Television Comedy and Light Entertainment

 

No 134, February 2010
Theme Editors: Felicity Collins, Sue Turnbull and Susan Bye

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Abstracts

Contents

Editorial

Sue Turnbull

ANZCA News

Terry Flew

General Articles

Australia’s proposed internet filtering system: its implications for animation, comics and gaming (ACG) and slash fan communities

Mark McLelland

News in ‘new media’: An historical comparison between the arrival of television and online news in Australia

Margaret Van Heekeren

Shifting positions to the media discourse on terrorism: Critical points in audience members’ meaning-making experiences

Anne Aly

Communication services in remote Indigenous communities

Franco Papandrea

Television Comedy and Light Entertainment

Television comedy and light entertainment

Felicity Collins, Sue Turnbull and Susan Bye

On television comedy as an invented tradition

Brett Mills

The funny thing about Scottish independents …

Lynne Hibberd

Character and comic innovation in Australia You’re Standing In It

Susan Bye

The long tail of Mother and Son: The transnational career of an Australian situation comedy

Sue Turnbull

‘Mum likes Bandstand too’: Creating the teenage audience on Australian television

Michelle Arrow

Chasing reporters: Intertextuality, entertainment and public knowledge

Stephen Harrington

Learning to labour on the reality talent show

Guy Redden

Cross-dressed and crossing over from stage to television

Jonathan Bollen

Reviews

Edited by Susan Bye

Abstracts

 

Australia’s proposed internet filtering system: its implications for animation, comics and gaming (ACG) and slash fan communities

Mark McLelland

This paper investigates the implications of the federal government’s proposed internet filtering system in the light of Australia’s blanket prohibition on ‘child pornography’ (including cartoons, animation, drawings, digitally manipulated photographs and text) for Australian fan communities of ACG and slash. ACG/slash fan groups in Australia and elsewhere routinely consume, produce and disseminate material containing ‘prohibited content’ (i.e. featuring fictitious ‘under-age’ characters in violent and sexual scenarios). Moreover, a large proportion of the fans producing and trading in these images are themselves ‘under age’. Focusing specifically on the overwhelmingly female fandom surrounding the Japanese Boys’ Love (BL) manga , the paper argues that legislators have misrecognised the nature and scope of these online communities. It is also argued that the sheer scale of this kind of material, and the fact that it is legal to download and purchase in jurisdictions such as the United States and Japan, make attempts to prohibit access to these purely fictional depictions in Australia unworkable.

 

News in ‘new media’: An historical comparison between the arrival of television and online news in Australia

Margaret Van Heekeren

The quest to identify the ‘new’ in new media has led to recognition of an historical continuity in the technological and cultural circumstances surrounding the introduction of new media forms. A newer area of research is the identification of a similar patterning in the adaptation of content delivery. This article examines news content through a snapshot of two periods in Australian news media history: the arrival of television news in 1956, and the advent of online news in 1995. It finds a repetitive familiarity in the response of newspaper publishers on both occasions in terms of the organisation of news divisions and news delivery, which raises questions about the ability of new media to offer greater diversity of mainstream news content.

 

Shifting positions to the media discourse on terrorism: Critical points in audience members’ meaning-making experiences

Anne Aly

In his essay on encoding/decoding, Hall (1980) acknowledges that events in the broader socio-political context influence the way audiences position themselves in relation to the dominant hegemonic discourse. This article reports on an investigation into how Australian audience members continuously reviewed and shifted their positions to media texts that contributed to an over-arching evolving and changing discourse of terrorism in the Australian popular media. The findings of the study illuminate critical points in meaning-making in relation to the evolving discourse on terrorism. These critical points are not single moments, but rather a series of determinate moments where messages are decoded, subsumed into the range of cultural codes and discourses available to the audience, which are then implicated in the decoding of other messages, and then also subsumed into the cultural codes of the audience.

 

Communication services in remote Indigenous communities

Franco Papandrea

Access to and use of modern communication services in remote Indigenous communities in Australia lags considerably behind that in the rest of Australia because of inadequate supply arrangements and prevalent economic and social conditions. This article presents some findings of research on the availability and use of telephone and internet services in remote Indigenous communities in central Australia. The research involved the collection of community-wide data on the availability of telephone and internet services as well as details of individual user experience in the use of those services. In evaluating the findings, the article suggests potential improvements to programs for the delivery of better communication services in remote communities.

 

Television comedy and light entertainment

Felicity Collins, Sue Turnbull and Susan Bye

This issue of MIA provides an opportunity to consider the various ways in which light entertainment and comedy intersect with the national, social and broadcast contexts in which they are produced.

 

On television comedy as an invented tradition

Brett Mills

Existing analysis of the relationships between comedy and nation commonly work from an assumption that nations have a sense of humour that in some way defines them, while comedy texts — such as those broadcast on television and radio — merely draw on these pre-existing phenomena (Richards, 1997). This article instead demonstrates a more complex relationship between the two, suggesting that broadcast comedy is an ‘invented tradition’ (Hobsbawm and Ranger, 1983), which has been one of the most powerful ways for nations to define themselves — often at the expense of the complexities and contradictions within any one nation state. Drawing on the idea that nations are ‘imagined communities’ (Anderson, 1983), this article takes the BBC as a case study, exploring the ways in which an understanding of the ‘British sense of humour’ has evolved in response to the needs of the nation. In doing so, it explores historically significant moments such as World War II, as well as a range of regional comedy that doesn’t make it into national broadcasting circuits. In addition, the notion of ‘Britishness’ that is sold abroad via such programming is examined. In doing so, this article outlines the ways in which ideas of comedy and the nation intertwine, as well as exploring the problems this relationship might cause for alternative or oppositional ideas of the nation.

 

The funny thing about Scottish independents …

Lynne Hibberd

The Comedy Unit is one of the most successful independent production companies in Scotland. Established in 1995 by former employees of BBC Scotland and based in Glasgow, The Comedy Unit uses a specifically Scottish voice in its productions — a factor that increases its success outside Scotland. This article examines the national specificity of The Comedy Unit’s television productions and explores the reliance of the independent sector in Scotland on the BBC. This includes an exploration of the role and importance of Scottish national identity in four programs made by The Comedy Unit. The paper contributes to the body of work examining the national specificity of comedy, the nature and structure of the television industries in the United Kingdom, and the largely neglected area of television production and television entertainment in Scotland.

 

Character and comic innovation in Australia You’re Standing In It

Susan Bye

This article focuses on the sketch show Australia You’re Standing In It in order to trace the contribution of the ABC to the revitalisation of the comedy landscape of Australian television during the 1980s and beyond. I argue that when Australia You’re Standing In It was screened on the ABC in 1983, it revived the identification of ABC television with comic invention and heralded a subsequent explosion of TV sketch and stand-up comedy. For the national broadcaster, the long-term benefits of the show’s modest success were an increasing confidence in the place of comedy at the ABC — a confidence underpinned by the vitality of the new Melbourne-based Light Entertainment Unit.

 

The long tail of Mother and Son: The transnational career of an Australian situation comedy

Sue Turnbull

This article challenges the proposition that Australian television comedy does not succeed in overseas markets through a discussion of the transnational career of the ABC sitcom , Mother and Son (1984–94). A brief account of the development of the Australian sitcom up to 1984 is provided, with attention to British and American influences on the Australian genre. Following a close discussion of the comedy operational within the show, an examination of the international sales and adaptations of Mother and Son reveals how the specific tonal qualities of the humour may have been lost in translation or adapted to suit different cultural contexts. The implications of these findings for the transnational career of contemporary Australian comedy are then raised.

