee: Internet use in Singapore: Politics and policy implications

As one of the most networked societies in the Asia-Pacific region, Singapore commands a high degree of attention in the information and communication (infocomm) sector. However, internet use, along with the politics of internet regulation, in the high-tech city-state has not been sufficiently critiqued. This paper aims to address this 'lack' by examining the politics and policy implications of internet regulatory practices in Singapore. It begins by looking at some development in Singapore's infocomm sector, highlighting political responses to key occurrences over the past decade. Taking on board the discourse of auto-regulation - that regulating the internet and new media in Singapore is mostly about ensuring an automatic functioning of power for political expedience and longevity - advanced by this author (Lee, 2001a, 2001b, 2001c; Lee and Birch, 2000), this paper offers updates and new insights into the normalisation of internet auto-regulation in Singapore. The final section of the paper looks at the fast-developing application of electronic government (e-government) services in Singapore via the national 'e-citizen' website. I argue how online extensions of government are really about providing internet users with degrees of structured freedom, while tightening the more permanent and potent strictures of political control.

Scott Smith: The spectrum auctions: Mismanagement, lost opportunities and the undermining of a critical communications conduit

The welfare of wireless communications systems in Australia depend on the recognition of the electromagnetic spectrum as a unique and crucial cultural 'resource' of an information society. This article suggests that the elusive nature of 'spectrum' has resulted in mismanagement and lost opportunities, and that now the rights of local communities to our 'airwaves' are under threat, an assertion explored through an analysis of spectrum management in the 2000/01 financial year. I will further demonstrate that the new orthodoxy of 'spectrum auctions' reflects our political and economic milieu: the prominence of short-term decision-making and 'budget politics', the lack of concern with concentration of media/telecommunications ownership, and, moreover, the undermining of cultural and ecological aspects of the Australian communications system. This article argues for the provision of unlicensed 'spectrum' for local communities (or bioregions) - a 'commons' - to nurture the world of non-commercial communications and the distribution of localised ecological information, both scientific and cultural.

Belinda Smaill: Commissioning difference?: The case of SBS Independent and documentary

SBS Independent (SBSI) is the arm of SBS Television responsible for commissioning new work. Since 1994, SBSI has been working in conjunction with other screen funding bodies to commission feature film, short drama, animation and documentary. The charter that dictates the practices of SBS Television also provides guidelines for SBSI, which is consequently required to focus on work that is innovative and concerned with Indigenous issues and cultural diversity. This article focuses on the case of documentary in Australia and the impact of SBSI on a filmmaking community and contemporary documentary culture with particular reference to the Australia by Numbers and Hybrid Life series of half-hour programs. The focus on diversity, and the fact that this is the first Australian television institution to adopt an out-sourcing model for almost all production, means that SBSI has formed a unique relationship with independent documentary. Here I examine the specificity and efficacy of this relationship.

Frances Bonner and Susan McKay: Magazine features and infotainment values

The determinants which privilege selection of articles for mass market women's magazines have been little investigated. Conventionally, the articles are seen to convey information didactically in the service sections and entertain through the feature stories. Many feature stories combine information and human interest to produce a hybrid form of article. This paper appropriates the term 'infotainment' to describe them. This paper draws on health articles to develop an argument about infotainment values as they operate in mass market Australian magazines. It identifies nine determining characteristics and suggests that they can be found more widely.

Janine Mikosza: In search of the 'mysterious' Australian male: Editorial practices in men's lifestyle magazines

The men's lifestyle magazines FHM (For Him Magazine) and Ralph are a significant presence in the Australian market, and both target a specific readership of young, heterosexual men. My central research question concerns how desired audiences are constructed or imagined at the 'front end' of magazine production. One of the major tasks of the editors and publishers of these magazines is to access, and compete for, an audience. This paper aims to examine the contradictions apparent in the editorial practices of defining or envisioning an audience for Ralph and FHM. To understand the process of how they produce the magazines, I examine the editorial staffs' conceptions of the 'audience'; the ways in which it is created and for what purposes, as well as the terms used to describe this integral part of the industry. How the audience is defined and constructed highlights how contradictions, creativity and constraint operate in defining the audience.

 


No 108 August 2003  

Drugs and Media

No 108 August 2003

Abstracts

Contents

Editorial

Helen Wilson

ANZCA News

Mary Power

Drugs and Media

Drugs and media

John Tebbutt

Promoting healthier journalism

Melissa Sweet

Alcohol marketing and the media: What are alcohol advertisements telling us?

