That the Australian media gives us saturation coverage of Europe but much less on Asia is obvious but the question is why? Have they done market research which shows this is what the public wants or does it stem from their own beliefs and prejudices? Is this really what most Australians want? Possibly it may be.
The saturation coverage given to the French elections and the Manchester bombing are just two recent examples of the Australian media’s fixation with events in Europe. We not only get reports of what happened but lengthy accounts of what might happen plus numerous schadenfreude laden interviews with weeping widows and other sufferers. In Manchester we were given the names of the dead and information about where they came from. And this coverage goes on for days on end. By contrast, the terrorist attack in Jakarta, although covered, didn’t make the lead stories. You might expect better of SBS, the ABC and Fairfax media.
The saturation cover of North America is perhaps more understandable since it is more important to us but our media do not seem to accept that it is possible to overdo things. Far too often they report it as if we were part of it and that the USA is not a foreign country.
Since Australia is not in Europe and Asia is far more important to us commercially and strategically the question is why do they do it? There is no clear answer to this question but some or all of the following may be involved.
- They really believe that Europe is more important to Australia than anywhere else except North America.
- Europe is more comfortable and reporters like going to Paris.
- They believe that their domestic audience wants this kind of reporting so they give the public what it wants; in other words, follow rather than lead. This might be just a gut feeling or it might be based on serious market research. Or are they catering for a minority audience?
- The ethnic origin of news editors and reporters is mainly European, especially from the British Isles, which predisposes them to report on their former or their ancestors’ homelands.
- They follow the lead of our political leaders who seem to want to join NATO and who give the same kind of emphasis to events in Europe. Compare the outpourings of solidarity and rhetoric in Parliament for events in Europe compared with elsewhere.
It would be interesting to try to get answers from our media to this basic question. What is their motive? If this kind of reporting is what the Australian public wants then the problem lies not with the media but with Australians.
Cavan Hogue was Australian Ambassador to the USSR and Russia.