16 February 2006

"Special" Broadcasting

SBS. the Australian television network that has stirred up fury over Abu Ghraib all over again by broadcasting photos that weren't available when the scandal originally broke, stands for "Special Broadcasting Service." Whether the folks behind the network were aware of the ironic implications of the term "special" is doubtful; they come across as the sort of painfully earnest but not especially bright lefties unlikely to notice irony if it walked up and bit them on the ass.

The remit of the government-funded SBS, at least according to its charter, is to:
provide services that inform, educate and entertain all Australians and reflect Australia’s multicultural society
Whether it informs, educates and entertains is a matter of opinion, I suppose, but since the vast majority of Australians never look at it unless it's broadcasting a sports programme (but only a "multicultural" one, like the Olympics or the World Cup), it's safe to say that it's falling well short of its duty to "all Australians."

To understand the SBS, Americans could imagine a cross between NPR and the Pacifica network (for those away from the coasts, Pacifica is a small radio network run by and for aging, bitter left-wing loonies and identity politics race-baiters), only with affirmative action policies that covered not only race and gender, but the intellectually and aesthetically challenged as well.

The SBS definition of "multicultural" apparently includes everyone in Australia as long as they a) are not white; b) don't speak English. If you happen to be among the more than 90% of Australians who are white English-speakers, you're pretty much out of luck unless you're fascinated by documentaries on indigenous basket weavers and badly dubbed Bulgarian cop flicks.

One of the goofiest SBS stabs at multiculturalism is its broadcasting of news programmes from a foreign countries. What's wrong with that, you say? You'd love to hear what they're saying on the Russian or Chinese nightly news? Yes, and so would I, but unfortunately, the SBS doesn't wish to sully the purity of its multicultural experience by providing anything so crass as English subtitles. So about half the broadcast day is taken up with programmes that perhaps one or two percent of Australians are capable of understanding.

Anyway, the real point, I suppose, is should SBS have aired the new Abu Ghraib photos, knowing that they were certain to stir up more anger among Muslims toward the United States? Well, duh, as any teenager might say: getting people mad at the USA would certainly be seen as a plus from the SBS standpoint; in fact, some would say it was the unwritten clause in SBS's charter. But at the same time, even though the pictures are more than two years old, and even though the culprits have already been tried and punished, it's still news, isn't it? And people do have a right to know what US troops have been up to, don't they?

I'd give a qualified yes to that question, though I'm tempted to wonder how the war effort would have gone in the 40s if the media made a massive deal of uncovering every incident of American troops being a little rough on the Germans. But it's interesting to note that when it came to the Danish cartoon controversy, SBS was far more circumspect in its treatment of the issue. Must show "respect" for our Muslim brothers, of course, because they're much more multicultural than us pasty-faced gringos.

Apparently, however, SBS did broadcast one of the cartoons showing Mr Mohammed with a pig's snout, certain to rile up Muslim sensibilities. Only trouble was, it was one of the cartoons which had not originally appeared in the Danish newspaper, but was fabricated and attached to the initial internet dispatch by Danish imams intent on inflaming the masses, which they turned out to be remarkably successful at. But hey, accuracy is so boring compared with multicultural diversity, right?

1 comment:

Wesley said...

Released to go along with the U.N. report on Gauntanamo Bay, one presumes -- if they can't find any hard evidence that G.B. is host to abuses, might as well remind people about Abu Ghraib. Guilt by association is just as good as the real thing in politics.