Cameron Duff

Home grown: The strange and savage times of the Australasian Weed

Steve Stockwell

The tabloid, the dance party and the Premier: The policy legacy of Anna Wood

Shane Homan

Stories of disenchantment: Supervised chroming, the press and policy-making

Judith Bessant

'Headlining heroin': Policy change and reporting the heroin problem
 

Rob Watts

Representations of public risk: Illegal drugs in the Australian press

R. Warwick Blood, Jordan Williams
and Kerry McCallum

Hard sell, soft sell: Men read Viagra ads

Tiina Vares, Annie Potts, Nicola Gavey and Victoria M. Grace

Industry comment

The House, the Senate and the Media Ownership Bill: An 'unacceptable three-way control situation'?

Derek Wilding

Recalibrating policies for localism within Australia's commercially networked TV industry
 

Tim Dwyer

Breaking democracy: Venezuela's media coup

Antonio Castillo

Review essay

Media studies' disability

Gerard Goggin

Reviews

edited by Ben Goldsmith

Abstracts

John Tebbutt: Drugs and media

The articles in this Drugs and Media theme section place the current media debates on the various drugs prevalent in our society - legal and illegal - in some perspective, drawing as they do on historical and contemporary events to address the relationship between media representations and social policies relating to drug use and abuse.

Melissa Sweet: Promoting healthier journalism

The media are often not rigorous in their coverage of health and medical issues, and have a tendency towards uncritical amplification of the claims of researchers, doctors and others, including commercial interests. Many journalists are not skilled at evaluating studies and research claims, and news values tend to be driven by factors other than the validity of research evidence. Media coverage of medicines tends to be overly promotional, highlighting the positives and often failing to mention the negatives. Media and public relations activities are a high priority in pharmaceutical industry marketing strategies. Tactics include: using medical opinion leaders and experts to raise awareness of diseases or treatments; generation of 'new' medical conditions to expand product markets; sponsorship of conferences; and even funding of journalism prizes. Critical reporting of health, medical and scientific issues could be promoted through appropriate education and workplace training.

Cameron Duff: Alcohol marketing and the media: What are alcohol advertisements telling us?

The marketing and promotion of alcohol have attracted considerable controversy in Australia in recent years. Many researchers argue that the active promotion of alcohol has led to increases in alcohol consumption in Australia, particularly among the young, as well as a range of alcohol-related harms and problems. Others contest this view, whilst the alcohol industry itself contends that alcohol advertising is more concerned with winning and maintaining 'market share' than with attracting new drinkers. As such debates intensify, it is timely to consider changes in the content and format of alcohol advertising in this country. This paper examines a number of recent Australian alcohol advertisements, comparing those for beer with those for spirits and 'ready to drink' products in highlighting some significant changes in the ways leisure and consumption are represented in youth cultures. I argue that many of these advertisements present alcohol as a potent means of enhancing young people's leisure experience in ways that risk endorsing excessive alcohol consumption as an appropriate or 'normal' leisure activity for young people.

Steve Stockwell: Home grown: The strange and savage times of the Australasian Weed

The 1970s newspaper Australasian Weed remains a remarkable chronicle of a very different time when a flourishing counter-culture created the space for a regular pro-drug publication at the edge of legality. Content analysis of the Weed and associated publications reveals an expected preoccupation with legalisation campaigns, instructional material and zany antics but a more surprising interest in detailed investigations of the legal process, the history and literature of drugs and health and safety issues. While influenced by the US underground press and drug writers like Hunter S. Thompson, the Weed was nevertheless in the Australian tradition of larrikin, alternative press with a crusading agenda and a confrontational approach to authority. The Weed's stormy career and eventual demise point clearly to the limits of a free press in Australia and raise questions about the efficacy of government drug education programs.

Shane Homan: The tabloid, the dance party and the Premier: The policy legacy of Anna Wood

This paper reviews one of the nation's most intense recent contemporary moral panics, the media and public concern about ecstasy use at dance parties that raged immediately after the death of Sydney schoolgirl Anna Wood in 1995. The reportage of one Sydney tabloid, The Daily Telegraph Mirror, is assessed for the roles it played in producing this panic: first, its visible and self-proclaimed task in setting the key terms of debate about ecstasy consumption and dance parties; and second, in influencing the policy responses of the state government at the time. The ongoing legacy of the moral panic engendered by Anna Wood's death is evident in the ways that media and government articulate discourses of 'risk' in relation to young people's ecstasy consumption when compared with the contexts and uses of alcohol. Further, the paper reveals how these different discourses have produced clearly iniquitous policing strategies in relation to Sydney dance clubs and hotels.