 

‘Mum likes Bandstand too’: Creating the teenage audience on Australian television

Michelle Arrow

Television and rock’n’roll both arrived in Australia in 1956, twin symbols of modernity and Americanised consumerism. Television was crucial to the dissemination of rock’n’roll, amplifying its shocks but also rendering it palatable for a broader audience. While it was important in the articulation of the new youth culture, television — unlike film or even radio — had to be more mindful of the familial, domestic context of broadcasting. This article explores the ways in which television networks shaped, and catered to, a teenage audience in the first years of Australian television through an examination of the early teenage music programs, Six O’Clock Rock and Bandstand , with a particular focus on audience responses.

 

Chasing reporters: Intertextuality, entertainment and public knowledge

Stephen Harrington

This article examines ‘What Have We Learned From Current Affairs This Week?’ — a very successful weekly segment from the ABC program The Chaser’s War on Everything . It argues that, through its intertextual satire, this regular segment acts not as a traditional news program would in presenting news updates on current events, but as a text that reflects on the way news is reported, and how this in turn may shape public discourse. While the program has been highly controversial (enduring many a loud call for it to be pulled from air), this form of light entertainment can play an important public service by encouraging citizens to ‘read through’ commercial current affairs’ façade of ‘quality’ journalism.

 

Learning to labour on the reality talent show

Guy Redden

From Idol and So You Think You Can Dance to the Got Talent franchise, light entertainment has returned to screens in a form that is globally popular. This article examines this new genre (which is, of course, a revival of an old one) in the light of recent hybridisations of television programs, and proposes that the particular configurations in which the new shows present singing, dancing and specialty acts are indicative of broader interrelated changes in TV and society. With reference mainly to Australian shows, it is argued that the new variants both depict and enact the commodification of precarious labour in line with exigencies of the contemporary cultural industries and imperatives of the new economy. The genre’s pleasures are directed into commodifiable value in strictly controlled, competitive formats of celebrity-creation, resulting in a mode of accumulation that capitalises on the largely gifted labour of the enthusiastic participants who co-create the entertainment spectacle with little guaranteed return.

 

Cross-dressed and crossing over from stage to television

Jonathan Bollen

Female impersonation was a popular aspect of light entertainment in mid-twentieth century Australia. On stage, the Kiwis Revue Company, an army entertainment unit from New Zealand, toured extensively for eight years from 1946, with three female impersonators as the highlight of an all-male bill. Female impersonation was also standard fare on variety shows during television’s first decade. In such sketch comedies and spoofs lie television’s strongest claims to inheriting the traditions of variety performance from the stage. Comedic drag roles, in particular, came directly from the stage, for the visual incongruities of costume, wigs and make-up would have had less currency on radio. This article explores the cross-gendered dimensions of light entertainment on television and stage, drawing on film and television recordings at the National Film and Sound Archive and research at Australia’s performing arts collections.

 

Reviews in this issue

Edited by Susan Bye

Arrow, Michelle, Friday on Our Minds: Popular Culture in Australia Since 1945

Atton, Chris and Hamilton, James F., Alternative Journalism

Belfiore, Eleonora and Bennett, Oliver, The Social Impact of the Arts: An Intellectual History

Bruns, Axel, and Bahnisch, Mark, Social Media: Tools for User-Generated Content Social Drivers, Volume 1 — State of the Art

Churchill, Suzanne W. and McKibble, Adam (eds), Little Magazines & Modernism: New Approaches

Edgerton, Gary R., The Columbia History of American Television

Hilderbrand, Lucas, Inherent Vice: Bootleg Histories of Videotape and Copyright

Hillis, Ken, Online a Lot of the Time: Ritual, Fetish, Sign

Holland, Samantha (ed.), Remote Relationships in a Small World

Kraus, Jerelle, All the Art That’s Fit to Print (And Some That Wasn’t): Inside the New York Times Op-Ed Page

Ling, Rich and Campbell, Scott (eds), The Reconstruction of Space and Time: Mobile Communication Practices

Sarikakis, Katharine (ed.), Media and Cultural Policy in the European Union

Sarwal, Amit and Sarwal, Reema (eds), Creative Nation: Australian Cinema and Cultural Studies Reader

Starkey, Guy and Crisell, Andrew, Radio Journalism Turkle, Sherry (ed.), The Inner History of Devices

Verhoeven, Deb, Jane Campion


 

Children, Young People, Sexuality and the Media

No 135, May 2010
Theme Editors: Kath Albury and Catharine Lumby

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Abstracts

Contents

Editorial

Sue Turnbull

ANZCA News

Terry Flew

General Articles

Sending a message? Refugees and Australia’s deterrence campaign

Roslyn Richardson

Newspaper blogs: The genuine article or poor counterfeits?

Mary Garden

Arts and business: The impact of business models on the activities of major performing arts organisations in Australia

Jo Caust

Framing Australian telecommunication policy: A case study of the 1996 Review of Standard Telephone Service

Michael Bourk

Children, Young People, Sexuality, and the Media

Introduction: Children, young people, sexuality and the media

Kath Albury and Catharine Lumby

Raunch culture goes to school? Young women, normative femininities and elite education

Claire Charles

Hot for teacher: The cultural erotics and anxieties of adolescent sexuality

Steven Angelides

When subject becomes object: Nakedness, art and the public sphere

Kate MacNeill

Feminism, sexualisation and social status

Robbie Duschinsky

The innocence fetish: The commodification and sexualisation of children in the media and popular culture

Joanne Faulkner

Revisiting moral panics in sexuality education

Mary Lou Rasmussen

Everything is child abuse

Alan McKee

Too much? Too young? The sexualisation of children debate in Australia

Catharine Lumby and Kath Albury

Reviews

Edited by Susan Bye

Abstracts

 

Sending a message? Refugees and Australia’s deterrence campaign
Roslyn Richardson
While Australia’s immigration deterrence policies, such as the temporary protection visa (TPV), mandatory detention system and ‘Pacific Solution’ have been criticised on ethical and legal grounds, the core justification for these policies has remained largely untouched. This article challenges the key justification behind many of Australia’s immigration policies — that they ‘send a strong message’ to potential irregular migrants and people smugglers. Drawing on a communication studies perspective and cultural studies audience research, the study outlined in this article demonstrates that these policies are based on a flawed and outdated view of the communication process and a simplistic understanding of refugee audiences. The article reveals that, like all audiences, refugee audiences are diverse, unpredictable and capable of producing a variety of interpretations of the messages they receive. This article calls for a recognition that the transmission and reception of Australia’s deterrence ‘messages’ are far from straightforward.

 

Newspaper blogs: The genuine article or poor counterfeits?
Mary Garden
Blogging began as a grassroots alternative phenomenon, and it was some years before the mainstream media took notice, let alone responded by introducing their own blogs. However, the blogs of Australian journalists (especially those of News Ltd) have been criticised as being ineffective, although such criticism is based on anecdotal evidence rather than substantive data. This article presents the findings of a pilot study that examined the popularity, interactivity and hyperlinks of twelve political blogs across mainstream and alternative media sites. The greatest challenge of blogging has been to one of traditional journalism’s weakest points: its lack of personal contact with readers. The results of this study indicate that there are Australian journalists who have taken up the challenge, with their blogs outshining their alternative counterparts, especially in terms of reader engagement. This represents an exciting new trend, where blogging, rather than being a threat, may reinvigorate mainstream media and help democratise news processes.

