My Drum piece today is on how the film industry keeps making crap and treats consumers like crap and then wonders why box office revenue is falling… oh yeah “it’s the pirates”.
The piece has a few graphs (but of course), but I didn’t have space to put in are I think quite instructive, which are posted below.
By the way long time readers – yes, you three – will know this has been a bit of a hobby horse of mine. I am a bit of a nut for box office data because, well I love data and I love film, so it’s kind of a perfect match. It all started because when I wrote my PhD thesis on satires of Hollywood I wrote this one sentence:
Thus even the once examined total gross figure has been replaced by a short term figure (opening weekend); one that reflects more the ability of the studio’s marketing department than the film’s artistic quality, or popularity.
It sounded good, but I realised I needed to be able to prove it or I had to cut it (such is the life of a PhD student). And so I spent the next week gathering the box office data on every film that had opened in America since 1981, did a few statistical things, made a lot of graphs, and then wrote a footnote. One week’s work to prove one sentence and to produce one footnote. Such fun.
Anyhoo here are the graphs.
The first shows the number of films each year in America that reach number 1 at the box office:
The more films that reach this indicate more “blockbusters” and less time each film (including poor little Australian ones) to achieve success in the cinemas.
The other one is a comparison of the percentage of films released each year with an “R” rating (effectively like Australia's “M”) and also what percentage such films account for in Total Box Office:
Even up till the late 1990s R rated films accounted for half of all releases; now they’re down to 30 per cent. If you think there are less movies aimed towards adults, you are right.
The other thing of note is today in the Canberra Times, Markus Mannhein writes about new guidelines introduced by the Australian Public Service Commission for public servants and use of social media out of work. The new guidelines include provisions which Mannheim writes have been dubbed “The Jericho Amendments” (as one on Twitter has suggested, that sounds like the next John Grisham novel).Now firstly, this will be covered in my book on social media that I am currently writing (so thanks APSC for the need to write a new section) and so I will hold most of my thoughts for that (also I’ve thought about this for about an hour so it’s not fully developed).
The news guidelines do include some good advice about commenting anonymously online – advice in fact that I lived by when I wrote under a pseudonym.
But then they also contain these “principles”":
Making public comment in an unofficial capacity—general principles
When APS employees are making public comment in an unofficial capacity, it is not appropriate for them to make comment that is, or could be perceived to be:
- being made on behalf of their agency or the Government, rather than an expression of a personal view
- compromising the APS employee’s capacity to fulfil their duties in an unbiased manner. This applies particularly where comment is made about policies and programmes of the employee’s agency
- so harsh or extreme in its criticism of the Government, a member of parliament from another political party, or their respective policies, that it raises questions about the APS employee’s capacity to work professionally, efficiently or impartially. Such comment does not have to relate to the employee’s area of work
- so strong in its criticism of an agency’s administration that it could seriously disrupt the workplace. APS employees are encouraged instead to resolve concerns by informal discussion with a manager or by using internal dispute resolution mechanisms, including the APS whistleblowing scheme if appropriate
- a gratuitous personal attack that might reasonably be perceived to be connected with their employment
- unreasonable criticism of an agency’s clients and other stakeholders
- compromising public confidence in the agency or the APS.
The first point is fine; the second is OKish, but can be subject to a wide view – you are always going to be in trouble if you start commenting on policies that you are working on. I wrote a couple times about the insulation scheme which was being run in the Dept of Environment, of which Arts was within (but completely separate from) and I commented on the program’s media coverage and response by the opposition rather than the policy itself. As a rule though I steered clear of the Department.
The third point though is utterly stupid. It is written by someone who does not understand social media, and bizarrely has no concept of what public service work is all about. It is written like the public service is a company. My work in the public service rarely had anything to do with politics or policy which was controversial. I first worked for the Howard Government, and thought as a whole his government was terrible – but I liked the policy/programs on which I worked and did my best to ensure they were implemented or advocated. This is actually how it often is. You think things the Govt does as a whole are dopey but you like your own area. Even if you think your own area’s policy is dopey you do it, and you don’t comment publicly that you think it is dopey. Like most workers in Australia you just complain about it over coffee at morning tea.
But now we have “Such comment does not have to relate to the employee’s area of work”. Which potentially means every Government policy, and because Government policy covers much of life that will mean that as well – pokies, internet filtering, gay marriage, media regulation, climate change…
We also have “so harsh or extreme”.
What is “so harsh or extreme”? Who defines this? In my experience all this will do is encourage trolls on the net to go looking for public servants on Twitter and threaten their jobs if they make any political statements. It will also encourage lazy “journalists” who are seeking a bit of kudos from their bosses in any lame anti-social media fight they wish to wage to go hunting for public servants as well. The worst James Massola could come up with was me writing:
Greg Hunt "could write a PhD thesis on environmental political cowardice."
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott is "the master of spin" and, on the Rooty Hill leader's forum, "because it wasn't a debate Abbott was able to get away with an inordinate amount of bullshit".
Is that really harsh or extreme?
And as for writing about my own Dept again here’s the best Massola could find to damn me with:
"Garrett was demoted for no good reason" and that ". . . Garrett has been demoted, despite no-one in the media or the opposition actually being able to explain just exactly with any level of intelligence what he did wrong, he was deemed to have 'bungled'."
Not exactly policy specific – and also quite impartial because I was actually attacking the opposition and media for failing to show any intelligent reason why Garrett should be demoted and Rudd for demoting him!
But ahh such joys you can have debating such things – and if you are a public servant you are more likely to be debating them with your boss.
The guidelines won’t actually affect one bit how any public servant does their job; it will just mean people’s lives will be made hell for periods while the media or trolls (or both, as they can at times be indistinguishable) turn their attention on them. And then those public servants will probably create a new pseudonymous Twitter account and lock it.
The last four points are either so obvious or dumb as could only be written by a public servant. I’d like them to find one Tweet or blog post that could “seriously disrupt the workplace”. The only way that could happen that would not have previously been covered by the code of conduct is if media attention on a workplace occurred because of the third point. So in effect these guidelines will cause the disruption; not the social media comments.
The rest are points that are obvious from any reading of the APS code of conduct, but only serve to murky the waters for example “gratuitous attack connected with their employment”. Is that someone who works for Centrelink or the Dept of Agriculture tweeting that Gillard’s policy on asylum seekers shows her to be absolutely soulless? Or someone writing that her not being in favour of gay marriage is a cruel act that smacks of homophobia? Probably not, but with these guidelines I wouldn’t make a habit of such tweets because they may get the attention of someone who thinks it’s fun and games to start sending off emails to the Secretary of your Department in the hope of having you sacked. (And believe me, such people exist.)
The thing about the APSC is in that not once in entire time since I have gone through what pretty much everyone acknowledges was a first for a public servant in Australia have they contacted me to seek any input on social media policy. It nicely ironic that “the Jericho Amendments” had no input from this Jericho.
Want to know how pathetic the APSC is when it comes to social media – take a look at their Facebook page. They have no idea what social media is or how it operates.
The public service is constantly being encouraged to be less worried about risk in order to free up bureaucratic process and to embrace social media. These guidelines are contrary to that.
Dumb move APSC.
Not surprising, though.