Judith Bessant: Stories of disenchantment: Supervised chroming, the press and policy-making

This article examines how we can best understand the role of media activity in the policy-making process. The idea of policy-making as a rational, logical and objectively informed procedure is challenged, and attention is given to the mythic-narrative techniques used in the media to constitute social problems. This is done by way of a case study of Melbourne press reports on the 'supervised chroming of children' in early 2002. Based on the assumption that journalism functions first and foremost as a form of storytelling, I focus on two specific rhetorical techniques employed by media workers. I first draw on Cerulo's (1998) classifications of victim/perpetrator sequences before turning to the mythic elements of storytelling.

Rob Watts: 'Headlining heroin': Policy change and reporting the heroin problem

This article explores the role of daily print media in the formation of policies on illicit drug use. It asks how we might think about the role of the media in making drug policy and how the print media represent the use of heroin. In answering these questions through an examination of the complex process of problem making, the article suggests it may help us to better understand how issues which policy-makers identify as 'problems' come to achieve such a status, and how solutions that come to be regarded as 'realistic' — or not — reach this point.

R. Warwick Blood, Jordan Williams and Kerry McCallum: Representations of public risk: illegal drugs in the Australian press

The paper draws upon recent research investigating news frames, and risk theory to analyse Australian national news coverage of illegal drugs. Recent research has elaborated how risks are socially defined and acted upon, especially given changing media representations of risks. Public understandings of the risks associated with illegal drug use, policing and policies develop through the continuing and often changing representations of these risks in the media, as well as through other social practices. This paper questions the role of some prominent newspapers in setting alarmist and sensational frames to define risk in this context, and demonstrates how journalism can heighten community fear.

Tiina Vares, Annie Potts, Nicola Gavey and Victoria M. Grace: Hard sell, soft sell: Men read Viagra ads

Viagra (known generically as sildenafil citrate) was released in New Zealand in 1998. Direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertisements represented Viagra as a panacea for men's sexual difficulties. The Research Medicines Industry Association of New Zealand (2000) claims that the Viagra DTC campaign removed the stigma associated with erectile dysfunction. However, in this paper we analyse participants' views that the advertisements also transform cultural anxieties in ways that proliferate 'performance' (and other) anxieties in new forms and for increasingly broad groups of people. This paper draws on material from a reception study of male viewers' readings/interpretations of popular cultural representations of Viagra in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2002. The participants frame both the advertisements and the television program My Family as 'peddling fear' about sexual performance, and thus potentially 'establishing a need' for a new drug. As one participant said: 'Pfizer wants young men to start worrying about these things, stress creates erectile dysfunction, off you go.' This indicates a need to consider how the critical responses of viewers/readers to advertising, particularly DTC drug advertising, may reflect the 'exploitation' of advertising by its audience in a way that simultaneously critiques a commodity (Viagra) and its associated cultural practices (creating erections through a pharmacological 'solution'), as suggested by recent arguments in the media/cultural studies literature.

Derek Wilding: The House, the Senate and the Media Ownership Bill: An 'unacceptable three-way control situation'?

Over the past year media ownership and control have been at the forefront of media policy debates in the United States and the United Kingdom. In Australia, the Media Ownership Bill was debated - and defeated in the Senate - in the last week of June. The Bill seeks to remove many of the regulations on ownership and control in the Australian media. It is expected to return to the Senate later this year and has been tipped as one of the handful of triggers for a double dissolution. In this article Derek Wilding provides an outline of the Bill following a number of recent amendments, as well as the key policy issues and points of contention in this long-running debate on diversity, convergence and media influence.

