Saturday, October 11, 2008

"Media" "Watch"

For over a decade and a half, the ABC's Media Watch has been lumbering and creaking its way through our television screens like a great creaking and lumbering thing. Sometimes Media Watch has something important to talk about. Sometimes it just goes to air anyway.

It's purpose as a show is to find purpose in the slip ups and mistakes of journalists on other shows and networks. Often the mistakes these journalists make have no purpose, which makes MW doubly purposeless when it tries to catch them out. To provide balance MW occasionally watches itself, but the resulting 'Media Watch' watch is a largely perfunctory exercise - not a judgment on itself, but an excuse to continue to be judgmental towards others.

I was listening to this item earlier in the week: it really was pretty silly. It identified a scandal that turned out not to be scandalous, in which commercial television stations, commercial radio stations, and commercial newspapers were caught out being commercial. Basically, American Express was launching a new credit card and they got a pretty face (Megan Gale) to promote it. It got minor coverage in the stations and newspapers, which appeared in synch with a couple of commercials and competitions, an utterly banal situation that occurs on the stations and in the newspapers every day. MW somehow managed to portray it as 'this sea of nauseating hypocrisy and back-scratching'(!). If you're in charge of the MW investigation unit, you see, it's important to position your show as the only show able to distinguish between commercials, press releases, and reality - as opposed to all those passive, mindless viewers out there who actually watch commercial television stations.

The analysis* that MW presented was full of its characteristic stylistic tics - selective quotations from articles and radio and television studio presenters, correspondence with the journalists involved, selective quotations from such correspondence, read by sarcastic voice-actors, and even more sarcastic editorial commentary from the Media Watch team. You can just imagine how Jonathan Holmes would read this:

What an extraordinary thing! A credit card! With reward points! You can use it anywhere!

If Holmes could actually pronounce exclamation marks, he would.

Also of minor noteworthiness in this MW item was the way the show used voice actors to sarcastically quote the brand names of companies. I'm not sure why they thought this gimmick would work, or how on earth the actors managed to bring conviction to this particular job.

Obviously people could get suckered into getting this credit card on the strength of a dubious press release and pretty face. But would these people be watching MW at all? Why bother watching such a tired old show with worn out presenters using hackneyed techniques to sneer at commercial enemies?

Media Watch - it's not particularly important, interesting, or serious. But at least you can say it's there.

*'Analysis' - this is perhaps too strong a word for what Media Watch serves up these days.


TimT said...

Cranky rant of the day, guys! Sorry about that.

Maybe tomorrow, I'll do a post about bunnies!

forlorn said...

To be fair, "Media Watch" has really had the teeth taken out of it with this "anti-bias" business. In their zeal to avoid controversy, the media watchers must concentrate on inoffensive matters everyone can agree are silly (like using a credit card with an even more exorbitant rate of interest than usual to get David Jones vouchers). The new "Media Watch" did, however, point me in the direction of Helen Razer's "interview" with Steven Berkoff and, goodness, that was a gem!

Cranky is charming. Please be cranky about the bunnies.

TimT said...

I read about that Razer/Berkoff interview. What the hell was all that about? Did Berkoff swear at Razer's poodle, or something?

forlorn said...

Well, I suppose this is an example of what you're talking about, where MW edit their excerpts to the point of losing the context. It's worth listening to the whole thing (link to full audio at the bottom of this page), not least because you get a snippet of Razer's radio banter before she turns to the interview. Her idea of how one fills up air time really clarifies her lack of professionalism in the interview.

nursemyra said...

I'll have to turn my tv on tomorrow night to see what all the fuss is about. does MW still show on a monday evening?

TimT said...

I think they do, yes. You can also catch them online shortly after the event - I think transcripts of the entire show go up on a Tuesday.

Ann O'Dyne said...

MW has been no use at all since the good old days when Stuart Littlemore used to rip into the Illawarra Mercury every week.

Email: timhtrain - at -

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