 

Arts and business: The impact of business models on the activities of major performing arts organisations in Australia
Jo Caust
Managerial business models were first introduced to Australian subsidised performing arts organisations by the then Howard Coalition government in 2000. Until the early 1990s, Australian arts organisations were contextualised as ‘not for profit’ entities, with an overall objective of producing good art. Over the past decade, however, major Australian performing arts organisations have been viewed more frequently as part of an ‘industry’ and, within this industry construct, framed as ‘business entities’, with a need to prove positive financial outcomes as a first priority. This article explores what is meant by business models in the context of Australian major performing arts organisations and looks at the impact of this approach.

 

Framing Australian telecommunication policy: A case study of the 1996 Review of Standard Telephone Service
Michael Bourk
This article discusses the influence of sociolinguistic structures such as metaphors and narratives as organising cognitive frames on telecommunication policy, its representation in the media and other public documents. In particular, it identifies the tension between competing narratives of national development and competition in the public debates and official records of the 1996 Review of Standard Telephone Service . The article argues that metaphors and narratives perform similar but distinctive persuasive and formative functions that extend beyond mere description. Collectively, they influence not only what we think of telecommunication technology and associated policy but how we imagine alternative policy scenarios and future technological innovation.

 

Introduction: Children, young people, sexuality and the media
Kath Albury and Catharine Lumby
Since the 2008 Australian Senate Inquiry into the Sexualisation of Children in the Contemporary Media Environment, both the British and Scottish governments have conducted their own inquiries into the role that mediated representations of sex and/or sexuality play in the lives of children and young people. At the same time, scholars, commentators, activists and educators have continued to debate the boundaries between ‘art’ and ‘pornography’ in representations of children and young people; and the boundaries between ‘appropriate’ and ‘inappropriate’ content in popular and educational material for children and young people. This article introduces the multidisciplinary approach taken in this special issue of Media International Australia , which the editors hope will promote positive strategic approaches to promoting safety, agency and well-being for children and young people.

 

Raunch culture goes to school? Young women, normative femininities and elite education
Claire Charles
Public concern about popular culture’s sexualisation of women and girls is regularly voiced in the Australian media. Young women grow up against a backdrop of ‘raunch culture’ (Levy, 2005), which for some scholars represents a ‘new’ femininity (Gill, 2007), in which ‘hyper-sexual’ forms of (hetero)sexual expression are now expected of young women and girls, despite ostensibly being about choice and personal empowerment. In this article, I explore the constructions of girlhood and femininity amongst young women attending an elite, single-sex, private school in Melbourne, Australia. Elite schooling for girls is often associated with highly classed notions of (hetero)sexual modesty and propriety, epitomised in the reality television program Ladette to Lady . Here I consider how hyper-sexualities are configured within students’ constructions of themselves and others, and I explore their relationship to classed expectations of identity for privileged girls. I examine the role that classed norms of identity play in mediating these girls’ negotiations of hyper-sexualities.

 

Hot for teacher: The cultural erotics and anxieties of adolescent sexuality
Steven Angelides
This article takes popular media scandals surrounding cases of female secondary school teachers charged with sexual offences against male students as its point of inquiry. Using the infamous story of former American schoolteacher Debra Lafave as a case study, it examines the over-determined dynamics of fascination, eroticisation and anxiety structuring the representation and reception of this case and others like it. The article argues that the ‘sex panic’ over female teacher sex offenders is often less about the women than it is about male adolescent sexuality.

 

When subject becomes object: Nakedness, art and the public sphere
Kate MacNeill
In May 2008, a photograph of a naked twelve-year-old girl by the Australian artist Bill Henson came to the attention of the Australian public when it was featured on an invitation to the opening of an exhibition at a commercial art gallery in Sydney. Within hours, a debate had commenced about the appropriateness of the image and the intentions of the artist. It rapidly descended into the familiar argument of art versus pornography, with protagonists lining up on one side or the other. There seemed no shared space in which to discuss this particular image and instance. Drawing on contributions to this very public debate, I demonstrate the way in which the closed nature of the art system leaves many of its practitioners unable to engage in the wider conversations that occur when artworks travel beyond the credentialling context of the art gallery and enter the public space.

 

Feminism, sexualisation and social status
Robbie Duschinsky
New formulations and responses to classic questions have emerged in recent feminist thinking on the relationship between gender and consumption. One instance of this is the work of Abigail Bray on the damage caused by the media sexualisation of girls. She offers important insights into some problems with the discourse of media and sexual empowerment, and also critically considers the social distinction that such an discourse tends to confer. This article offers a sympathetic account of her argument, but also moves beyond Bray to express concerns regarding the class and race codings of the discourse of childhood innocence.

 

The innocence fetish: The commodification and sexualisation of children in the media and popular culture
Joanne Faulkner
Over the past century, a great deal of cultural energy has been invested in the ideal of childhood innocence, to the extent that innocence is frequently cited as our society’s most valuable asset. More recently, however, the dominant sentiment — frequently represented in news and current affairs media — has been that childhood innocence is imperilled, and that the ‘less responsible’ aspects of our popular media are putting it at risk. This article argues that the reasoning that engenders innocence with cultural value invites, and even demands, its violation. Specifically, the very same influences through which the child has come to be valorised also lead to the desire for and consumption of innocence. Innocence has become a ‘fetish’, positioned as a lost freedom and plenitude inciting desire. This article draws upon psychoanalytic theory to place into its correct context the anxiety about childhood innocence. It argues that these ‘responsible’ lamentations about the sexualisation of children and the loss of childhood innocence contribute to (rather than avert) a fetishisation of innocence that both prepares the ground for childhood to become the ultimate commodity, and ignores the concrete circumstances, desires and capacities of children.

 

Revisiting moral panics in sexuality education
Mary Lou Rasmussen
There is a common impulse within academic research on sexuality education to draw on the notion of moral panic in order to better understand ‘unreasonable’ and emotional opposition to the implementation of sexuality education programs. The aim of this article is to interrogate this tendency to classify religious opposition to the sexuality education curriculum as suggestive of a ‘moral panic’. I begin with a brief discussion of how the notion of ‘moral panic’ is commonly used in academic and popular discourse, and proceed to a discussion of ‘moral panic’ in the field of sexuality education, specifically focusing on the work of US researcher Janice Irvine. I also consider some research on recent South Australian controversies related to sexuality education in schools. Finally, I consider the attribution of ‘moral panic’ in accounting for religious opposition to sexuality education as a secular formation.

 

Everything is child abuse
Alan McKee
In 2008, the Australian federal Senate held an Inquiry into the Sexualisation of Children in the Contemporary Media Environment. I made a submission to this Inquiry, noting that in public debate about this topic a number of quite distinct issues, with distinct aetiologies, were collapsed together. These included: child pornography; children being targeted by any form of marketing; young people becoming sexually active; sexual abuse of children; raunch culture; protecting children from any sexualised material in the media; and body image disorders. I suggested that commentators had collapsed these issues together because the image of the helpless child is a powerful one for critics to challenge undesirable aspects of contemporary culture. The result of many different ideological viewpoints all using the same argument — that the forms of culture they didn’t like were damaging children — gives the impression that there is no element of culture today that isn’t (somebody claims) causing harm to children: everything is child abuse. The danger of such discourses is that they draw attention away from the real harm that is being caused to children by sexual and other forms of maltreatment — which overwhelmingly occur within families, and for reasons ignored in these debates.

