Media Watch (TV program)

Media Watch (formerly Media Watch: The Last Word[citation needed]) is an Australian media analysis and political opinion television program currently presented by Paul Barry for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).[1] The program focuses on critiquing the Australian media together with its interconnections, including with politics.[1]

Media Watch
GenreMedia analysis
Directed byDavid Rector
Presented byPaul Barry
Theme music composerRoi Huberman
Country of originAustralia
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons26
Executive producerTim Latham
Running time15 minutes
Original release
Release8 May 1989 (1989-05-08) –

In 1999, Media Watch played a key role in revealing the unethical behaviour of radio talkback hosts, which became known as the "cash for comment affair" and was the subject of an investigation by what was then the Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA).

Format edit

Former host Jonathan Holmes sitting at the desk

Media Watch is a 15-minute program which identifies, investigates and examines instances of what the program determines to be failings in news coverage by Australian media outlets. The series features a single host speaking directly to camera, detailing a mix of amusing or embarrassing editing gaffes (such as miscaptioned photographs or spelling errors) as well as more serious criticism including media bias and breaches of journalistic ethics and standards. Over the years, the program's emphasis has shifted towards the latter.[2]

Although most episodes of Media Watch focus on any recent incidents of media misconduct, episodes sometimes focus on a single issue of particular importance (for instance, news coverage of a recent election).

Presenters edit

Stuart Littlemore was the inaugural host of Media Watch and remains the longest-running host to date. Following his nine-year tenure, various other journalists have hosted the program. Paul Barry, who previously hosted the program in 2000 and for a brief period in 2010, resumed hosting duties in 2013.

Notable pieces edit

"Cash for comment" edit

In 1999, Media Watch revealed that influential talkback radio hosts Alan Jones and John Laws had been paid to provide favourable on-air comment about companies such as Qantas, Optus, Foxtel and Mirvac without disclosing these arrangements to listeners. It also persistently criticised the then Australian Broadcasting Authority (superseded by the Australian Communications and Media Authority, or ACMA, in 2005) as impotent or unwilling to regulate broadcast media, and to properly scrutinise figures such as Jones and Laws. The revelations won Media Watch staffers Richard Ackland, Deborah Richards and Anne Connolly two Walkley Awards: the Gold Walkley, and the Walkley for TV Current Affairs Reporting (Less Than 10 Minutes). In 2004, Media Watch played a major part in forcing the resignation of ABA head David Flint after it was discovered that Flint had sent Jones admiring and effusive letters at a time when the ABA was investigating Jones concerning further cash for comment allegations. The reports won Media Watch another Walkley, TV Current Affairs Reporting (Less Than 20 Minutes) to staffers David Marr, Peter McEvoy and Sally Virgoe.

60 Minutes 1995 massacre at Srebrenica story edit

In 2002, Channel Nine 60 Minutes reporter Richard Carleton sued Media Watch over allegations of plagiarism. The judge found that the allegations were untrue and declined to award any damages. The ABC World Today reported on 18 December 2002: "The veteran reporter was horrified to see Media Watch accuse him of plagiarising a BBC documentary on the 1995 massacre at Srebrenica for his Channel Nine program. But today a judge ruled that even though the program did defame Mr Richard Carleton and two colleagues, it was fair comment and no damages were awarded."[15]

"ACON & The ABC" edit

In 2022, Media Watch ran a piece about "a difficult conversation we all need to have", accusing the ABC of bias against "anti-trans voices" by examining its collaboration with LGBT health organization ACON, and its participation in ACON's "Workplace Equality Index", in which it has at least twice received the title of "Gold Employer". The piece drew significant scorn from ABC news staff, with Patricia Karvelas responding with "The ABC also participates in other benchmarking indexes to monitor its progress and improve workplace practices, such as those run by the Diversity Council of Australia, Reconciliation Australia and the Australian Network on Disability. But only scrutiny of one group." Luke Siddham Dundon tweeted "The ABC also has relationships with other diversity organisations, so why are you picking on our partnerships with LGBTQI+ communities and organisations?"[16] ABC tech reporter Ariel Bogle responded by stating that anti-trans talking points are "often intertwined with far-right entities and narratives".[17]

The ABC itself issued a statement on the matter, saying "participation in benchmarking indexes has no bearing on content commissioning processes and no influence on editorial content" and "transgender and gender identity issues are complex and require careful editorial judgement to ensure informed reporting without causing offence or undue distress and harm to vulnerable individuals and communities."[18]

