Arts Coverage, Music and the New Media

| November 25, 2014

Traditional broadcasters around the world are busy repositioning themselves to seize more opportunities of online broadcasting and social media groups. The Newspaper giants are crumbling as the world searches for a more dynamic approach to news and current affairs than ink on paper. Who waits for the weather forecast on TV and radio when the entire week is available anytime you want on your phone or watch?

We live in a changed media landscape. One that provides content in easily digestible chunks and that can be consumed conveniently when and as you like it. It is the age of the citizen journalist where anyone can provide the 144 odd characters needed to create a headline story or to paste a photo or link.

There are great advantages in these new formats but this fragmented style of broadcasting focuses more on the highlights and short stories designed to be repeated or re-tweeted in order to permeate every corner of the wider media. It is a virtual biscuit barrel of short bites and where the arts, and in particular music performance, has been reduced to a small fragment of disparate chunks, consigned as teasers on traditional TV services for online and reported in the same manner as a journalist sifting through press releases. The meaning of a work somehow explained within a fifteen second grab before moving on to the next Artist in line after yet another glib punch line.

Gone are the opportunities to see full works or concerts on traditional media. Gone is the opportunity for artists to have their work recorded in any format above that of a hand held phone video. If it’s not under the strict two and a half minute memoirs of popular music culture videos, which includes the X Factor and Australian Idol, you will not see it on TV.

Despite the substantial increase of free to air channels fulfilling the media Utopia promised so many years ago the most you will see of the arts is a short report or as a good news story after the weather to take us to the break. If you live and work outside of Sydney or Melbourne, then your chances of coverage are substantially less, almost zero. We all thought Free to air Digital TV would bring out more brilliant performances or perhaps even an arts channel. Free Digital TV was meant to be part of the revolution but instead it’s lost in a quest for toning your abs or protein shakes made with a new blender and robot vacuum infomercials, or more and more news and panel discussions about the news. Not to mention news critiquing and news parody programs.

An arts report is good promotion but certainly not the full story and watching them is like watching endless movie trailers without actually seeing a movie. Series after series of David and Margaret’s programs without end and designed to keep you in a state of permanent trauma. These are better described as an arty form of spam in your viewing inbox. Sometimes informative but delete able after a week at the most.

Meanwhile online and “pay for” services are busy making available concerts and performances of the most popular and money backed stars. U2 is giving their music away and having some thrown back in their faces. Pop Asia has created an industry that employs a wide range of production people and has made big inroads into our music markets. The Berlin Phil still rattles the Digital Concert Hall with a paid subscription service for Classical concerts. This much fuss in the sector demonstrating that there must be some money and interest in the music performance industry.

Politicians will argue that the internet is a great place for the community and therefore would do better for Performance based Art in the long run. Maybe, but the traditional forms of TV and radio still remain with a huge lead in audience numbers. What this means is that our Artists are missing substantial opportunities for coverage on traditional media. Opportunities that can help create content and offer exposure to a much wider community and perhaps aid a domestic and export industry.

Certainly in previous years many interesting arts projects came from the need to fill the gaps between programs for Public Broadcasters but are now the bastion of Doctor Who and cooking show merchandise. These were a “take five” from all the overseas programming and panel shows but they helped to generate great interest in local artists. You might even see such oddities as an orchestra dressed as the walking dead and you gotta love zombie musicians.

Community TV seems no help either with the Government determined to cut off their abilities to remain in the market. Perhaps if they had been a little more community or Arts minded they would have more support. There are a few notable exceptions but on the whole they seem more interested in sponsorship for fishing or 4wd programs than being a champion of the arts or truly reflecting the musical community.

It is true; one day internet broadcasting or more to the point mobile data will dominate the media universe as a means of distribution but it will still require quality content made by broadcasters. Right now and possibly for the next three to five years traditional style TV and radio are still firm favourites in creating quality programs and this content can easily be made available for online consumption.

Till then we need strategies to get the arts and music performance back on TV as well as utilised fully online by any means possible. Air time on the late night extra Digital channels is relatively cheap compared to main stream media. Perhaps it’s time for the OZ Council to purchase time on these extra channels to provide artists with exposure and assist in artists achieving something more than a one night show in a hall somewhere. Certainly the main channels are not fulfilling any commitment to real arts coverage and we could do with less steam mop commercials for us night owls. Who knows it may create enough exposure to rival funny cat videos and that would really be worth reporting in the news.


  1. Boris Roglich

    I totally concur with the views expressed by Mr Hinckley. Generally free to air media has become a vehicle for mediocrity, sensationalism with a promise of ‘bigger and better’ things to come! How many more shows of ‘ competition’ do we need to be bombarded with ( and by the way , I am a recreational sportsperson who has a grasp on keeping fit and nutrition-without the assistance of free media’s input ) . I do have a vested interest in the future of Australia’s media direction as I am a tax payer. We deserve better than the rubbish being served up currently and we need to cut out the political correctness that is permeating our society!

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