 

Too much? Too young? The sexualisation of children debate in Australia
Catharine Lumby and Kath Albury
This article considers the origins and focus of current Australian debates around the alleged ‘sexualisation’ of children and young people. It explores the popular discourses around youth and sexuality and unpacks the assumptions and contradictions that underwrite them, by addressing the terms of reference of the Australian Senate’s 2008 Sexualisation of Children in the Contemporary Media Inquiry . The article concludes by outlining some proposed public policy solutions to addressing current community concerns that children and teenagers are being inappropriately sexualised.

 

Reviews in this issue

Edited by Susan Bye

Aly, Anne, Green, Lelia and Balnaves, Mark, Social Implications of Fearing Terrorism

Bainbridge, Jason, Goc, Nicole and Tynan, Liz, Media and Journalism: New Approaches to Theory and Practice

Bird, S. Elizabeth, The Anthropology of News & Journalism: Global Perspectives

Cohen, Hart, Salazar, Juan Francisco and Barkat, Iqbal, Screen Media Arts

Cunningham, Stuart and Turner, Graeme (eds), The Media and Communications in Australia (3rd ed.)

Donald, Stephanie, Kofman, Eleonore and Kevin, Catherine (eds), Branding Cities: Cosmopolitanism, Parochialism and Social Change

Engelman, Ralph, Friendlyvision: Fred Friendly and the Rise and Fall of Television Journalism

Foth, Marcus (ed.), Urban Informatics: The Practice and Promise of the Real Time City

Foster, Kevin (ed.), What are We Doing in Afghanistan? The Military and the Media at War

Griffen-Foley, Bridget, Changing Stations: The Story of Australian Commercial Radio

Harindranath, Ramaswami, Audience-Citizens: The Media, Public Knowledge and Interpretive Practice

Hartley, John, The Uses of Digital Literacy

Hills, Jill, Telecommunications and Empire

Martin, Ray, Ray: Stories of My Life

Moran, Albert, New Flows in Global TV

Rickels, Laurence A., The Devil Notebooks

Shaw Christopher A., Five Ring Circus: Myths and Realities of the Olympic Games

Stoneman, Rod, Chávez: The Revolution will Not be Televised: A Case Study of Politics and the Media

Von Krogh, Torbjörn, Media Accountability Today … and Tomorrow: Updating the Concept in Theory and Practice

Wurtzler, Steve J., Electric Sounds: Technological Change and the Rise of Corporate Mass Media


 

mia 136 cover (16kb)

Film, Cinema, Screen

MIA 136, August 2010
Theme Editor: Mark David Ryan
 

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Abstracts

 

 

Contents
Editorial Sue Turnbull
ANZCA News Terry Flew
 
COMPARATIVE COMMUNICATION RESEARCH
Edited by Terry Flew
Comparative communication research: Australian and New Zealand communication research in an international context Terry Flew
Aligning communication, cultural and media studies research and scholarship with industry and policy: Australian instances Stuart Cunningham
Wagon train to the stars: The past, present and future of communication research in Australia Sue Turnbull
Communication in Aotearoa New Zealand: The challenge of engaging globally and acting locally Alison Henderson, Mary Simpson and C. Kay Weaver
Minding the gaps Donald Matheson
 
GENERAL ARTICLES
Research adventures in Web 2.0: Encouraging collaborative local content creation through edgeX Axel Bruns and Sal Humphreys
‘Generic misery music’? Emo and the problem of contemporary youth culture Michelle Phillipov
Building capacity or burning out? Supporting Indigenous performing artists and filmmakers Hilary Glow and Katya Johanson
 
FILM, CINEMA, SCREEN
Film, cinema, screen Mark David Ryan
Above the bottom line: Understanding Australian screen content producers Allan Cameron, Deb Verhoeven and David Court
Boom and bust in Australian screen policy: 10BA, the Film Finance Corporation and Hollywood’s ‘race to the bottom’ Alex Burns and Ben Eltham
Rates of change: Online distribution as disruptive technology in the film industry Stuart Cunningham, Jon Silver and John McDonnell
Next-generation ‘filmmaking’: New markets, new methods and new business models Mark David Ryan and Greg Hearn
Coming soon (to a theatre near you): The temporality of global film distribution to Australia Deb Verhoeven
From Neighbours to Packed to the Rafters: Accounting for longevity in the evolution of Aussie soaps Sue Ward, Tom O’Regan and Ben Goldsmith
Contemporary Australian film theory and criticism Constantine Verevis and Deane Williams
Reviews Edited by Susan Bye


 

ABSTRACTS

Comparative communication research: Australian and New Zealand communication research in an international context
Terry Flew
This article raises the question of whether comparative national models of communications research can be developed along the lines of Hallin and Mancini’s (2004) analysis of comparative media policy, or the work of Perraton and Clift (2004) on comparative national capitalisms. Taking communications research in Australia and New Zealand as its starting point, the article considers what might be the relevant variables in shaping an ‘intellectual milieu’ for communications research in these countries, compared with those of Europe, North America and Asia. Some possibly relevant variables include: type of media system (e.g. how significant is public service media?); political culture (e.g. are there significant left-of-centre political parties?); dominant intellectual traditions; level and types of research funding; the overall structure of the higher education system; and where communications sits within it. In considering whether such an exercise can or should be undertaken, we can also evaluate, as Hallin and Mancini do, the significance of potentially homogenising forces. These would include globalisation, new media technologies, and the rise of a global ’audit culture’. The article raises these issues as questions that emerge when we consider, as Curran and Park (2000) and Thussu (2009) have proposed, what a ‘de-Westernized’ media and communications research paradigm may look like.
 
Aligning communication, cultural and media studies research and scholarship with industry and policy: Australian instances
Stuart Cunningham
This article reflects on aspects of what is claimed to be the distinctiveness of Australian communication, cultural and media studies, focusing on two cases – the cultural policy debate in the 1990s, and the concept of creative industries in the 2000s – and the relations between them, which highlight the alignment of research and scholarship with industry and policy and with which the author has been directly involved. Both ‘moments’ have been controversial; the three main lines of critique of such alignment of research and scholarship with industry and policy (its untoward proximity to tenets of the dominant neo-liberal ideology; the evacuation of cultural value by the economic; and the possible loss of critical vocation of the humanities scholar) are debated.
Wagon train to the stars: The past, present and future of communication research in Australia Sue Turnbull
The history of communication research in Australia reveals that, like the history Australian television, it has involved a process of adaptation and innovation to suit a particular national context. In this article, I pursue the analogy between the two in order to illustrate how the peculiar history of Australian communication research (and Australian television) have created a pedagogical environment in which those who teach in the field of media, communication and cultural studies are already well equipped to deal with the invitation posed by Cunningham (2010) to ‘refine critical stances’, to rethink ‘core pedagogical ethics’ and to take account of ‘vocational aspirations, workplace trends and the broader structure of the economy’.
 
Communication in Aotearoa New Zealand: The challenge of engaging globally and acting locally
Alison Henderson, Mary Simpson and C. Kay Weaver
This article outlines the evolution of communication studies within the university sector in Aotearoa New Zealand and how this diverse disciplinary field is situated within the academy through teaching and research. It identifies the highly competitive tertiary education structures and systems that can create disincentives for the collective organising of communication scholars both within and between tertiary institutions. At the same time, it acknowledges the international disciplinary contribution of Aotearoa New Zealand researchers, and recent successful inroads into gaining major grants. The article reflects on the challenges that come with the need to position ourselves as ‘internationally relevant’ while also finding ways of developing and supporting local communication studies initiatives, and contributing to the advancement of Aotearoa New Zealand as a bicultural nation.
 