Tim Dwyer: Recalibrating policies for localism in Australia's commercially networked TV industry

This article considers the emergence of policies for localism within the Australian commercially networked TV industry. By historically reflecting on the construction of equalisation policies of the late 1980s, their trajectory is traced through to the ABA's regional TV news inquiry in 2001-2002. Against a background of late twentieth century international trends to deregulation, the reregulation of Australian regional TV is linked with a discussion of possible alternative rules for content distribution. The origins of localism in US commercial TV and comparable recent US developments in TV news are reviewed. It is questioned whether the intended beneficiaries of the equalisation policy - under-served rural and regional TV audience - have in fact had their promise of increased television choices compromised, with the winding back of the key genre of local news programs in some areas. It is further argued that broader contextual data - for example, information arising from economic and social policy research in rural and regional Australia - could appropriately inform the development of localism policies for the longer term.

Antonio Castillo: Breaking democracy: Venezuela's media coup

This article endeavours to describe and analyse the media's role in the 11-13 April 2002 attempt to oust Venezuela's president, Hugo Chávez. The short-lived and unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the democratically elected government exposed the politicised and undemocratic nature of Venezuela's private commercial media. At an international news level, the events of April 2002 demonstrated that foreign news coverage tends to reproduce the version of the dominant elite and over-simplify the causes and outcomes of complex historical events. In this case, most of the foreign news not only reproduced the local private media coverage, but also amplified the strength of the coup. Essentially, this media coup revealed the centrality of the commercial, privately owned media in bringing together some of the key players behind this political operation: businesses, right-wing politicians and some sectors of the military. The key component of the current social and political crisis in Venezuela is the bitter struggle between the government and the commercial media.

Gerard Goggin: Media studies' disability

Review essay of:
Albrecht, Gary L., Seelman, Katherine D. and Bury, Michael (eds), Handbook of Disability Studies
Braithwaite, Dawn O. and Thompson, Teresa L. (eds), Handbook of Communication and People with Disabilities: Research and Application
Corker, Mairian and Shakespeare, Tom (eds), Disability/Postmodernity: Embodying Disability Theory

Book reviews

Ahearne, Jeremy (ed.), French Cultural Policy Debates: A Reader
Bergfelder, Tim, Carter, Erica and Göktürk, Deniz (eds), The German Cinema Book
Brosius, Christine and Butcher, Melissa (eds), Image Journeys: Audio-Visual Media and Cultural Change in India
Caputo, Raffaele and Burton, Geoff (eds), Third Take: Australian Filmmakers Talk
Castells, Manuel, The Internet Galaxy: Reflections on the Internet, Business, and Society
Conboy, Martin, The Press and Popular Culture
Dower, Nigel and Williams, John (eds), Global Citizenship: A Critical Reader
Dwyer, Rachel and Patel, Divia, Cinema India: The Visual Culture of Hindi Film
Farnsworth, John and Hutchison, Ian (eds), New Zealand Television: A Reader
Gere, Charlie, Digital Culture
Hemelryk, Stephanie, Keane, Michael and Yin Hong (eds), Media in China: Consumption, Content and Crisis
James, David and Kim, Kyung Hyun (eds), Im Kwon-Taek: The Making of a Korean National Cinema
Margulies, Ivone (ed.), Rites of Realism: Essays on Corporeal Cinema
O'Shaughnessy, Michael and Stadler, Jane, Media and Society: An Introduction
Page, David and Crawley, William, Satellites Over South Asia: Broadcasting, Culture and the Public Interest
Price, Monroe E., Richter, Andrei and Yu, Peter K. (eds), Russian Media Law and Policy in the Yeltsin Decade: Essays and Documents
Roscoe, Jane and Hight, Craig, Faking It: Mock-documentary and the Subversion of Factuality
Wardrup-Fruin, Noah and Montford, Nick (eds), The New Media Reader

 


No 109, August 2003  

The new 'others': Media and Society post-September 11

No 109, November 2003

Abstracts

Contents

Editorial

Helen Wilson

ANZCA News

Caroline Hatcher

The New 'Others': Media and Society Post-September 11

The new 'others': Media and society post-September 11

Lelia Green

The uses of terror and the limits of cultural studies

John Frow

The terrorist and the collaborator

Tim Groves and William D. Routt

Fear's slave: The mass media and Islam after September 11

Andrew Padgett and Beatrice Allen

'Dog-whistle' journalism and Muslim Australians since 2001

Scott Poynting and Greg Noble

Arabic and Muslim people in Sydney's daily newspapers, before and after September 11

Peter Manning

Who's driving the asylum debate? Newspaper and government representations of asylum seekers

