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Monday, May 23, 2022

JOURNEY INTO DARKNESS: An Antithesis between Australian media and culture – Part Three of Three

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If the issue of visibility is a critical factor in racial segregation as Byrne suggests, then, I suggest, by extension Australian television platforms are an example of an overwhelming Anglo Celtic Australian voice.

A contemporary argument on the stagnation of the Australian imaginary is demonstrated by Peta Stephenson (2003) in her thesis, Beyond Black and White: Aborigines, Asian-Australians and the national imaginary. Stephenson analyses; “the interconnectedness of Indigenous and Asian-Australian identities by examining why white Australians have historically kept these communities separate, and why such relations have been largely forgotten from white Australian historiography. […] Her thesis insists upon the socially constructed and historically produced nature of white Australianness.”

My analysis revealed that from approx. seventeen Free-to-Air television channels and approx. one hundred and thirty-four television channels managed by Foxtel, only three SBS television channels broadcast a true representation of the twenty-first century Australian identity.

The images of the ‘nation’ being broadcast throughout Australia on the majority of our television channels both Free-to-Air and Foxtel, I suggest, are conceptualised on the same imaginary that formed society when the British colonised Australia. In defining “National Imaginary/Conciousness” Stephenson writes, “the Australian nation cannot be defined so much by what it is, but by what people believe it to be.

Thus ‘Australianness’ is known intuitively and unquestionably; it is a matter of attitude, not of fact (Connor 37). It is important to stress the largely psychological bond that gives Australians a sense of national [sameness], but the power and primacy of national loyalties and attachments should not be under estimated.” In addition, I say, our national imaginary broadcast on television is built on the ideals of American and British broadcasters not on the diverse voices of Australia.

In 2011, [time of writing this essay] we only have one television station that represents a true aesthetic of the Australian national identity that being Special Broadcasting Services (SBS), which represents a holistic Australian voice. I suggest it should be renamed “Australian Broadcasting Service”. The SBS mission statement reads: “SBS was founded on the belief that all Australians, regardless of geography, age, cultural background or language skills should have access to high quality, independent, culturally-relevant Australian media.” [Now in 2016, SBS too has fallen victim to too many cooking shows and not enough exploration of Australian cultural identity]

The decline of Australian television cannot be blamed on the audience turning to the internet and new media for information. It is the fact that television clings to a message that does not exist in its representation of the Australian identity.

Australian audiences are fed on the plethora of American sitcoms or the avalanche of English styled cooking shows and Reality TV franchises. Australians are so much more than beach babes and a very nice tourist destination. We have a wealth of images and voices that have not been explored by our media organizations. Why are television programs clinging by their fingernails to regurgitated representations of the Anglo Celtic Australian imaginary?

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) seems to have a “re-colonisation” agenda in its imaginary of Australia [in 2011]. Where the ABC’s majority voice was Anglo Celtic Australian some have been replaced by Anglo voices. [In 2016 I have observed that both ABC radio and television shows like Q and A, reference some News Limited platforms] In the 1970s Kamahl had his own television series on the ABC.

Why has the ABC, Australia’s public broadcaster, insisted on not representing cultural diversity in Australia? Stephenson argues that “The concept of nationhood distinguishes insiders from outsiders; it is predicated on a hierarchy of national belonging where some and not ‘Others’ are granted membership in the ‘imagined community’. The idea of the Australian national imaginary or consciousness is not so much an investigation or fabrication, but a reconstruction and reinterpretation of the dominant group’s stories and narratives.” How many times can the ABC re-play 1980s sitcoms and murder mysteries from the United Kingdom?

Quentin Dempster in his essay “The Slow Destruction of the ABC” in Do Not Disturb: Is the Media Failing Australia? (2005) questions the culture of the ABC’s management directives for 2003 – 2007. He suggests that “innovative content” was not mentioned only “competitive programming”. He states, “this is a business plan. It is not a cultural plan for creative diversity, which might promulgate original ideas or point out new paths to be pursued.”

Dempster states that at the time of writing in June 2005, “the ABC has become an imitator of commercial tactics and scheduling […] And, as a consequence, those concerned about the ABC’s decline into a monoculture in radio and television feel despair about the gulf between what the ABC now is and what it could mean for Australian culture, politics, education, arts, comedy, documentary, music, drama and journalism.”

Dempster’s comment suggests a disintegration of cultural diversity in Australian media. Stephenson states, “the term ‘white national imaginary’ refers to a broadly held conviction concerning Australia’s singular origin and destiny. White Australian narratives and imaginings of nation attempt to establish continuity with an assumed past, which necessitates imposing an artificial and particular version of Australian nationhood upon a diverse landscape and population (White viii).

I argue that the ABC, like Constable Petersen in Journey Out of Darkness, has lost all sight and knowledge of the Australian landscape and its people. Instead of playing ‘second fiddle’ to the commercial channels, the ABC as the Australian public broadcaster should be creating diverse voices with “innovative content” as Quentin Dempster suggested in 2005.

When I returned to Darwin after traveling around the Kakadu, I made a new friend Dave. Dave was an American born Australian who, a few years earlier, had been conscripted to go to Vietnam. He said he had only been in Vietnam for a few months, enlisted to help with bringing the wounded home.

Dave was in Darwin working as a tour guide. He was saving his money to return to Vietnam. His elder brother had not come home to Australia from fighting in the conflict. But this was 1986 surely his brother must be dead? Dave didn’t care what state his brother was in he was going back to Vietnam to bring his brother home.

Dave invited me to go to see Crocodile Dundee with him. The film had been showing in Darwin for a couple of months. No, I did not want to see anything Paul Hogan was in. All the Australian men that I knew in Sydney, who had seen the film, started acting like “Crocodile Dundee” and telling that stupid knife joke, you know the only joke in the movie, over and over and over. I felt like I’d already seen it and anyway, I had seen and traveled in the real thing, Kakadu. But Dave insisted, so I caved in and went to see it.

Kakadu National Park if you haven’t seen it is the most beautiful place on earth. The flood plains depicted in Crocodile Dundee did not come close to the magical beauty of the real landscape. I have only seen this magic translated to the screen in one film Gulpilil – One Red Blood by Darlene Johnson

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