Researching the 'reception' of indigenous affairs in Australia
McKee, Alan (1999) Researching the 'reception' of indigenous affairs in Australia. Screen, 40(4), pp. 451-454.
The Reporting and Reception of Indigenous Issues in the Australian Media was a
three year project financed by the Australian government through its Australian
Research Council Large Grants Scheme and run by Professor John Hartley (of
Murdoch and then Edith Cowan University, Western Australia). The purpose of the
research was to map the ways in which indigeneity was constructed and circulated in
The analysis of the 'reporting' element of the project was almost straightforward: a
mixture of content analysis of a large number of items in the media, and detailed
textual analysis of a smaller number of key texts. The discoveries were interesting -
that when analysis approaches the media as a whole, rather than focussing
exclusively on news or serious drama genres, then representation of indigeneity is
not nearly as homogenous as has previously been assumed. And if researchers do
not explicitly set out to uncover racism in every text, it is by no means guaranteed
they will find it1.
The question of how to approach the 'reception' of these issues - and particularly
reception by indigenous Australians - proved to be a far more challenging one. In
attempting to research this area, Hartley and I (working as a research assistant on the
project) often found ourselves hampered by the axioms that underlie much media
Traditionally, the 'reception' of media by indigenous people in Australia has been
researched in ethnographic ways. This research repeatedly discovers that indigenous
people in Australia are powerless in the face of new forms of media. Indigenous
populations are represented as victims of aggressive and powerful intrusions: ‘What
happens when a remote community is suddenly inundated by broadcast TV?’;
‘Overnight they will go from having no radio and television to being bombarded by
three TV channels’; ‘The influence of film in an isolated, traditionally oriented Aboriginal community’2. This language of ‘influence’, ‘bombarded’, and
‘inundated’, presents metaphors not just of war but of a war being lost. It tells of an
unequal struggle, of a more powerful force impinging upon a weaker one. What else
could be the relationship of an Aboriginal audience to something which is
‘bombarding’ them? Or by which they are ‘inundated’?
This attitude might best be summed up by the title of an article by Elihu Katz: ‘Can
authentic cultures survive new media?’3. In such writing, there is little sense that
what is being addressed might be seen as a series of discursive encounters,
negotiations and acts of meaning-making in which indigenous people —
communities and audiences —might be productive.
Certainly, the points of concern in this type of writing are important. The question
of what happens when a new communication medium is summarily introduced to a
culture is certainly an important one. But the language used to describe this
interaction is a misleading one. And it is noticeable that such writing is fascinated
with the relationship of only traditionally-oriented Aboriginal communities to the
media of mass communication.
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|Item Type:||Journal Article|
|Keywords:||indigeneity, mediasphere, textual analysis|
|Subjects:||Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING (190000) > FILM TELEVISION AND DIGITAL MEDIA (190200)|
|Divisions:||Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty|
Past > Disciplines > Film & Television
|Copyright Owner:||Copyright 1999 Oxford University Press|
|Deposited On:||17 Jun 2011 07:50|
|Last Modified:||19 Jun 2011 01:17|
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