Monday, February 15, 2010

Questionably Journalism by ABC’s Hungry Beast

Hungry Beast is a TV programme that jumps between journalism and parodies of journalism.  I watched a few episodes last season and found it to be relatively informative.  I hoped it would be confronting and challenging.

Last weeks they aired the first episode for the season with stories about the proposed mandatory Internet filter for Australia.  They surveyed 1000 “demographically balanced” Australians to find out what their opinion was on this matter.

They said some of the results might surprise you, and the first one did surprise me.  They said 80% of people were in favour of automatically blocking material that has been refused classification in Australia.

What they revealed on the website, but not in the programme was that material that is defined as “refused classifications” was:

  • child sexual abuse
  • bestiality
  • sexual violence
  • gratuitous, exploitative or offensive sexual fetishes; and
  • detailed instructions on or promotion of crime, violence or use of illegal drugs

Throw that list at me over the phone and I would have said, “absolutely, yes.  Keep this out of the country,” before actually thinking about what they mean.  Whilst the first three items are illegal, the last two are not illegal.  I wonder how many of the surveyed understood this.

To clarify the latter point on refusing classification on crime, I quote Aasher Moses from the Sydney Morning Herald:

But the RC classification extends further to more controversial content such as information on euthanasia, material about safer drug use and material on how to commit more minor crimes such as painting graffiti.

If this information cannot be accessed, then it cannot be debated.  (Strangely enough, you can walk into any government founded youth center in Australia and find printed material on how to take drugs safely.)

As for fetishes, you can do it but you can’t view it!?  Crazy!

But most frustrating was the extended interview Dan Ilic had with Senator Conroy available on their website.  Dan raised all the appropriate issues and challenged none of the responses.  Conroy laughed and played dumb about how small breasted (and therefore young appearing) girls would be banned.  He accused the EFF of scare-mongering.  He admitted the filter was easily circumvented but suggested it was ok, because people still speed and underagers still buy alcohol despite the laws—no challenge.  I’m pretty sure, preventing alcohol purchases from minors does not cost the Australian tax payers $125.8 million.

My point in the end is that I thought Hungry Beast would be a reputable resource for information.  I’m not bothered if the facts differ to what I believe, but I am bothered when they don’t present the facts clearly and do not challenge our leaders.

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