Minding the gaps
Donald Matheson
This article is a reflection – from the position of a journalism researcher – on one of the distinctive features of research on Aotearoa New Zealand media and communication and some of the reasons for that. Studying and teaching about this field in Aotearoa New Zealand is a matter of negotiating the large gaps in academic knowledge about the local situation. In particular, the article suggests researchers prioritise theory-building about the position of media within this small country that is so heavily dependent on owners and media products from overseas.
 
Research adventures in Web 2.0: Encouraging collaborative local content creation through edgeX
Axel Bruns and Sal Humphreys
The intersection of current arguments about the role of creative industries in economic development, online user-generated content and the uptake of broadband in economically disadvantaged communities, provides the content for this article. From 2006 to 2008, the authors carried out a research project in Ipswich, Queensland involving local creative practitioners and community groups in their development of edgeX, a web-based platform for content uploads and social networking. The project aimed to explore issues of local identity and community-building through online networking, as well as the possibilities for creating pathways from amateur to professional practice in the creative industries through the auspices of the website. Against a rapidly changing technological environment with problematic implications for research projects aiming to build new online platforms, we present several case studies from the project to illustrate the challenges to participation experienced by people with limited access to, and literacy with, the internet.
 
 ‘Generic misery music’? Emo and the problem of contemporary youth culture
Michelle Phillipov
This article examines the Australian newspaper coverage of the Emo youth cultural movement in relation to two incidents that contributed to its growing inclusion in mainstream media discourse: the February 2007 murder of 15-year-old Carly Ryan and the April 2007 suicides of 16-year-old friends Jodie Gater and Stephanie Gestier. The deaths of the three young women were frequently linked to their apparent involvement in the Emo movement, which was described as a dangerous and worrying development in youth culture. However, specific concerns about Emo were frequently subsumed into broader anxieties about young people more generally, particularly in relation to concerns associated with self-harm, unsupervised internet use and school bullying. The disinclination among participants of this movements to identify as Emo or to challenge the media’s framing of Emo culture has contributed much to the media’s redefinition of Emo as a characteristic of ‘kids today’ rather than a specific subcultural affiliation.
 
 Building capacity or burning out? Supporting Indigenous performing artists and filmmakers
Hilary Glow and Katya Johanson
Public support for both Indigenous filmmaking and the live performing arts has a number of common features: at a national level the present schemes were introduced in the early 1990s, and both sets of schemes aim to improve the capacity of Indigenous practitioners to tell their stories to national and international audiences. Yet, in the late 2000s, Screen Australia’s support for filmmaking has contributed to well-known successes, whereas Australia Council support for performing arts has been withdrawn from two of the three state-based Indigenous companies. This article reviews the capacity-building strategies offered by the funding agencies to Indigenous filmmaking and performing arts. While the film policies appear to have been more successful than those in the performing arts, both sectors continue to experience obstacles to capacity-building for Indigenous practitioners and organisations.
 
 Film, cinema, screen Mark David Ryan
Screen industries around the globe are evolving. While technological change has been slower to take effect upon the Australian film industry than other creative sectors such as music and publishing, all indications suggest that local screen practices are in a process of fundamental change. Fragmenting audiences, the growth of digital video, distribution and exhibition, the potential for entirely new forms of cultural expression, the proliferation of multi-platforms, and the importance of social networking and viral marketing in promoting products are challenging traditional approaches to ‘filmmaking’. Moreover, there has been a marked transition in government policy rationales and funding models in recent years, resulting in the most significant overhaul of public finance structures for the film industry in almost 20 years. Film, Cinema, Screen evaluates the Australian film industry’s recent development – particularly in terms of Australian feature film and television series production; it also advocates new approaches to Australian film and addresses critical issues around how screen production globally is changing, with implications for local screen industries.
 
Above the bottom line: Understanding Australian screen content producers
Allan Cameron, Deb Verhoeven and David Court
The recently completed Australian Screen Producer Survey provides the most current and detailed picture of the culture, motivations and aspirations of a highly influential sector of the content production industries. Drawing upon the results of the survey, this article reflects on the historical and theoretical difficulties entailed in defining the producer as a professional category, before outlining some of the survey’s key findings. In particular, it examines producers’ demographic and sectoral profile, analyses their attitudes towards the relative importance of education and experience, and explores their underlying motivations. Amongst other findings, the survey reveals a tendency towards idealism among Australian producers that would appear to be at odds with the financial realities of the business. It therefore offers a variety of stakeholders (including government and educational institutions, as well as producers themselves) with the opportunity to reflect upon the future shape and direction of the Australian media industry.
 
Boom and bust in Australian screen policy: 10BA, the Film Finance Corporation and Hollywood’s ‘race to the bottom’
Alex Burns and Ben Eltham
In recent years, a narrative has emerged in the Australian popular media about the box office ‘unpopularity’ of Australian feature films and the ‘failure’ of the domestic screen industry. This article explores the recent history of Australian screen policy with particular reference to the ‘10BA’ tax incentive of the 1980s; the Film Finance Corporation of Australia (FFC), a government screen agency established in 1988 to bring investment bank-style portfolio management to Australia’s screen industry; and local production incentive policies pursed by Australian state governments in a chase for Hollywood’s runaway production. We argue the 10BA incentive catalysed an unsustainable bubble in Australian production, while its policy successor, the FFC, fundamentally failed in its stated mission of ‘commercial’ screen financing (over its 20-year lifespan, the FFC invested A$1.345 billion for A$274.2 million recouped – a cumulative return of negative 80 per cent). For their part, private investors in Australian films discovered that the screen production process involved high levels of risk. Foreign-financed production also proved highly volatile, due to the vagaries of trade exposure, currency fluctuations and tax arbitrage. The result of these macro- and micro-economic factors – often structural and cross-border in nature – was that Australia’s screen industry failed to develop the local investment infrastructure required to finance a sustainable, non-subsidised local sector.
 
Rates of change: Online distribution as disruptive technology in the film industry
Stuart Cunningham, Jon Silver and John McDonnell
Much debate in media and communication studies is based on exaggerated opposition between the digital sublime and the digital abject: overly enthusiastic optimism versus determined pessimism over the potential of new technologies. This inhibits the discipline’s claims to provide rigorous insight into industry and social change – which is, after all, continuous. Instead of having to decide one way or the other, we need to ask how we study the process of change. This article examines the impact of online distribution in the film industry, particularly addressing the question of rates of change. Are there genuinely new players disrupting the established oligopoly, and if so with what effect? Is there evidence of disruption to, and innovation in, business models? Has cultural change been forced on the incumbents? Outside mainstream Hollywood, where are the new opportunities and the new players? What is the situation in Australia?
 
