Sunday, September 26, 2010

Same old faces

This morning, unusually, I missed Meet the Press, Laurie Oakes interview on Sunday Today and most of Insiders. I didn’t really care. Yes I would have like to have caught Gillard’s interview on Meet the Press, but when I had run my eye over the line-up from Oakes’ interview and the interviewee on Insiders I let out a big sigh. Same old faces again.

When you watch a lot of politics programs, you quickly realise we’re a small parliament, with an even smaller number of MP and Senators who get put up by their parties to talk. It means we end up hearing the same things said again on different channels but with little knew insight gained. The ABC’s QANDA is a show I rarely miss, and yet geez it gets boring when you see the same MP’s rocking up. This year on QANDA Tanya Plibersek and Malcolm Turnbull have each been on four time, Christopher Pyne, Tony Burke, Sarah Hansen-Young and Christine Milne all have sat at the big desk three times.

There are of course some that are onl yon once or twice - but when the program features just one of the often seen polticians (such as the above six), it makes the show feel like it is a repeat – which means every other week has that feel.

The Lateline Friday night wrap up is even worse. It’s a why bother watch proposition. Every single position on every single issue is known in advance; nothing new is said; no debate ever achieves insight or a shift in either side’s position. If you feel like you’ve seen Michael Kroger and Paul Howes a bit, you’re right – 5 times this year they’ve appeared going head to head on Friday night on Lateline. Pick any issue – climate change, immigration, tax, leadership, whatever – I could probably write the script for what they will say (ok, I wouldn’t have been able to predict Kroger saying “I have you can’t stop the leaks how can you stop the boats” but maybe if I was drunk and had hit myself in the head with a baseball bat I could get close to coming up with something almost as stupid).

The same goes for Scott Morrison and Tony Burke who have partaken of the Friday night recapfest on Lateline 5 and 4 times respectively this year – and that’s not including the times they have each been interviewed on other nights by either Tony Jones or Leigh Sales.

Blogger “Mr Denmore” picked this point up last week in an excellent blog post.

The problem with the familiar faces is it is just a case of the parties ensuring those MPs they want to get the limelight do. So we saw Christopher Pyne who was looking at a very marginal seat being pushed on to everything on TV this year (not to mention his copious radio spots).

It won’t change. I can’t ever see backbenchers getting much of a go – after all one must learn one’s place in the food chain. But really, what’s the point of it all? Did we learn anything from hearing Pyne go against Albanese today on Laurie Oakes? Sure I guess they both hold positions that are quite important at the moment given the changes to parliamentary procedures being proposed, but they basically said everything they’ve said in every interview they've had in the last couple of days.

The point is that if you really want to be a political junkie you don’t actually need to watch much before you realise you’ve heard it all before – politicians on message “debating” with another politician on message.

Do we need politicans on QANDA if they never go off mesaage? Are two politicans really the best people to sum up the week's events on Lateline? And do we have to ever see Paul Howes' and Michael Kroger's mugs ever again on our screens?

I enjoy Lateline when they get George Megolagenis and Laura Tingle on to discuss the events (twice I think this year), because at least I know they won't just automatically take the opposite view that occurs with the Morrison-Burke or Kroger-Howes recaps.

Yes our poltical system is adversarial in nature, but geez, does our media have to be so boring about it by getting two people who will argue white is black if it will differentiate them from the other? Why not get on some others - one of the Chaser guys perhaps - tell them they don't even need to be funny, in fact don't be - just be insightful (actually, no be funny - be like John Stewart!). Rhys Muldoon follows politics pretty intensely - and he is obviously comfortable on camera - give him a gig. Surely LL isn't concerned about ratings, so why not get some poeple who are not well known to have a say - just make sure they know what they are talking about and are not just going to toe the party line. Getting for example Janet Albrechsten and David Marr on QANDA is nice if you like a fight, but not if you are after insight (and after all we have heard the fight before - many, many times).

How about a QANDA rule - 2 times a year maximum?

And I don't mean to bag Lateline - which I think is probably the best daily current affairs progam on TV - I mearly suggest they think outside the box a bit. Politcians get their chance to say their bit everyday - why give them another chance to resay it in the guise of a recap?

I realise it must be hard to get poeple to come on a Friday night, but how great would it be to see the lineup and think "Now that is worth watching; I might hear something new."

That is my only advice to QANDA and LL - if you know what the participants are going to say before they even get to the studio, then don't invite them to come in and say it.

Insiders Sunday MTP QANDA Friday LL Total
Christopher Pyne 2 1 3 3 3 12
Julie Gillard 3 4 2 1 10
Scott Morrison 1 1 2 5 9
Tony Abbott 4 2 1 2 9
Tony Burke 1 3 4 8
Wayne Swan 3 2 3 8
Paul Howes 1 1 5 7
Julie Bishop 2 1 2 2 7
Chris Bowen 1 2 3 6
Craig Emerson 1 3 2 6
Tanya Plibersek 1 4 1 6
Lindsay Tanner 1 1 2 1 1 6
Joe Hockey 2 1 1 2 6
Nicola Roxon 2 2 2 6
Michael Kroger 5 5
Anthony Albanese 2 2 1 5
George Brandis 1 3 4
Andrew Robb 1 1 1 1 4
Malcolm Turnbull 4 4
Kevin Rudd 1 1 1 1 4
Bob Brown 1 3 4
Christine Milne 3 3
Sarah Hansen Young 3 3
Barnaby Joyce 1 2 3
Bill Shorten 1 2 3
Penny Wong 1 2 3
Simon Crean 1 2 3
Stephen Smith 1 1 1 3
Maxine McKew 1 1 2
Nick Minchin 2 2
Peter Dutton 2 2
Peter Garrett 2 2
Sophie Mirrabella 2 2
Stephen Conroy 1 1 2
Warren Truss 1 1 2
Martin Fergusen 1 1 2
Greg Hunt 1 1
Brendan O'Connor 1 1
Chris Evans 1 1
Corey Bernardi 1 1
Helen Coonan 1 1
Kelly O'Dwyer 1 1
Scott Ludlam 1 1
Eric Abetz 1 1
Jenny Macklin 1 1
Mike Kelly 1 1


Ashraf Ghebranious said...

