Continuum: The Australian Journal of Media & Culture
Vol. 8, No. 2, 1994
Critical Multiculturalism
Edited by Tom O'Regan

Mongrels and hybrids: theorising Australian television

Terry Flew

Review of John Hartley, Tele-ology: Studies in Television. London: Routledge , 1992. 245pp. ISBN 0 415 06817 7. $22.95. Distributed by the Law Book Company Limited. Review of Tom O'Regan, Australian Television Culture, Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1993. 219pp. ISBN 186373 527 5. $22.95.

Television studies is a hybrid creature. It is hybrid in the sense defined in the Macquarie Dictionary as something 'derived from heterogenous sources, or composed of elements of different or heterogeneous kinds'. It is also hybrid in the more terse sense offered from the same source of being, simply, "a mongrel". John Hartley, in his collection of essays titled Tele-ology, describes it as 'an academic discipline which does not in fact exist' (4). If television studies does exist, and these two books suggest that it must, it exists not as a discipline but rather as an assemblage, a set of off-cuts from other fields, often brought together under unfortuitous circumstances 'in wooden de-mountables on the wrong side of campus, or on the other side of town across the binary divide of the tertiary sector' and sometimes 'peopled by those who thought television trivial or despised it' (Hartley 158). Even if the final epithet is less true today than it was, say, ten years ago, it is still notable that it remains a field of study without a home. Television is variously taught about in universities within the fields of screen studies, textual studies, media studies, communications, cultural studies or Twentieth-Century Studies! 1 In many of these fields, it is approached as an inadequate form, "a mongrel", incapable of offering the pleasures, the intensities, the accuracy of information, or the opportunities to do your own work that are found in other media, the latter being an important consideration in institutions where media is taught primarily from a production-oriented perspective.

As important as the question of where television is studied is the question of how it is studied. Since the decline in the credibility, if not the continuing utility in policy-oriented research, of the empiricist tradition founded in the effects paradigm of post-war communication studies, we may (at risk of oversimplifying) detect two dominant strands of research into television. The first, which is variously called critical theory or political economy, works backwards from the study of society to the study of television. Within this paradigm, television constitutes not only part of the media but also a site for the reproduction of ideology, which sutures the social relations of domination and subordination seen at the core of the reproduction of the socio-economic framework. An extreme, yet highly influential, instance of this form of analysis was the work of Louis Althusser. In defining the media as part of the 'ideological state apparatus', Althusser put the media (it is hard to think of Althusser having much interest in the differences between television, radio, cinema and print media) in with schools, churches, the family, the legal system, political parties, the arts, sport, literature, trade unions etc (50). Etc., indeed!

As well as displaying disinterest in television as technological form and cultural experience, this ideological approach to TV has two further inadequacies. One is the familiar question of popular pleasure, or why so many people watch TV for so long without coercion. The other, oddly enough, is political economy. By locating television within the sphere of "ideology", critical theories of television concede the right to ask one of the more interesting questions about television: what modes of calculation are engaged in the process of putting programs to air which are able to attract sizeable audiences, capable of continuing to fuel the necessary accumulation drives of the multi-million dollar television industries.

Even more sophisticated and influential critical accounts of the mass media, such as the work of Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman, provide a very truncated form of political economy, establishing that mass media ownership is concentrated and media revenues are advertiser-driven, before getting onto the "main business" of content analysis of bias in the news media. Although this carries the mantle of "political economy", it fails to address what is an equally important aspect of such a methodology, namely the myriad exchange relationships engaged in by media organisations with audiences, advertisers, program makers and policy makers which are central to shaping the medium's output. It can also lead to the error of mistaking a necessary academic practice of dissecting the "information" and "entertainment" components of media content for a reality which exists within the media itself. The question of "how media work", which is an especially crucial one for critically-oriented academic theory, but whose answers cannot be derived from ownership alone, remains thus obscured.

The second major paradigm explores the relationship between media texts and their audiences, and derives its methods from literary, screen, textual and cultural studies. It is within this field of analysis that John Hartley's work on television has operated, from his 1978 Reading Television with John Fiske, the 1982 Understanding News and the collection of essays in this book, spanning a ten-year period of work. Hartley describes the theoretical assemblage through which his analysis of television has sought to operate through in the following terms:

a textual-formal (semiotic) and socio-political (cultural) approach to television as an instance of cultural production within the context of contemporary, urban, popular culture [which] is borrowed variously from linguistics, anthropology, literary theory and criticism, sociology, political theory and journalism, as well as certain metadiscourses like structuralism (and its intellectual successors), semiotics and cultural studies. (Hartley 5)

As important as the methodology is the author's standpoint. Hartley makes it clear at several points in the book that he 'likes television', and that the intervention which the essays in the book are seeking to make is one "for" the medium, and particularly for popular television, partly in defence of its audiences against the judgements of academe, cultural commentary, industry cynicism or government paternalism, but also in order to be able to assess what is or is not strategically important for those seeking to use the medium, to change the medium or to regulate the medium.