 Next-generation ‘filmmaking’: New markets, new methods and new business models
Mark David Ryan and Greg Hearn
Digital production and distribution technologies may create new opportunities for filmmaking in Australia. A culture of new approaches to filmmaking is emerging, driven by ‘next-generation filmmakers’ who are willing to consider new business models, from online web series to short films produced for mobile phones. At the same time, cultural representation itself is transforming within an interactive, social media-driven environment. Yet there is very little research into next-generation filmmaking. The aim of this article is to scope and discuss three key aspects of next-generation filmmaking: digital trends in film distribution and marketing; processes and strategies of ‘next-generation’ filmmakers; and case studies of viable next-generation business models and filmmaking practices. We conclude with a brief examination of the implications for media and cultural policy, which suggests the future possibility of a rapprochement between creative industries discourse and cultural policy.
 
Coming soon (to a theatre near you): The temporality of global film distribution to Australia
Deb Verhoeven
This article explores the changing contexts of international film exhibition in Australia over a 20-year period (1989–2009) by examining in some empirical detail Australia’s position in the global flow of films during this time. It argues that, at the most abstract level, distributors are engaged in the management and mediation of time and space in the field of global communications. It is proposed that distributors, through the organisation of temporal differentiation, are explicitly active in the creation of both cultural and commodity value. This is particularly apparent as film distributors explore and engage new methodologies of film release, which emphasise overlapping, intersecting and contradictory temporalities in the cinema experience.
 
From Neighbours to Packed to the Rafters: Accounting for longevity in the evolution of Aussie soaps
Sue Ward, Tom O’Regan and Ben Goldsmith
If there is one television programming staple for which Australian television drama is known internationally, it is the long-running television soap, with Neighbours (originally produced by Grundy in 1985) lauded as ‘the most outstanding example of Australian series export’ (Cunningham and Jacka, 1996). Twenty-five years on, this program still airs on domestic and international TV schedules five days a week, despite waning popularity with local Australian audiences. Considering past interest in the success and longevity of this soap, it is apposite to look again at the continuing progress of Neighbours foremost as a global brand. In comparison, Packed to the Rafters is treated here as a contemporary version of familiar Aussie themes related to everyday middle-class suburbia, populated with blue skies and feel-good characters expressing wholesome family values, but with a stylistic innovation defined here as domestic realism. As part of the production ecology of the late 2000s, Packed to the Rafters demonstrates the considerable role for local drama productions as loss leaders and flagship programming for commercial free-to-air networks up against an increasingly difficult domestic market.
 
Contemporary Australian film theory and criticism
Constantine Verevis and Deane Williams
The discipline of film studies has, since the late 1960s and early 1970s, been a burgeoning academic and intellectual field of inquiry. This article seeks to provide a map of the local and international flows of Australian film theory and criticism. By tracing some key critical positions, personnel and institutions, it provides an account of the state of contemporary Australian film studies. The article falls into three parts. The first reflects upon the establishment of academic film studies in Australia, beginning with the 1970s and 1980s importation of screen theory. The second attends to a late 1980s and early 1990s recognition of the historical and cultural specificity of film (and television), and the associated turn to historical film studies. The third part looks at the institutionalisation of the discipline, to attend to some of the intellectual and pragmatic considerations shaping Australian film studies through the 1990s and beyond.
 
Reviews in this issue
Edited by Susan Bye
Barney, Richard A. (ed.), David Lynch: Interviews
Chapman, Jane, Issues in Contemporary Documentary
Cormack, Mike and Hourigan, Niamh (eds), Minority Language Media: Concepts, Critiques and Case Studies
David, Matthew, Peer to Peer and the Music Industry: The Criminalization of Sharing
Gray, Jonathan, Show Sold Separately: Promos, Spoilers and Other Media Paratexts
Guins, Raiford, Edited Clean Version: Technology and the Culture of Control
Hjorth, Larissa and Chan, Dean (eds), Gaming Cultures and Place in Asia-Pacific
Hundley, Heather L. and Billings, Andrew C. (eds), Examining Identity in Sports Media
Kemper, Tom, Hidden Talent: The Emergence of Hollywood Agents
Kirby-Diaz, Mary (ed.), Buffy and Angel Conquer the Internet: Essays on Online Fandom
Kűng, Lucy, Picard, Robert G. and Towse, Ruth, The Internet and the Mass Media
Lee, Carolyne et al., Word Bytes: Writing in the Information Society
Lim, Bliss Cua, Translating Time: Cinema, the Fantastic, and Temporal Critique
Lynch, Jake and Galtung, Johan, Reporting Conflict: New Directions in Peace Journalism
Maras, Steven, Screenwriting: History, Theory, and Practice
Margolis, Michael and Moreno-Riaňo, Gerson, The Prospect of Internet Democracy
McRobbie, Angela, The Aftermath of Feminism: Gender, Culture and Social Change
Olsson, Tobias and Dahlgren, Peter (eds), Young People, ICTs and Democracy: Theories, Policies, Identities and Websites
Samuel-Azran, Tal and Caspi, Dan (eds), New Media and Innovative Technologies
Thussu, Daya Kishan (ed.), Internationalizing Media Studies
Turner, Graeme, Ordinary People and the Media: The Demotic Turn
Turner, Graeme and Tay, Jinna (eds), Television Studies After TV: Understanding Television in the Post-Broadcast Era
Weber, Brenda R., Makeover TV: Selfhood, Citizenship, and Celebrity
Wise, Amanda and Velayutham, Selvaraj (eds), Everyday Multiculturalism
 

mia137-cover  

The Victorian Bushfires
and Other Extreme
Weather Events: Case Studies in
Crisis, Culture and Communications
 

MIA 137, November 2010
Theme Editors: Louise North and Jason Bainbridge
 

Contents

Editorial Sue Turnbull

ANZCA News Kerry McCallum

 

2010 HENRY MAYER LECTURE

Voices of the people: Audience participation in Australian radio

Bridget Griffen-Foley

 

GENERAL ARTICLES

Remodelling media: The urgent search for new media business models
Jim Macnamara

The promise of a new media and development agenda Usha M. Rodrigues

Towards a narratology of court reporting Jane Johnston and Rhonda Breit

From ruthless foe to national friend: Turkey, Gallipoli and Australian nationalism Catherine Simpson

 

The Victorian Bushfires and Other Extreme Weather Events

The Victorian bushfires and extreme weather events: Media coverage, crisis and communication Louise North and Jason Bainbridge

Ethical free-for-all over media access to the fire zone Denis Muller and Michael Gawenda

The rhetoric of ‘community’: ABC Local Radio’s coverage of the 2009 Victorian bushfires Louise North and Philip Dearman

‘Catastrophic failure’ theories and disaster journalism: Evaluating media explanations of the Black Saturday bushfires Alex Burns and Ben Eltham

Communicating catastrophe: Blame, Black Saturday and newspaper constructions of bushfire risk Jason Bainbridge and Chris Galloway

‘Breakfast is now tea, toast and tissues’: Affect and the media coverage of bushfires Susan Yell

Local news representations of women in Hurricane Katrina Candace Calloway

Social media and public information management: The September 2009 tsunami threat to New Zealand Gary Mersham

Popular knowledge and performances of the self in distributed networks: Social media after Black Saturday Alison Horbury and Peter Hughes

Reviews Edited by Susan Bye

 

Abstracts

2010 HENRY MAYER LECTURE: Voices of the people: Audience participation in Australian radio

Bridget Griffen-Foley

John Laws famously labelled his commercial radio talkback program, and its genre, ‘dial-in democracy’. Amongst the mellifluous tones of Laws and ‘Andrea’, the gravelly rasps of Brian White and Derryn Hinch, and the impatient injunctions of Alan Jones and Howard Sattler have been the voices of countless ‘ordinary’ Australians. Here, I consider how voices of ‘the people’ have been heard in Australian print media outlets, led by The Bulletin, since the nineteenth century, and on Australian radio since the 1920s. The discussion moves from community singing to radio clubs, programs like Voice of the People to Australia’s Amateur Hour, and of course to talkback. Along the way, it reflects on issues such as the flow of ideas and influences between Britain, the United States and Australia; the ways in which notions of the public and the community have been deployed by commercial radio managements and interpreted by broadcasting regulators; and how listeners and callers – like some regular writers of letters to the editor – can emerge as media identities in their own right.