Cancellation and return edit

Media Watch's ability to generate controversy led to the temporary cancellation of the show. In 2000, Barry was controversially sacked and, in 2001, the program itself was axed by Jonathan Shier, the head of the ABC. However, in early 2002, after Shier was himself sacked in similarly controversial circumstances, the show returned with David Marr as the new host.[19] While Media Watch was off air, former host Stuart Littlemore presented a replacement program, Littlemore, that also examined issues about the media, running for 13 episodes between March and May 2001.[19]

Media Bites edit

Starting in 2017 in conjunction with Media Watch's return, a weekly online spin-off series, Media Bites, was created. A new episode is uploaded every Thursday to the program's website,[20] social media outlets, iView and ABC's official YouTube channel,[21] each episode running for about two minutes. Unlike the main show, Media Bites is more casual in presentation, and Barry sits in the production office (not a studio) talking to the camera in a position similar to many online vloggers. Barry is often in more casual clothing using the light source of the office instead of professional lighting.

Each episode has the same format, two mini-stories and the week's alternative fact. The mini-stories are in essence a shorter version of the main series in-depth format, introducing the story and explaining the problem. The Alternative Fact of the Week points out an incorrect or baffling titbit, often involving US President Donald Trump. Episodes conclude with a "teaser" for the following episode of the main show. The episodes contain the same sarcasm and quips from Barry as does the main show.

Episodes are edited in a similar fashion to the main show, with relevant corresponding images, text and effects relating to his narration. One difference in editing is that subtitles are permanently part of the video along the bottom of the screen, instead of being an optional closed caption.

Reception edit

The show's presenters have taken some pride in the vehemence of the criticism it attracts; at one point, the opening credits were made up of a montage of such criticisms, prominently featuring a description of original presenter Stuart Littlemore as a 'pompous git'. In 2002, the then-editor of The Daily Telegraph, Campbell Reid, sent host David Marr a dead fish; a replica of it is now awarded as the Campbell Reid Perpetual Trophy for the Brazen Recycling of Other People's Work.[22] Known as "The Barra" and bearing the motto Carpe Verbatim, it is awarded annually for bad journalism and particularly plagiarism (a practice for which Reid was frequently criticised).

Media Watch scrutinises all media outlets, and has criticised its own network, the ABC.[23] When Marr was host from 2002 to 2004, the show often criticised Marr's employer John Fairfax Holdings.[citation needed]

Robert Manne, writing in The Age in 2007, commented that:

Media Watch was once, unashamedly, a program of the left... was sometimes unbalanced and unfair, usually intelligent and witty, always fearless and tough. No program more effectively tracked the steady drift of the political culture to the right. No program more effectively scrutinised the politics and practices of the contemporary commercial mainstream media—the rise of commentariat Islamophobia, the scandal of "cash for comment". The fact that it was not "impartial" was the key to its unpopularity in certain quarters, but also to its importance and success.[24]

Criticisms from News Corp assets edit

Commentary programs and segments on Sky News Australia also allege the program has a consistent left wing bias. Following the 2019 federal election, Sky News Australia commentator Chris Kenny (writing for The Australian) claimed that the program had a reliance on Labor Party or trade union-aligned journalists for its criticisms of the News Corp conglomerate. Kenny further claimed a failure to disclose these alleged associations, and opined that this undermined the credibility of host Barry's analyses of News Corp's output & business methods.[25]

The Australian, which is regularly criticised by Media Watch, has been a long-term critic of the show. In August 2007 it editorialised that Media Watch "lacks journalistic integrity and conducts its affairs along the lines of an insiders' club that pushes its ideological prejudice at taxpayers' expense".[26]

