Corby as Reality TV

The Schapelle Corby case is the ulimate in reality TV, according to Media Studies academic Dr Krishna Sen. Public interest in the case was boosted by the lack of alternative reality TV shows at the time, and the media's telling of the story has resembled its gameshow counterparts. The event has several 'episodes', whilst series one came to its climax with the verdict in late May, and series two is just now commencing as the appeal process commences. Keeping us all entertained in the meantime was Douglas Wood doing his best Houdini impersonation in a TV series of his own. It's a persuasive argument, and perhaps takes post-modernism to new heights (or perhaps depths) in the uncomfortable fusion between news and entertainment.

Dr Sen was the most lively and original speaker amongst a panel of three at an Asialink event today discussing depictions of Asia in Australia. The other two were Dr Tim Lindsey - who joked that he felt like a "Professor of Corby Studies" - and Rowan Callick - a Fin Review journalist who mentioned/let slip? that Fairfax was closing its Tokyo bureau.

If we accept, though, that the Corby case was a real-life drama, interpreted through the prism of TV drama, then how does that effect the participants. Sen put forward the painful suggestion that the judges may have been subconsciously influenced by the roles played by the other participants, and so assumed roles for themselves. Did the three judges feel the need to play a role, perhaps of hanging judges or anti-drug crusaders, not out of genuine sentiment, but out of a desire to not only play the part, but play the part well.

During the forum there was the usual - and well justified - hand-wringing over the ignorance toward Asia amongst Australians, and the lack of Asian Studies taking place in Australian schools and universities. This ignorance goes all the way to the top, and even those Australian journalists reporting on the region lack a proper understanding. Most prevalent is a language barrier, which means often Australian journalists fail dismally to capture the public mood in Asian countries.

Kind of ironic to see so few specialist Asian reporters working in the Australian media, whilst there are plenty of talented Australians working in the region for non-Australian media. Stan Grant covers Beijing for CNN, Eric Ellis works freelance, all whilst Australian media reporting on the area is pedestrian at best.


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