 

Remodelling media: The urgent search for new media business models
Jim Macnamara

One of the most contentious and pressing issues concerning media in the early twenty-first century is identifying viable business models, with widespread reports that twentieth-century business models underpinning press, radio and television are collapsing because of ‘audience fragmentation’ driven by an ever-widening range of choice in media content and sources on the internet. Some scholars, media proprietors and content producers see announcements by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation and the New York Times that they will increasingly charge for news and other content as a harbinger of the new mediascape and a resolution to media decline. However, a number of reader surveys and industry analyses warn that many contemporary media users will not pay for content and will further abandon traditional media if ‘paywalls’ are erected. A number of other potential business models are being touted in business and industry circles, but remain under-researched and under-explored in scholarly literature. This article reviews scholarly studies that do exist, as well as business and industry studies and media data, to identify the range of options available for funding journalism and other media content in future. Identification of sustainable media business models is an urgent priority, as continuing decline in audiences and collapse of media organisations pose a major threat to journalism and society, with scholars agreeing that further erosion of quality journalism threatens democracy. Future media business models also have major implications for the advertising industry and a wide range of content producers.

 

The promise of a new media and development agenda

Usha M. Rodrigues

The role of the press is underpinned by a concern for public welfare, and the discourses and debates in journalism practice and theory stem from the notion that the press is one of the pillars of a democracy and an essential element of the public sphere (Rosen, 2005; Dahlgren and Sparks, 1991). The public sphere, in turn, is linked to the theory of modernisation and the development agenda of a society, where the media are expected to play an important function as watchman, policy disseminator and teacher (Schramm, 1964). This article looks at citizen journalism’s potential to provide yet another opportunity to disadvantaged communities in India to communicate with the world, via information and communication technologies. The new media also open up the possibility of these earlier disenfranchised communities becoming partners in the country’s development and democratic agenda. This is a discussion paper based on a survey of initiatives undertaken by various community groups in India to provide a voice to local communities who would otherwise remain silent. It explores the impact of these citizen journalism initiatives on local communities vis-à-vis their effectiveness as a tool for development and social change, and argues that the growth and success of these initiatives around the world, though piecemeal, should become an important part of discourse concerning the role of journalism in society.

 

Towards a narratology of court reporting

Jane Johnston and Rhonda Breit

This article uses the theory of narratology to connect legal discourses and processes with the way the media translate the law into news. It identifies how narratology has been used by other disciplines, notably the law, to provide a framework for better understanding, and uses a range of theories and examples to propose a narratology for court reporting. The research identifies six key elements of narrative and expands these into a three-level schema of story level, discourse analysis and the interpretative context of stories. Finally, the article foreshadows a methodology through which to develop the narratology that follows court proceedings through various stages: from the metanarratives within court to the final production of courts as news. It suggests that such an approach may assist the media to gain greater insights into their involvement within the court system while also providing a deeper understanding between the courts and the media.

 

From ruthless foe to national friend: Turkey, Gallipoli and Australian nationalism

Catherine Simpson

As the centenary of the Gallipoli landings draws closer, we will no doubt be inundated with more media debating the relevance, or otherwise, of this event to Australian national identity. In the plethora of academic literature that already exists about Gallipoli and the Anzac legend, little attention has been given to the role of Turkey. Over the course of the last century, particularly in Australian filmmaking, the Turk has been variously positioned as ruthless foe (during World War I), noble enemy (during World War II) and now national friend (post-1980s). I argue that what began as merely ‘respect’ for the enemy at Gallipoli post- 1915 has now morphed into a nationally celebrated, government-constructed and media-supported friendship between Turkey and Australia. This article charts the shifting image of the Turk in Australian film and culture, but more specifically the role Turkey has played in constructing and perpetuating the Anzac legend and conservative visions of nationhood.

 

The Victorian bushfires and extreme weather events: Media coverage, crisis and communication

Louise North and Jason Bainbridge

The 2009 ‘Black Saturday’ Victorian bushfires claimed the lives of 173 people and have become known as the worst fire event in Australian history. Victoria has been at the centre of two other significant Australian fire disasters – ‘Black Friday’ in 1939 and the 1983 ‘Ash Wednesday’ fires in south-eastern Australia that claimed the lives of 47 people in Victoria. As media scholar and commentator Michael Gawenda has noted, the media not only report an ‘event’ – like the Victorian bushfires or the tsunami in the South Pacific – but in a sense create and define it. Print and electronic media coverage of extreme weather events therefore raises a multitude of issues about the media’s role in serving the community before, during and after a crisis, while also trying to produce the best possible reportage in a competitive industry undergoing dramatic change. This issue of MIA provides a venue for critical, empirical engagement with media coverage and representation, and the role of journalism and journalists in reporting national and international bushfires, tsunamis, hurricanes and other extreme weather events, with a special focus on the 2009 Victorian bushfires. Its goal is to address the ramifications of an industry in flux – indeed, some may say crisis – driven by technological advances, staff reductions and media organisations under financial pressure, and to explore the ways in which such extreme weather events have impacted media practices and policy.

 

Ethical free-for-all over media access to the fire zone

Denis Muller and Michael Gawenda

A major issue to arise in the aftermath of the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria in February 2009 concerned access by the media to the places destroyed. This issue arose in five main forms: media efforts to circumvent roadblocks; use of deception by media to get into areas that were open only to residents; use of private property by media, with and without the connivance of the authorities, as venues for gathering material; balancing residents’ rights of access and property protection against the media’s need to discharge their legitimate function of informing the community; and managing crime scenes and protecting survivors from the media. This article explores these issues from the perspective of 28 media professionals who covered the fires. It identifies and discusses the ethical dilemmas raised, and describes how the journalists concerned resolved them. It contains many lessons for the media, the authorities and the public. It lays bare the lack of an ethical consensus among media people. In doing so, it points up some exemplary decision-making by individual journalists and the weaknesses of their profession’s institutional framework. It is argued that these matter because ethical lapses at disaster scenes can cause harm to victims and survivors, as well as placing the safety of media personnel at risk. Parallel ethical issues confronted the authorities too. These are canvassed as well, and the implications for public policy discussed – particularly in relation to the justification for controlling media access, and balancing justifiable restrictions against competing interests such as the public right to information and the autonomy of survivors in being able to make their own decisions about whether to speak to the media.

