The Business of Anger

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A perennial tension in journalism arises from balancing the professional requirement to accurately inform the public and the commercial one to actively engage them.

The destruction of media business models, where classified advertising subsidised across a Chinese wall the quality journalism that attracted the eyeballs, has gradually swung that balance from the professional to the commercial imperatives. Continue reading

The Mates’ Media

Ask any New Zealander living in Australia, and you’ll hear how we learn to shrug off  lame  jokes about “fush’n’chups” and sheep bothering. What we rarely point out  in return is that Australians, for all their relative wealth, have  an unevolved appreciation of women in power.

This blogger spent a week in his native NZ the week before last, attending a funeral of a loved aunt who had a family of seven daughters and two sons. Naturally, it was  a women-dominated event and one in which strong female voices could be heard without their asking for permission to speak. That’s characteristic of NZ, the first country in the world to give women the vote.
So it was a shock to return to Australia and a series of events, all of which suggested this country is in a process of devolution in gender politics: A menu prepared for a fund-raising dinner for the conservative opposition that featured crude and juvenile references to the female Prime Minister’s body parts, a shock jock who questioned the PM to her face about the sexuality of her life partner and a chorus of apologists – male and female – who sought to normalise this trashy, lowbrow, ratings-chasing outrage-mongering.
Whatever the merits of Julia Gillard’s political effectiveness as prime minister, it is now blatantly obvious that a large chunk of the electorate – egged on by a overtly  sexist media – cannot or will not deal with a woman in power. These mostly old men, trading off their reputation as ‘authority’ figures, channel the most vicious and sexist prejudice for ratings. The vile Alan Jones is the worst of them, but there are an army of jowled grumps behind him saying something similar.
Why do Australians’ put up with this trash? The short answer is they don’t. The media, as Wendy Bacon has recently revealed in her series on women in the media,  is still controlled by men. Not only that, but opinion pieces and political commentary are overwhelmingly by men.
The culture of newsrooms in Australia is male denominated. It always has been. And while other industries, such as financial services and health and retail and banking are starting to promote women like
Gail Kelly at Westpac or Sally Macdonald at Oroton, the media is still overwhelmingly a mates’ club.
None of this should be party political. That it has become so says a lot about the nature of politics in this country, which is clearly hellbent on importing the manufactured and idiotic culture wars that have paralysed the  American political landscape. The result is that what is decent and human is decried as “politically correct” by agents of power who want to pretend their power does not exist at all.
So under the guise of ‘freedom’, powerful voices seek to belittle or suppress the voices of those who traditionally are under-represented   in our media – those from other cultures, the disabled, the gay and lesbian, the agnostics, the adherents of faiths other than Christian, and, the biggest group of all – women. The disgusting  treatment of our first woman prime minister is just the latest manifestation of that.
It’s time all of us -women AND men – to put an end to it by demanding of those who hold power in the media and the advertisers who fund them that we will no longer accept as “OK” language that demeans anyone because of their gender, race, sexuality or faith.
That’s the way it’s going to be, whether you like it or not, MATE.

Who Protects Us From Stupid?

It was a bit of fun that flouted the rules, says Jonathon Holmes. The outrage is another example of nanny statism by meddling lefties, says Tim Blair. Yes, yes.  But has anyone considered that the now infamous hoax call to Kate Middleton merely confirmed (yet again)  the utter stupidity of our media and the people who mindlessly consume it?

Clearly, there has always been a substantial commercial market for juvenile stunts at the expense of others. And when those stunts are directed at the high-flown and privileged, it’s hard to argue they are any more than harmless fun. What green-blooded republican Australian doesn’t get a kick from poking fun at an anachronistic class structure built on the notion that some flesh and blood individuals walk on a different planet to the rest of us? Continue reading

Talking Back to the Wireless

A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, people would sit in their lounge-rooms listening to the news on the wireless. The rounded and reassuring tones of a voice-of-god announcer would interpret for eager audiences the messy events of the world in neat packages.

The yearning for that distant-yet-familiar authority figure/’expert’ lives on today in the aging audience for shockjocks like Alan Jones. This is a market that appears to want strong opinions – preferably ones that reinforce their own fears and prejudices. Continue reading

Old Angry Men

Call it the Grumpy Old Man business model. At a time when our busted mainstream media are axing the jobs of hundreds of hard-working journalists, the market for menopausal male misogynists in print and broadcasting remains stronger than ever. Why?

With a nod to our new ideological overlords of the IPA, it seems the market has spoken. What Australia wants from its media is not The Truth, but something that the archetypal 50-something Dad – full of three James Boags and two Pinot Noirs at the family barbecue – declares to be the reality. Continue reading

The Elephant Men

 “The world is a business, Mr. Beale; it has been since man crawled out of the slime. Our children will live, Mr. Beale, to see that perfect world in which there’s no war or famine, oppression or brutality – one vast and ecumenical holding company, for whom all men will work to serve a common profit, in which all men will hold a share of stock – all necessities provided, all anxieties tranquilized, all boredom amused. And I have chosen you, Mr. Beale, to preach this evangel.”

That pivotal scene from Paddy Chayefsky’s prescient 1976 media satire Network sprung to mind when lowbrow radio clown Kyle Sandilands revved up the outrage machine again this week and was rewarded with buckets worth of free publicity for his troubles.
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The Outrage Business

As in drama, conflict drives the news business. The more black and white the conflict is portrayed as, the greater the passion the issue raises, the greater its confected ‘news’ value. Once a savvy media organisation works out what gets people worked up, it’s a fair bet it will go out of its way to construct narratives around those very issues. Continue reading

Hitting Them Where it Hurts

The previous post Radio Ga Ga looked at the ever deteriorating standards in Australian talkback radio – including inciting racial hate and prejuidice, cash for comment, distortion, lies, breaches of the rules of contempt and a general absence of any respect for the ethics of journalism.

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Radio Ga Ga

As people marvel at the immediacy of news via the internet, it is easy to overlook the fact that old fashioned steam radio has been doing this for 70 years or more. The words come out of the announcer’s mouth and they are worming into listeners’ ears in real time. And therein lie the potential problems.
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Instant Controversy

Anyone notice how the media dubbed the proposed flood levy the “controversial” flood levy almost immediately as it was announced? Given a controversial issue is normally defined as a public matter in which there are strongly entrenched opposing opinions, the instant nature of this controversy raises suspicion.

A clue was given in in the AFR this weekend, where Geoff  Kitney quoted a senior government minister as saying the initial “partisan noise” over the levy did not reflect true public opinion. Kitney noted a surprisingly hostile initial reaction, as measured by calls to talkback radio and “conversation on the internet”. Continue reading