Natascha Klocker and Kevin M. Dunn

Drowning not waving: The 'children overboard' event and Australia's fear of the 'other'

Kate Slattery

'I certainly don't want people like that here': The discursive construction of 'asylum seekers'

Alison Saxton

Speaking up and talking back: News media interventions in Sydney's 'othered' communities

Tanja Dreher

Lost at Woomera: Rereading mainstream and alternative media

Peter Bishop

Read the whole thing: Journalism, weblogs and the re-mediation of the war in Iraq

Guy Redden

'David vs Goliath': Australian Jewish perceptions of media bias in reporting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Barbara Bloch

Reviews

edited by Ben Goldsmith

Abstracts

Lelia Green: The new 'others': Media and society post-September 11

This issue of Media International Australia incorporating Culture & Policy is The New Others: media and society post-September 11, a date that now clearly has has enormous significance in all fields of social inquiry. In the Australian context it was part of an extraordinary sequence of events relating acts of terror to the creation of widespread fear of the new 'others', people of Muslim and Middle Eastern background. Media and Cultural Studies scholars explore some of the issues that confront us in this new political landscape.

John Frow: The uses of terror and the limits of cultural studies

The plot of the event of September 11 - the destruction of the twin towers of the World Trade Center by terrorists - might have been written by Hollywood, or by Baudrillard. So fantasmatic, so familiar was the scenario that it fitted seamlessly into the manichaean agenda of the Pentagon hawks planning the next American war, and the next. Indeed, a perfectly plausible paranoid response reads this plot as a plot on the part of those who have most thoroughly benefited from it. How do we take fantasms seriously when they come true?

Tim Groves and William D. Routt: The terrorist and the collaborator

In a culture saturated with media images of terrorism, it is all too easy to conflate identities with representation. This article explores some of the sense made by terrorist figures such as master criminals, serial killers, bushrangers and the shuhada. It suggests the complexity of such cultural tropes by indicating some of the ways in which they are deployed and thought within the specific experiences of the authors. The piece takes the form of a free-flowing dialogue that disrupts the identities of the speakers.There is a sense in which terror is evoked directly in images: skyscrapers falling, the rubble of what was once a nightclub, explosions, bodies, the faces of grief - or, if these are not simple images of terror, they only require simple stories to become them. This piece takes the form of a free-flowing 'dialogue' in which the speakers - the terrorist and the collaborator - are not idenified.

Andrew Padgett and Beatrice Allen: Fear's slave: The mass media and Islam after September 11

This paper will investigate the purpose of society's construction of 'others' through the gaze of the mass media. During times of crisis, the paper will argue, Western mass media are faced with an irreconcilable paradox: the simultaneous demand for, and denial of, a fear-inspiring other (the Soviet Union, Al Qaeda, etc.) This paradigm of otherness was overcome in the period post-Cold War and pre-9/11 as the US media was able to demonise 'others' at home - the war on drugs, for example. The question this paper will address, then, is: what are the motives driving the US mass media towards an other constructed along lines similar to the Soviet-era other? Who is to 'blame' for this phenomenon - the media, or the society in which these media operate?

Scott Poynting and Greg Noble: 'Dog-whistle journalism and Muslim Australians since 2001'

'Dog-whistle politics' was much discussed around the 2001 federal election campaign in which the Howard government used the 'Tampa crisis' and September 11 to appeal successfully to popular xenophobia and insecurities. The notion involves sending a sharp message which, like a dog whistle inaudible to humans, calls clearly to those intended, and goes unheard by others. This article argues that this sort of ideological manoeuvre has been abetted by an analogous process in the tabloid press, in which ostensibly liberal, reasonable stories speak at the 'inaudible' level to those whose insecurity and ignorance leaves them susceptible to populist claims that their relaxed and comfortable past has been stolen away by cosmopolitan, 'politically correct' elites and the 'multicultural industry'. Three examples are analysed: the stories of the women's gym and the halal hamburgers in Western Sydney, and that of the Muslim man threatened with the sack from his Sydney North Shore professional job for praying in his lunch hour. Each was originally run as a 'good news story' or as sympathetic to Muslim protagonists, but provoked a backlash which generated extended 'news' and comment - much of it racist - and irresponsibly exacerbating community tensions.

