Allan Takes Aim Blog

Pally politics in the media

Posted on: 16 July 2009


TV has a plethora of programmes mostly devoted to politics. To name a few: Insiders: a mix of press discussion and interviews, Q&A, The 7.30 Report, Lateline, Foreign Correspondent, Insight, Dateline, Meet the Press, A Current Affair, Today and Today Tonight.

Both Q&A and Insight have studio audiences that supposedly represent the community. Q&A also has a panel of current and former politicians plus people who play significant roles in politics and a chairperson, Tony Jones, who asks the panel questions.

Insight differs slightly to Q&A in that the politicians and people of influence form part of the audience while Chairperson Jenny Brockie introduces the subject and asks all the questions. Jones and Brockie also share an annoying quality: a tendency to force their ideas on the panel and audiences.

What both programmes also have in common is that their guests are usually the same politicians and people of influence. Naturally, the participants like the publicity but whether or not the programmes make a significant contribution to informing the community is open to question.

And while for some people Q&A and Insight might create the impression of democracy in action, I have a different impression. It seems to me that if the panellists are either current or former parliamentarians and the others people whose decisions affect the community, the community should have a chance to question them, tell them what they think and also make suggestions.

Unfortunately neither programme’s format allows this. Often indeed, an interviewee’s answer raises more questions than it answers yet the interviewer never seems to ask them, something that many people often think deliberate.

As for Insiders and Meet the Press what one gets is the same group of journalists meeting each other and expressing their personal opinion about policies and politicians they have already written and argued about in their branch of the media. That apart, their opinions are usually politically biased.

This leads me to ask that instead of programmes being broadcast from Sydney that constantly use the same people, why not broadcast them from inland towns. Technology now makes that easy.

If such programmes were to be produced journalists from local newspapers could give their comments or is that channel executives are of a mindset that only journalists from major news papers who, every day read each other’s articles and argue with each other on subjects they think important, are the only people capable of good political analysis? At the same time why not have people who write letters to editors of local newspapers take part in these programmes?

If this happened not only would we see a refreshing change of ideas but viewers would also get political analysis more representative of communities and the nation than the analysis of pally political journalists.

For Canberra Community News, get The Chronicle: Published every Tuesday.

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