By Sarah Fallon
On Tuesday the 11th of August I visited the websites for the ABC television and radio shows Compass, Encounter and The Spirit of Things.
The ABC is a government funded corporation and is expected to deliver comprehensive and unbiased coverage of news and current affairs including religion.
Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer in their article, The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception, seem to view cultural outlets such as radio, television and film as informational puppets for large corporations, spewing repetitive, useless and corrupt information (1-2). I disagree.
Being a Government funded network, the ABC is supposed to be free from advertisers’ demands and giant oil companies pulling their strings, and it would seem that that is the case.
The ABC has remained rather impartial in terms of the Governments biases but has inevitably picked up a few of their own. The three programs mentioned above focus heavily on religious content and offer a wide range of topics. Compass’s three most recent shows have centred on Eastern religions; Sikhs in Sikhing Woopi, Islam in The Satanic Verses Affair and Buddhism in Born Again Buddhists. Encounter has recently aired two shows focusing on the social aspects of religion and linking them to the issues of Climate Change, while The Spirit of Things is airing a monthly special feature on the Seven Deadly sins.
Such shows as Sikhing Woopi are aimed at raising awareness and information about another religion or culture, in this case, Sikhism. As such it is presented from a western Caucasian perspective, reinforced by the presence of a white presenter at the beginning of the show. While this show is presenting Sikhism in a positive light and as a normal and large part of the Australian culture it is also representing Sikhs as the ‘other’. In creating a show designed to raise awareness about another religion it is inevitable that that religion will be seen as separate from the target audience, most likely white Australians.
Adorno Theodor, “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment and Mass Deception.” The Culture Industry: Selected Essays on Mass Culture, London: Routledge, 1991.
Compass. ABC Television. 9 August 2009. 11 August 2009 < http://www.abc.net.au/compass/>
Encounter. ABCRadio National. 9 August 2009. 11 August 2009
The Spirit of Things. ABC Radio National. 9 August 2009. 11 August 2009