Do not be disenchanted friend. Sometimes a small change needs a long time to take effect. There are two opposing forces to this change. Three if you count the viewers. It is not just those who are selling the messages of their parties, but the media itself.

Change is a bitter pill to swallow, and it is comforting to know that eventually the change will happen albeit many years after those who championed the cause are long in their graves.

The legacy of Gandhi for example lives long after his death, and some may even say it has been corrupted and twisted by people who see an opportunity to make something out of it for their own benefit. But it still exists.

Time heals all wounds. Even the ones we think have festered. A boulder needs but the smallest push to create an avalanche even though the trees it careens into attempt to stop it in its tracks.

Change has come. Acceptance of this change will take longer.


Anonymous said...

It is all sooo predictable it isn't worth watching at all. Better to catch up on some worthwhile reading where the characters portrayed are so much more real than any of the above.
Currently catching up with someone else I have a love/hate relationship with, Paul Theroux whose book "Ghost Train to the Eastern Star" revisits the ground covered in a much earlier book "The Great Railway Bazaar". He is a so-so writer but it's the kind of book you can read sitting out in the sun not needing to think too much. The politics that does rate a mention in the book seems so far away and a third of the way through the book doesn't look as if it will figure too much. There is my day so far and it's only 3.00p.m. Lots more sun yet.

ernmalleyscat said...

I agree with your appreciation of George Megalogenis and Laura Tingle on Lateline.

Also good was when The Drum on ABC24 had Stephen Loosely and Arthur Sinodinos (who I can't stand in print, but comes over well talking) in the lead up to the election. Lots of insider (real) knowledge and willingness to concede good points, and proper analysis rather than just party lines or what they thought 'the public' thought.

I still think the best example of this sort of thing is The Lehrer Newshour segment with Mark Shields and David Brooks.

Greg Jericho said...

Oh ernmalleyscat, The Lehrer Newshour. So much goodness.

Bill said...

The Insiders formula seems to be Liberal hack, Labor hack and a chick each week. The verbal bitch-slapping can be amusing sometimes but I don't see how mostly office-bound commentators who might once have been on a parliamentary staff 20 years ago really qualify as 'insiders.'

As for QandA, I think Tony and the gang might be enjoying their cult following just a little too much. Tony asked Craig Reucassell if the Chaser might have jumped the shark, but I think he should perhaps ask the question of his own show when we had the cute one from the Chaser asking the most insightful questions and Mr Lateline doing the dick jokes.

It's not just the major parties either - Sarah Hanson-Young's precocious high-school idealism is really starting to get old. Even QandA's twitter stream is biased towards previous guests and others in the business. It was interesting to see Latika Bourke call them out on that the other week.

It's all what they call "great television," the same way that a dog having a piss is great television.

It would be a great improvement if they got some people with knowledge and not just opinions.

Ram said...

What has to happen is the media needs to feel they are in some way empowered to present stories from outside the standard 'paradigm'. Media in Australia is emasculated. When politicians (and from my own perspective particularly right leaning ones) make pronouncements - the media just goes along. See the commentators saying Tony got the biggest swing for an opposition leader - untrue, see commentators saying he won the largest number of seats - untrue - so why will the media not simply call it like it is?

When politicians say Australia should not lead on climate change - knowing full well that Europe through the ETS trades $110 BILLION a year and the rest of the industry has now become $526 BILLION worth - why don't the journalists ask - how can you substantiate that?

It seems to be all about maintaining access for the journos - asking difficult questions will cut off acess and that's just not acceptable.

Amos Keeto said...

"Now that is worth watching; I might hear something new."

Something new?... unscripted...not ON MESSAGE?

Heaven forfend

Dong said...

Actually the one political statement I hang out for each week is Clarke and Dawe. They often show up Abbot and it is pure joy to see. Watch last Thursday's clip and see what I mean. I also have abandoned Qanda and only pick my segments online for what I watch of lateline and 7.30 report. There are some faces and voices I can no longer regard with impartiality (C.Pyne for intance) and need to avoid for the sake of my blood pressure. Another reason why your blog is so helpful, it gives me leads to follow and warnings of what to avoid.
Thanks for all your analysis Grog, long may it last.

Paul Cunningham said...

I managed to attend QandA as an audience member when it was in Brisbane recently. That revived my interest for a while but lately I find myself saying "boring" while I'm watching. The twitter stream helps distract me during those bits. However, I think its the quality of the politicians that make it so lame - the current bunch are pigmies. (I think that's what Bill is trying to say)

As far as overall journalism is concerned, RAM is close to the mark. I think its about access too but sometimes it seems like just plain laziness.

I agree with ernmalleyscat aggreeing with your appreciation of George Megalogenis and Laura Tingle. Ive been relying on the latter for many years now as a reliable opinion. I've always thought she was John Tingle's daughther without any real knowledge other than she has the same surname. It would be nice if she was because he was such an unbalanced right-winger when he was broadcasting and only saw public policy in its relationship to guns.