Peter Manning: Arabic and Muslim people in Sydney's daily newspapers, before and after September 11

This paper examines two years of articles/texts located around the concepts of 'Arab' and 'Muslim' within Sydney's two major daily newspapers. It finds peak issues which concentrate reporting of these concepts and it focuses on language used by journalists and the meanings they carry within the texts chosen around those peak issues. It argues that a consistency of view can be found in three peak issues - the Palestine/Israel conflict, Lebanese rape trials and the arrival of asylum seekers - and that this view is an antipodean development of a Western way of seeing the Orient defined by Edward Said as 'orientalism'.

Natascha Klocker and Kevin M. Dunn: Who's driving the asylum debate?

Newspaper and government representations of asylum seekers The welfare and future of asylum seekers in Australia has been a very contentious contemporary issue. Findings based on content analysis of media releases in 2001 and 2002 reveal the unrelentingly negative way in which the federal government portrayed asylum seekers. While the government's negative tenor was constant during the study period, the specific terms of reference altered, from 'threat' through 'other', to 'illegality' and to 'burden'. The negative construction of asylum seekers was clearly mutable. Analysis of newspaper reporting during the same period indicates that the media largely adopted the negativity and specific references of the government. The media dependence upon government statements and spokespersons in part explains this relation. The findings generally support the 'propaganda model' that holds a pessimistic view of the news media's critical abilities. However, the media departed somewhat slightly from the government's unchanging stance following some key events and revelations. Clearly, there is scope for disrupting the flow of negative constructions from government to media, and ultimately to audiences.

Kate Slattery: Drowning not waving: The 'children overboard' event and Australia's fear of the 'other'

The last few years have been an awakening time for the people, communities and governments of the global village. Escalating problems in the Middle East, global economic uncertainty and an increase in asylum seekers, refugees and migration worldwide have reignited tensions involving boundaries and borders, both geographical and cognitive. One event which highlighted these tensions in Australia, and which was given much media coverage, was the 'children overboard' event in October 2001. Utilising a selection of print news coverage of the event, this paper explores how the 'children overboard' event demarcated national identities and spaces through the construction and representation of 'good' Australian citizens and 'bad' asylum seeker 'others'. Specifically referring to 'children overboard' as an 'event', I seek to highlight the constructed and representational nature of 'children overboard' as a media story and political tool, one which promoted a continuing threat of 'others' to the nation in order to gain support for government policy and legitimize national security, and in so doing creating a model of Australian citizenship and identity based upon fear.

Alison Saxton: 'I certainly don't want people like that here': The discursive construction of 'asylum seekers'

In October 2001, it was alleged that asylum seekers had thrown their children overboard in order to manipulate the Australian Navy to pick them up and take them to Australian territory. In response to this incident, Prime Minister John Howard announced on radio 3LO: 'I certainly don't want people like that here.' (Mares, 2002: 135) A discursive approach is adopted in this paper to examine how asylum seekers have been constructed to be 'people like that' in the print media. The analysis demonstrates that asylum seekers have been represented as illegal, non-genuine, and threatening in these texts. These representations were employed within nationalist discourse to legitimate the government's actions and public opinion concerning asylum seekers and to manage the delicate issue of national identity. The discursive management of the collective identity of asylum seekers by the dominant culture to construct a specific social reality is discussed and illustrated.

Tanja Dreher: Speaking up and talking back: News media interventions in Sydney's 'othered' communities

Since August 2001, Arab and Muslim communities in Sydney's western suburbs have been caught up in a spiral of signification that linked 'gang' activity in the area to the standoff over asylum seekers aboard the MV Tampa, a federal election campaign fought on the theme of 'border protection' and global news reporting of 9.11 and the 'war on terror'. Many people who live and work in the Bankstown area responded to this intense news media scrutiny by developing community-based media interventions that aimed to shift the mainstream news agenda. Through media skills training, forums, events, and cultural production, Arab and Muslim Australians in the Bankstown area positioned themselves as the subjects rather than the objects of news. This paper analyses news interventions strategies in terms of media power and the politics of representation. I argue that the activities of those working with racialised communities suggest valuable models for the wider process of improving the reporting of cultural differences in multicultural Australia.

