The Null Device

The drug of a (relaxed and comfortable) nation

Since coming to power just over 10 years ago, Australia's unapologetically right-wing government has been at war with the culture of the Australian national broadcaster, the ABC (which, being a not-for-profit, government-funded entity, tends to attract people with left-wing ideals). Periodic purges of leftists and threats to its funding have kept it mostly timid and less than eager to make trouble for the government or question its agenda, though this is a less than permanent solution. Now the government's Communications Minister has announced plans to change its culture more permanently by introducing advertising.

If this goes through, Australia may soon lack a non-commercial broadcasting network funded on ideals of public service, with everything being turned into a colossal shopping mall of easily digestible mental junk food designed to attract the broadest possible audience, without the risk of challenging anyone's beliefs or requiring them to think. Those who dislike crass, loud, intelligence-insulting ads and programming designed for the lowest common denominator will be out of luck, but then again, such attitudes are fundamentally un-Australian, and have no place in a relaxed and comfortable society.

(As if by coincidence, The Soul Jazz Tropicália CD arrived in the mail today; the booklet, which gives a detailed history of the Tropicália movement and its suppression by the Brazilian military dictatorship, mentions at one stage that immediately after the military coup in 1964, the dictatorship encouraged a "television-based society" to reinforce social control. Television, it seems, is an ideal tool for instilling conformity and passivity, with its passive nature and narcotic pull; after all, why go out and do things in the mundane everyday world if you can involve yourself in the plot of Friends or Lost? And more channels of TV don't seem to be much of an answer; as has been claimed recently, all that replacing a few channels everyone watches with hundreds of niche lifestyle channels does is hasten social atomisation and encourage a sort of nihilistic solipsism and further withdrawal from any sort of social discourse. In short, the effects of television are great if one wants a passive, docile population delegating the consent of the governed to technocrats, not so good if one wants a vigorous social discourse. Discuss.)

And in other news from Australia: the country's political climate may be moving further to the right, with the Christian Fundamentalist Family First party set to win the balance of power in South Australia, getting the preferences of Labor ahead of the Democrats. Family First are the charming people whose policies involve reinforcing social discrimination against homosexuals, stepping up the War On Drugs, and installing a Saudi-style national internet firewall to protect Australians from seeing immoral content online. Now it looks like they may be leaping over the Greens and what's left of the Democrats to become the party of the balance of power for the Howard era.

There are 4 comments on "The drug of a (relaxed and comfortable) nation":

Posted by: Michael S. Wed Mar 15 13:57:55 2006

Well yeah but the ads on the other government funded broadcaster have nothing to do with the Howard government.

Posted by: gjw Wed Mar 15 23:29:26 2006

The current shake-up of Australian television, including the old "advertising on the ABC" proposal, is so out of date it could never possibly work. Television and TV advertising is already taking a beating from the internet, trying to force a previously publically funded broadcaster to rely on advertising at a time like this would not only destroy its credibility, it would probably send it broke. Imagine how many people will have switched television for downloading shows by 2010.

As for Family First...well, I doubt they can predict upper house seats this early. We can only hope they don't make it in, and I did my bit voting for the Greens in both houses. It's interesting to note that the Rann government has a policy of abolishing the upper house anyway.

Posted by: gjw Wed Mar 15 23:34:29 2006

Oh, and I also retain hope that Family First will soon go the way of One Nation, once people work out what they're really all about. The media is certainly never cautious about calling them out as AOG-funded fundamentalists, and highlighting some serious fraud the Hillsong church as been accused of. However, they won't run out of money, with the Paradise AOG church in Adelaide alone raking in tens of thousands of dollars in tithings every sunday.

Posted by: acb Thu Mar 16 01:31:09 2006

Is the SA upper house proportional? If so, and assuming that voters follow how-to-vote cards (which, if the ballot papers are as complex as the Senate ones, they would), Labor's preferences to FF are cause for concern.

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