Australia, Broadcasting and Convergence

ImageThere was a odd feeling in the air at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in March and April of 2013. During my internship, many of the employees felt uneasy about their futures at this government-funded organization. If you can believe it (you should), many of these employees were older. “Theengs ah cheingin’ ‘round heeyah. Eet’s a young mahn’s gaim neow, ‘mite,’” (translation: things are changing around here. It’s a young man’s [or woman’s] game now, ‘male companion to share beer and sports with and/or sexual partner,’). Not sure of which translation of ‘mate’ this older man meant, I decided to talk to some other people about it.

When I spoke to one of my advisors at the ABC, the ludicrously-named but incredibly-awesome Jorge Redhead, he told me, in hushed tones, how convergence is causing quite a ruckus at the corporation. Depending on what I was doing each week at the ABC, I would either be working with very young people, or older people. It was bizarre. Never a mix of the two. I’m sure some of the people I worked with have sinced been gently let go after 30+ years at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Mr. Redhead, who worked his way up the ladder at the ABC by starting out as one of the two ‘Bananas in Pajamas,’ and was probably in his early forties (the younger end of the ABC spectrum) was explaining to me that the Internet was to blame for the total transformation of the ABC, which I’m sure none of you are surprised by.

While I was interning there, they were in the middle of working on providing the Australian public with access to all ABC content at their fingertips– through their phones, tablets, etc. They needed to bring in young people with a sense of this technology to make their apps run smoothly and efficiently. With phones becoming big enough to be considered tablets, and with small enough tablets to be phones, and with seemingly every screen having the ability to now be wifi-connected, the success of the work these young people are doing will determine how successful the ABC’s internet presence will be.

On top of all that, the way the programs were recorded was also changing– what used to require a man at every camera now needed a director that not only operated the cameras via remote in the control room, but also was able to multitask to the point where only one person was in the control room of a nationally-broadcasted news show. The people doing these jobs were quite young– not much older than any of us seniors. The level of automation has risen significantly, and I was seeing a mix of highly automated television production and very hands-on production that required a larger number of government workers. It was fascinating to see the material consequences of convergence on these employees. It made me sad, but it gave me hope for finding a career in this field, for sure. I was wondering when I’d be able to share this story for class, and thanks to James Turner and Niki Strange’s Television as Digital Media, I was finally able to.


The Presidential election, brought to you by YouTube.

As we’ve been discussing in Intro to New Media, we live in a participatory culture– one that is not as passive as the culture that used to plop down on the couch, in a potato-like fashion, and watch television for a couple of hours. Digitality has changed that in so many ways. “William Gibson went so far as to proclaim the death of the audience: ‘Today’s audience isn’t listening at all. It’s participating,’” (Burgess, 315). A show I went to a taping of called Q and A is one example of how viewership is so participatory nowadays. People live-tweet the program, often times asking questions to the panel. Tweets from viewers scroll across the bottom of the screen throughout the entire live taping. And, who can forget the presence of Twitter and YouTube in the presidential elections of 2008 and 2012? The utilization of such new media seemed to me to be a gimmick way back then, but this shift to a participatory culture is clearly here to stay.


Images found here and here.

Work Cited

Bennett, James, and Niki Strange. Television as Digital Media. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2011. Web.

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