‘Serious’ Current Affairs Programs Resource Notes



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  • Your second summative task is a comparative essay
  • that examines the similarities and differences between
  • “tabloid” current affairs programs and “serious” ones.
  • We have examined the content and techniques of tabloid programs, but need to have a look at serious programs.
  • Which Programs are “Serious”?
    • - 4 Corners (ABC - 8.30pm Mondays), 7.30 Report (ABC)
    • Dateline (SBS - Wed evenings)
    • Insight (SBS - Tues evenings)
    • Meet the Press (Ch10 - Sun mornings)
    • 60 Minutes (Ch 9 - Sun evenings)
    • There are other programs that deal with serious current affairs issues as part of their content, so be on the lookout for these: Sunrise, Insiders, etc
  • 2. Content
  • What do these programs have as their content?
  • - National and international politics, including background stories, interview, debates and analysis from political commentators and other political figures.
  • - Social and ethical issues eg Euthanasia, Global warming, warfare, poverty. Again, these can be local or international in focus.
  • - Investigative reports on corruption and malpractice of social significance.
  • This content differs markedly from the tabloid programs, but demands more ‘effort’ on the part of the audience in order to grasp the arguments and understand the language used.
  • 2. Techniques
  • Although there is some overlap with tabloid programs, the techniques used by ‘serious’ programs are quite different.
  • Some points of difference:
  • a. Balance.
  • More serious programs will try (not always the case though) to tease out all sides of an argument/issue. Perhaps an interview will be done with a number of people, or background stories will investigate all elements. There is less of a hero/villain mentality, unless there is a strong investigate report into corruption or malpractice.
  • b. Language
  • Why is the language different?
  • - Content is more demanding.
  • Complex issues demand a more complex language in order to do them justice and explore them properly.
  • - Demographic is more educated.
  • As you watch these programs note the specific words and phrases used by the presenters, reporters and participants. Contrast this with specific language used in tabloid programs. Different demographic equals different language.
  • c. Visual/Sound techniques
  • - Less dramatic, less likely to establish an emotional connection. Serious programs tend to have:
  • - Fewer people crying gratuitously;
  • - Less use of slow motion;
  • - Less use of emotional music;
  • - Almost no use of walk-ups and ‘camera-in-your-face’ confrontations with ‘guilty’ people;
  • - Far more in-studio events;
  • - Less of the reporter on camera being as much a ‘character’ as the subjects of the investigation;
  • - Longer segments for each topic allowing a more in- depth exploration. 4 Corners has one issue per night
  • Take note of the specific techniques used. The more examples you can use in your essay the better.
  • Essay Structure
  • The structure suggested is simply that, a possible way of tackling the task.
  • Intro: Outline definitions of tabloid and serious current affairs programs. Set out that you are going to analyse differences/similarities in purpose, content, and techniques between the two.
  • Par One: Purpose. What are the differring purposes of the two types of programs? Why do they differ?
  • Par Two: Content. Examine what topics the two types of programs explore. Why are these choices made? (links closely with Par1).
  • Hint: Watch as many ‘serious’ shows as possible. Tape them if you can and spend time analysing the techniques and language.
  • Essay Structure (PT 2)
  • Par Three/Four: Techniques.
  • This forms a large part of the essay and is a discussion of how the techniques used are related to the content and purpose of each type of program. USE PLENTY OF SPECIFIC EXAMPLES, ESPECIALLY THE LANGUAGE USED BY EACH.
  • Conclusion:
  • Summarise your ideas and point to the future.
  • What have you learnt from this study? What trends have you recognised in each type of program? In five years time what will a person writing this essay have to say?
  • Hint: Organise yourself to get the work in early for drafting and editing. Keep to the word limit of 800 words.


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