Anyone watching local
QLD TV last night would be forgiven for thinking they were watching the
aftermath of two separate Cyclones.

Nine and Seven, who had
flown in the fluoro-jacketed big guns from Brisbane along with a
plane-load of sight-seeing pollies, got into the Commonwealth Games
spirit: Aussies pitching in; battlers overcoming adversity; mate
helping a mate; the digger tradition; men and women of the armed forces
risking life and limb; community spirit on show…. It was an orgy of
patriotic self-congratulation, conducted by the maestro, John Howard,
with well-timed solos from Beattie, with the big bassoon of Beazley
wheezing along in the background.

Switch
to ABC TV… and it was wall-to-wall angry locals rounding on
politicians in the great post-disaster tradition, furious at a lack of
help, livid at the sight of parading pollies making big promises,
comparing themselves to the apparently more fortunate Tsunami victims
of Asia, and sticking their hands out for the obligatory wad of
indulgence.

There were indeed scenes of frustration from
across the region, with kids and elderly in the pouring rain, waiting
in vain for information or help. But the contrast was significant, and
one has to ask what controls media were under, and how such different
tales could be told from the same event.

Ironically, all
stations ran one particular piece of footage of a bloke grudgingly
shaking the PM’s hand and saying, “Are you gonna give us money?”
However, this was portrayed in two very different ways. On Nine and
Seven, this was a typical Aussie larrikin showing a bit of bush cheek
to the PM; on ABC it was an emotional confrontation by an angry local
to an opportunistic PM.

But does this explain the huge contrast
in stories? Could it be that the commercial news anchors and their star
reporters were portraying what they saw from the caboose of the
official whistle-stop slap-a-back-tour by Howard et al, while their ABC
counterparts actually bothered to venture out beyond the comfort zone
to find real stories, real news, real people with real issues?

Would love to hear from any journos on the ground. Email [email protected]

Peter Fray

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