In June 2007, an episode of Media Watch entitled "Have Your Spray"[27] strongly criticised The Daily Telegraph, among others, for failing to censor racist comments on their website forums posted over an extended period, but then allowed strongly anti-Semitic comments to remain on its own web forum for a "few minutes" until removed.[28] The ABC later launched an internal inquiry into claims and criticisms published by News Corp mastheads that Media Watch's allegedly relied on IslamicSydney, supposedly "an Islamic website that peddle[s] anti-Semitic and jihadi messages", for this story.[29]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b "About Media Watch". Media Watch. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on 23 July 2020. Retrieved 23 April 2020.
  2. ^ Kalina, Paul; Enker, Debi; Ricketson, Matthew (18 October 2006). "ABC chief hints at Media Watch review". The Age. Fairfax Media. Archived from the original on 19 October 2020. Retrieved 4 January 2017.
  3. ^ Delaney, Brigid (6 October 2004). "Media Watch presenter to hand over reins". The Age. Melbourne: Fairfax. Archived from the original on 21 October 2020. Retrieved 19 October 2020.
  4. ^ "Liz new Media Watch host". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax. 3 February 2005. Archived from the original on 20 October 2020. Retrieved 1 December 2007.
  5. ^ Baker, Jordan (25 November 2005). "Media Watch on the prowl again for a host". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax. Archived from the original on 20 October 2020. Retrieved 19 October 2020.
  6. ^ Baker, Jordan (7 December 2005). "Attard fronts Media Watch". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax. Archived from the original on 6 July 2020. Retrieved 1 December 2007.
  7. ^ Ricketson, Matthew (20 September 2007). "Media Watch presenter steps down". The Age. Melbourne: Fairfax. Archived from the original on 16 December 2018. Retrieved 1 December 2007.
  8. ^ Welch, Dylan (28 November 2007). "Holmes is new Media Watch presenter". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax. Archived from the original on 20 September 2018. Retrieved 1 December 2007.
  9. ^ "Paul Barry to fill in as Media Watch host". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 21 June 2010. Archived from the original on 11 November 2012. Retrieved 7 August 2010.
  10. ^ "Paul Barry to host Media Watch". The Spy Report. Media Spy. 21 June 2010. Archived from the original on 17 July 2010. Retrieved 21 June 2010.
  11. ^ "Jeremy Fernandez to host Media Watch after Paul Barry Bike crash" by Kevin Perry, 9 August 2021,
  12. ^ Mikkelsen, Abbey (12 August 2021). "Media Watch musical chairs continues, with Janine Perrett hosting next week". TV Black Box. Retrieved 16 August 2021.
  13. ^ Knox, David (31 May 2022). "Janine Perrett returns to Media Watch chair TV Tonight". Retrieved 21 June 2022.
  14. ^ Perry, Kevin (5 June 2022). "JANINE PERRETT returns to the MEDIA WATCH hosting chair tonight on ABC". TV Blackbox. Retrieved 29 June 2022.
  15. ^ Vincent, Michael (18 December 2002). "Carleton, Media Watch divided over defamation ruling". The World Today. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. ABC Local Radio. Retrieved 19 October 2020.
  16. ^ Meade, Amanda (21 October 2022). "ABC news staff hit back at Media Watch over coverage of trans issues". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 November 2022.
  17. ^ "'Raises questions': Media Watch pins ABC over partnership with LGBT group Acon". 22 October 2022. Retrieved 7 November 2022.
  18. ^ "ABC statement to Media Watch". ABC. 18 October 2022. Retrieved 7 November 2022.
  19. ^ a b Tabakoff, Jenny (2 April 2002). "The watchdog barks again". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax. Retrieved 1 December 2007.
  20. ^ "Media Bites". Media Watch. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on 21 October 2020. Retrieved 19 October 2020.
  21. ^ "Media Bites 2018: Investigating the Media's Latest Stuff-Ups (Playlist)". YouTube. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 27 February 2017.
  22. ^ "The Barra 2005". Media Watch. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 7 November 2005. Archived from the original on 14 May 2006. Retrieved 12 February 2006.
  23. ^ Enker, Debi (9 December 2004). "Fifteen minutes of fame". The Age. Melbourne: Fairfax. Archived from the original on 22 October 2020. Retrieved 19 October 2020.
  24. ^ Manne, Robert (4 April 2007). "The new bland and dull ABC". The Age. Melbourne: Fairfax. Archived from the original on 19 October 2020. Retrieved 19 October 2020.
  25. ^ "Partisan push on ABC's Media Watch". The Australian. 2 September 2019.
  26. ^ "Old tricks back at Media Watch". Opinion. The Australian. News Limited. 23 August 2007. Archived from the original on 8 September 2007. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  27. ^ "Have Your Spray". Media Watch. 18 June 2007. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 19 October 2020.
  28. ^ "Media Watch fails racism test". The Daily Telegraph. News Limited. 25 June 2007. Archived from the original on 9 April 2016. Retrieved 26 November 2007.
  29. ^ Kerbaj, Richard (12 July 2007). "Media Watch's jihadi sources". The Australian. News Limited. Archived from the original on 5 December 2007. Retrieved 22 December 2008.

External links edit