Public broadcasters live in an unenviable world.They have to cover the widest spectrum of modern society’s values and conform to a battery of duty statements, charters and implicit and explicit assumptions in their day to day activities. These all jumble up because the managers in the media dont really have any interest in the less “sexy” aspects of broadcasting – they want to see more up front, headlining, current affairs, investigative journalism, headline sport and political adroit broadcasting that gives them entree into the higher echelons of the parliament and less of the “non sexy” aspects of broadcasting that limit the chances to “see and be seen”.Of course they would say that there is a part of their charter that supports energetically arts programming in all its forms.they say, “just look at what we broadcast, it may not be what we watch/listen to but we are very supportive of all arts forms”, knowing full well that these areas are the “soft underbelly” of the medium, which can be exploited at any time.
They always have been like this and their standard bearers are the “toecappers”.
When it comes to “toecapping” the first move is to quietly infiltrate the area of arts programming by marginalising it to non-specific rating areas of the broadacsting day (in radio, this is usually post breakast or late night or the weekends;in television, the weekends, particularly Sunday).This is followed up by the gradual drain of resources to the specific areas of interest so that the production standards are devalued by limiting staff and technical resources to the programme unit.If the programme is “rationally” financed then the move is to devalue the whole area of arts programming by further rationalisation. Specific interest broadcasters are in the firing line of rationalisation because they actually conform to the process but (paradoxically)still act against it.
And so, yesterday we saw the departure of Ramona Koval from Radio National accompanied by the ‘crococodile tears” of the A/Manager of the network, Michael Mason. Now, let me think, this is the Michael Mason who is brought into every network as part of ongoing rationalistaion programmes? Or is he just another active constiuent of the marginalisation process, because he is, after all, a “toecapper” – a simple foot soldier of the new economics of media management?
Well, who knows the minds of the Radio Directors and their “conformism”.After all, they still have a job and one of Australia’s creative thinkers hasn’t.