Peter Bishop: Lost at Woomera: Rereading mainstream and alternative media

This paper focuses on aspects of the media engagement with demonstrations at the Woomera Detention Centre during Easter 2002. A broad range of interests and affiliations were represented within the 1,000-2,000 protestors, several hundred of whom attacked the fences allowing numerous detainees to escape. In an era of on-line activism the Easter 2002 demonstration at Woomera showed the continuing significance of the embodied occupation of public space by protestors. It echoed an upsurge in public demonstration, from Seattle to more recent worldwide marches against war in Iraq. In addition to receiving extensive mainstream media coverage both in Australia and overseas, a whole series of 'alternative' forms of media were mobilised around the demonstration. Through a study of some mainstream and alternative media, this paper suggests that casting them as oppositional, one as reactionary towards asylum seekers from Islamic cultures and the other as emancipatory, is too simplistic. While mainstream media is the subject of searching critiques of its representational and agenda-setting power, similar critical evaluations are few for alternative media. It suggests that such a dichotomy has serious consequences for the understanding and operation both of emancipatory struggles and of the media. Giroux has called for a politics of educated hope (2002) and this paper suggests that critique should be accompanied by an active search for moments of contradiction and possibility.

Guy Redden: Read the whole thing: Journalism, weblogs and the re-mediation of the war in Iraq

This paper examines a particular form of online activity-weblogging, and how it has allowed for specific new forms of popular political communication in the context of the Second Gulf War. After describing the basics of weblogging, the paper discusses Western media coverage of the war and then shows how 'warbloggers' positioned themselves vis-à-vis media coverage and propaganda, creating commentaries that frequently combined media and political criticism. While bloggers of every political hue offered a range of perspectives and personal styles, some general tendencies are evident in warblogging discourse. The piece ends by questioning the significance of warblogging in terms of its potential contribution to democratic communication.

Barbara Bloch: 'David vs Goliath': Australian Jewish perceptions of media bias in reporting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

This article seeks to show how the notion of 'media bias' has functioned in much Jewish discomfort and anger with how the second, or Al Aqsa, intifada has been represented by mainstream Australian and global media. My objective is not to demonstrate that this reporting in general favours one side of this conflict over the other, nor that there is an unproblematic position of balance which could be attained. Rather, I utilise the concept of media frames to problematise responses by Jewish and other audiences regarding Palestinians being represented by the media sympathetically as the 'underdog', and accusations of media bias against Israel. I examine the work that the metaphor 'David versus Goliath' has accomplished over the longer period of the Arab-Israeli conflict and how it has framed the conflict for both media and audiences. Finally, I draw on Judith Butler's writing on 'explanation and exoneration' in relation to what could be spoken of, and heard, by Americans in the September 11 attacks, to suggest that a similar discourse exists in relation to how Israeli and Palestinian violence can be spoken of from the perspective of Israel. I argue that the accusations of media bias against Israel circulate around a sense that the Israeli and Jewish narrative has been to some extent decentred by sections of the international media and other bodies.

Book Reviews

Anti-Discrimination Board of New South Wales, Race for the Headlines: Racism and Media Discourse
Appadurai, Arjun (ed.), Globalization
Bodroghkozy, Aniko, Groove Tube: Sixties Television and the Youth Rebellion
Jacobs, Jason, The Intimate Screen: Early British Television Drama
Cottle, Simon (ed.) News, Public Relations and Power
Crane, Diana, Kawashima, Nobuko and Kawasaki, Ken'ichi (eds), Global Culture: Media, Arts, Policy and Globalization
Gasher, Mike, Hollywood North: The Feature Film Industry in British Columbia
Gray, Clive, The Politics of the Arts in Britain
Griffen-Foley, Bridget, Party Games: Australian Politicians and the Media from War to Dismissal
Hjort, Mette and MacKenzie, Scott (eds), Cinema and Nation
Ivison, Duncan, Postcolonial Liberalism
Jacobs, Jason, Body Trauma: The New Hospital Dramas
Lipkin, Steven N., Real Emotional Logic: Film and Television Docudrama as Persuasive Practice
Mackay, Hugh, Media Mania: Why Our Fear of Modern Media is Misplaced
Manovich, Lev, The Language of New Media
Meredyth, Denise and Minson, Jeffrey (eds), Citizenship and Cultural Policy
Neale, Steve (ed.), Genre and Contemporary Hollywood
Phillips, Gail and Lindgren, Mia, The Australian Broadcast Journalism Manual
Scraton, Phil (ed.), Beyond September 11, An Anthology of Dissent
Zelizer, Barbie and Allan, Stuart (eds), Journalism after September 11

 

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