 

The rhetoric of ‘community’: ABC Local Radio’s coverage of the 2009 Victorian bushfires

Louise North and Philip Dearman

This article joins recent debates in media and communication studies concerning audience participation in news journalism. Specifically, we investigate the impact of an increasing reliance on audience-generated content on newsroom practice in traditional media organisations. We do this by recounting and analysing the experiences of journalists involved in ABC Radio’s coverage of the dramatic Victorian bushfires of early 2009, which relied heavily on listener contributions and was closely integrated with the ABC’s online coverage. Interviews with two staff at ABC Gippsland, and with the ABC’s Manager of Emergency Broadcasting provide the basis for a case study of the kinds of tensions that media workers routinely confront within an organisation like the ABC. The interviews suggest that in negotiating the possibility of increased audience participation, journalists and their managers are thinking about much more than the rhetorics of democracy and the validity of news values: their focus is also on a complex of techno-organisational dilemmas, about the shape of organisational structure, the need for skill (re)development and the precise mechanics of creating and maintaining productive relationships with local communities. The significance of the research lies in its attempt to bring together a number of related factors: the increasingly active role of audiences in generating and supplying news content; the impact of digital communications technologies on news production practices; and the ABC’s ongoing development of its now contested role as an ‘emergency broadcaster’.

 

‘Catastrophic failure’ theories and disaster journalism: Evaluating media explanations of the Black Saturday bushfires

Alex Burns and Ben Eltham

In recent decades, academic researchers of natural disasters and emergency management have developed a canonical literature on ‘catastrophe failure’ theories such as disaster responses from US emergency management services (Drabek, 2010; Quarantelli, 1998) and the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant (Perrow, 1999). This article examines six influential theories from this field in an attempt to explore why Victoria’s disaster and emergency management response systems failed during Australia’s Black Saturday bushfires. How well, if at all, are these theories understood by journalists, disaster and emergency management planners, and policy-makers? In examining the Country Fire Authority’s response to the fires, as well as the media’s reportage of them, we use the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires as a theory-testing case study of failures in emergency management, preparation and planning. We conclude that journalists can learn important lessons from academics’ specialist knowledge about disaster and emergency management responses.

 

Communicating catastrophe: Blame, Black Saturday and newspaper constructions of bushfire risk

Jason Bainbridge and Chris Galloway

In the crucible of a major bushfire crisis, such as Victoria’s devastating 2009 Black Saturday fires, media not only function as sources of information but also help to construct events through discourses that include disaster and blame. While local radio is often the ‘go to’ source for bushfire information, it is in newspapers that these discourses play out most extensively. In this article, we use Black Saturday as a case study, focusing on the newspaper reportage in the week immediately following (8–13 February) to explore how newspapers function as ‘interpretive communities’ for a public trying to make sense of a complex cauldron of risks.

 

‘Breakfast is now tea, toast and tissues’: Affect and the media coverage of bushfires

Susan Yell

Print and electronic media coverage of disasters raises a multitude of issues about the media’s role during and after a crisis. This article focuses on a specific issue: the affective dimension of news media coverage immediately following a crisis. The selection and presentation of bushfire stories not only disseminates information but elicits emotion from audiences. I use textual and visual analysis of The Age newspaper’s coverage of the 2009 Victorian bushfires to examine the discursive structuring of affect. Comparisons are made with coverage of earlier bushfire disasters (the 1983 Ash Wednesday fires and the 1939 Black Friday fires) in order to investigate changes in the visual and verbal discourses of bushfire reporting. The article demonstrates that there is an intensification of affect in contemporary media coverage that is not present in the coverage of previous bushfires, and that this has implications for the role of the emotions in public life and for our conception of the public sphere.

 

Local news representations of women in Hurricane Katrina

Candace Calloway

This mixed-method study examines the local news coverage of Hurricane Katrina, a natural disaster that hit the Gulf Coast region of the United States in 2005, with respect to the experiences of one vulnerable group: poor African-American women. The purpose of this investigation was to discover how the mainstream and black newspapers along the Gulf Coast covered the personal, social, economic and political issues that one representative sample of a predominately poor and marginalised African-American female population living along that coast said concerned them most during and after the Katrina storm. First, a textual analysis of 38 oral testimonies from a representative group of women, posted on two popular internet websites, was performed in order to identify the central concerns they held and problems they faced during and following the storm. Next, those concerns were compared with the coverage of three local Gulf Coast newspapers, including a black press publication. While the content analysis found a low representation of women throughout each paper, the black press publication had the highest percentage of quotes on topics that concerned African-American women.

 

Social media and public information management: The September 2009 tsunami threat to New Zealand

Gary Mersham

Social media are often the first point of reference for emergency management information for many people, including the traditional media. As social media and online community networks produce early event awareness, and ongoing information and guidance, they can create an asynchronous disjunction with information provided by official Emergency Management (EM) channels. This article explores how social media and other information communication technologies act as ‘back channels’ of communication, assaying, analysing and commenting upon official emergency management messages as they are disseminated. The research shows how official messaging in the early stages of a national (tsunami) warning is characterised by an ‘information and guidance lag’ period created by the institutionalised requirement of scientific assessment and validation in accordance with organisational protocols in the inherently uncertain business of predicting the path and impact of a tsunami. The research suggests that, despite concern by officials about the legitimacy of information shared through social media, such technologies are gaining prominence in the disaster arena. The methodology uses an analysis of social media conversations and posts, official documents reviewing the tsunami threat and its aftermath, and academic publications. This research will interest academics and EM practitioners who are concerned with improving Public Information Management (PIM).

 

Popular knowledge and performances of the self in distributed networks: Social media after Black Saturday

Alison Horbury and Peter Hughes

Following the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria in 2009, a convenience sample of data from a variety of social network services (SNS) was assembled to investigate how people were using social media to understand and respond to the events. Two broad trends have so far emerged: social media were used to construct vernacular, as opposed to ‘expert’, knowledges of the events; and SNS were sites of performance of self as caring, empathetic and ethical. Any emergency media communication strategy seeking to mobilise SNS would do well to understand the place of SNS in popular constructions of catastrophic events.

 

Reviews in this issue

Edited by Susan Bye

Baer, Hester, Dismantling the Dream Factory

Braester, Yomi, Painting the City Red: Chinese Cinema and the Urban Contract

Burn, Andrew, Making New Media: Creative Production and Digital Literacies

DiMaggio, Anthony, When Media Goes to War: Hegemonic Discourse, Public Opinion, and the Limits of Dissent

Dwyer, Tim, Media Convergence

Fitzgerald, Richard, and Housley, William (eds), Media, Policy and Interaction

Geraghty, Lincoln, American Science Fiction Film and Television

Graber, Christoph Beat and Burri-Nenova, Mira (eds), Governance of Digital Game Environments and Cultural Diversity: Transdisciplinary Enquiries

Green, Lelia, The Internet: An Introduction to New Media

Green, Nicola and Haddon, Leslie, Mobile Communications: An Introduction to New Media

Hackley, Chris, Advertising & Promotion: An Integrated Marketing Communications Approach (2nd ed.)

Howley, Keith (ed.), Understanding Community Media

Lavery, David (ed.), The Essential Cult TV Reader

Louw, P. Eric, The Media and Political Process (2nd ed.)

Meek, Allen, Trauma and Media: Theories, Histories and Images

Milner, Andrew (ed.), Tenses of Imagination: Raymond Williams on Science Fiction, Utopia and Dystopia

Mollison, Martha, Producing Videos: A Complete Guide (3rd ed.)

Monahan, Brian A., The Shock of the News: Media Coverage and the Making of 9/11

Murray, Susan and Ouellette, Laurie (eds), Reality TV: Remaking Television Culture (2nd ed.)

North, Louise, The Gendered Newsroom: How Journalists Experience the Changing World of Media

Rane, Halim, Ewart, Jacqui and Abdalla, Mohamad (eds), Islam and the Australian News Media

Staiger, Janet and Hake, Sabine (eds), Convergence Media History

 

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