Tele-ology begins by seeking to establish some parameters for television theory. Four points are established here. The first two, drawn from contemporary communications and textual theory, are that the 'power of speech' is not an individual capacity but a social process, governed by technological forces, historical developments, and elements of political and economic power, and that communication is based upon the relationship between the production of texts and practices of reading, and that this holds across all communications media. It follows from these points, in an argument developed in the essay "Television and the Power of Dirt" first published in the Australian Journal of Cultural Studies in 1983, that popular media such as television have supplanted other forms of speech communication as the site for the production of hegemonic discourses. At the same time, television does so in a way that, for methodologies derived from the analysis of other media, such as the book or the film, is 'dirty': it borrows languages, corrupts learning processes and reorganises subjectivities. It remains a matter of anxiety and uncertainty what its readers are actually doing with the texts, or whether they are in fact paying attention (or paying too much attention) in the various privatised sites of reception.

Hartley is highly critical of the 'effects of television' literature, yet gives insight into why this continues to be an influential line of thinking. According to Hartley:

It is no longer necessary to fret about television's supposed effects on individual behaviour, for these are marginal to its main business of developing the power of speech to a hi-tech industry. (14)

Reading this in 1994, the "International Year of the Family", as another orchestrated public moral panic takes place about the "effects of violence on television" on children, families and society, I am reminded of Barbara Hernstein Smith's comment about the "Other's-Poison-Effect". Smith defines the "Other's-Poison Effect" as meaning:

not only that one man's meat is sometimes the other's poison but that one man sometimes gets sick just watching the other fellow eat his meat and, moreover, that if one of them is also a cultural theorist (left-wing or conservative as otherwise measured), he or she may be expected to generate an account of how the other fellow is himself actually being poisoned by the meat he likes and eats. (26)

As the medium which stands accused of usurping the "power of speech", and as a mechanism for socially circulating texts for multiple acts of privatised reception, this particular concern about television, and its hegemonic modes of deployment, seems to be a perennial issue of late 20th century culture, and Hartley's work stands as a vital corrective to this particular debate.

Parts Two and Three of Tele-ology deal with the production and representation of truth in the mass media, and viewing practices and theorisations of the TV audience. In re-reading Hartley's analysis of the news as a machine for the production of 'truths', with its obvious affinities to Foucault's notion of 'regimes of truth' crucially imbricated with relations of power, it is striking just how strongly this concept has been resisted in media studies, particularly in fields related to journalism practice. These fields prefer a dichotomous notion of truth/falsehood, with the associated self-interest in presenting the journalist as the potential revealer of 'truths' kept hidden by powerful public figures. Hartley's deconstruction of the populist codes of television news, its narrative conventions, its discursive regularities, and its production of speaking and viewing positions, is central to an understanding of how news is produced, as well as a form of "home help" for viewers seeking to deflate some of the rhetorical certainties of the news-producing professionals so keen to defend our "right to know" and our "need for truth".

Part III introduces the concept of a 'paedocratic regime' of audience imagining and regulation, which is one of the most important concepts to be developed in the book. The term "paedocratic" captures an understanding of viewing audiences as 'governed by childlike qualities' which is a dominant feature of the discourses of the institutions (the television industry, regulatory agencies, and the academic, journalistic and organisational commentators on the industry) most engaged in constructing an image of 'the audience'. This concept, developed in the essay "Invisible Fictions", 2 is used not only as the basis of a critique of industrial and regulatory practices, but also as a way of commenting upon the limits of critical theory's understanding of television, its audience, and the politics of the industry. Hartley looks critically at the work of media theorists such as Todd Gitlin, Martin Allor and John Ellis, to the elitist hostility of writers such as Gore Vidal to the "TV generation", and to the demand that television represent marginal/non-mainstream political and cultural positions 'proportionately' to other modes of representation. The point being made by Hartley is that critical theory, by accepting the 'invisible fiction' of audiences as "childlike", is seeking to usurp the status of the industry and its regulators as the "parent" of this creature, both desiring to and being capable of exercising 'government over childlike tendencies' (17). The political implications of this stance are, for Hartley, disastrous:

Being an audience is an act among others for individuals: a learnt, specialist, discursive practice. The location of the subjective site of that practice is an analytical red herring. More to the point than deciding the issue of what a 'social subject' might look like if we fell over one is this question: how can we persuade audiences to take up those positions that our critical analysis suggests are better than others? (125, author's emphasis)

Contrary to the argument that textual analysis lacks a political dimension, Hartley's argument has clear political implications, yet these implications run counter to some dominant positions on the "politics of the mass media". Arguments for "reform" of the mainstream media are treated with some caution, if it is the case that such arguments rest upon a flawed analysis of the relationship between media texts and their audiences, and an application of methodologies derived from other media to the study of television. In the essay "Out of Bounds", Hartley comments on the tendency of critical theorists to 'point to television's inadequacies without inspecting their own', and discusses how 'television producers are preoccupied with issues that the critics have hardly begun to address - issues of populism, appeal and pleasure in a fragmented and disunited society' (129). The points being made are that the work of ideological closure and the securing of dominant meanings through popular television is a more and more challenging enterprise, and that critics of the capitalist economic and cultural order may have a lot to learn from the techniques of popular television in the construction of counter-hegemonic forms of meaning production through the media. 3

Hartley is perhaps more critical of a second line of argument, which would abandon mainstream television as a lost political cause, and invest energies in the development of "alternative" media. In the essay "Local Television; From Space to Time", Hartley questions the assumption that 'localism' in ownership, control and production in the television industries is self-evidently a positive or a progressive measure, arguing that the pursuit of geographical decentralisation based upon ownership both ignores the audience point of view, which is more concerned with the quality of content rather than its point of production, and that a city such as Perth is over-catered for with three commercial TV channels, which has (paradoxically) continued the tradition of an absence of WA-based cultural production on screen. As Hartley puts this, somewhat controversially, 'The more local stations you have, the more they'll be controlled from Sydney' (198), and that 'Having lived in Willetton I can tell you there's nothing I'd like less than Willetton Television' (199). Hartley's argument is that 'it is time, not space, that is the site for television diversity in Australia' (199), and that the future face of alternative television is to be found in the pursuit of cultural diversity and the catering for specific audiences found in the scheduling practices of the SBS. It is argued that 'SBS is the lean, hungry, efficient, postmodern TV of tomorrow' (200), providing a national service from a single outlet, acting primarily as a distributor of material drawn from a vast range of domestic and international sources, and catering for a diverse range of particular audiences across its schedule, rather than following the commercial networks in trying to reach virtually everyone at all times of the day through common-denominator programming practices.

Tom O'Regan's Australian Television Culture also deals at length with the SBS, as well as with communications policy, television economics, local content regulations, Aboriginal television and the relationship of television to various debates about national culture in the Australian context. If Tele-ology begins from the methodological starting-points of textual theory, cultural studies and audience analysis to ultimately make points about the policy, politics and political economy of television, then Australian Television Culture arguably begins from the other end, working through the issues arising from national satellite delivery of broadcast TV, transformations in media ownership and the global economic dynamics of the television industry to make points about the relationship of television content to the constructions of national cultural and subcultural identity through network programming and audience consumption practices. Yet it is important to be aware that the divide in the perspectives of the two authors is not nearly as great as this contrast may suggest. Both O'Regan and Hartley teach in the Communications Studies program at Murdoch University in Perth/Fremantle and have been involved in the production of Continuum, both credit each other as influencing the shape and arguments of their respective books, and have collaborated on writing a history of audience reception of television in Australia ("Quoting Not Science But Sideboards", published in Tele-ology). Both books can be taken as indicating different aspects of television studies in Australia, its contributions to analysis and policy, and its observations about the nature of the medium and its influences within Australian culture.

O'Regan's book begins with the observation that 'Television critics are usually concerned with programs' (xix.). I'm not sure that this is true, at least within the Australian academic tradition of media studies, which I think has been more traditionally concerned with the relationship between the concentration of ownership, the state and capitalist cultural hegemony. 4 To paraphrase one of John Hartley's arguments, if you were to replace the words "television" and "programs" with "literary" and "texts" or "screen" and "films", the argument would be perhaps more apt. O'Regan goes on, however, to define his own approach to the analysis of Australian television culture:

The television service is made up of policy, regulation, politics, criticism, industry and programs. These sites mould Australia's television culture. Australian television culture consists of distribution and broadcasting strategies, institutional structures, and the different activities involved in creating, regulating, criticising and otherwise producing and watching television in Australia (xix.).

Australian Television Culture thus presents a broad range of angles from which to approach the analysis of Australian television. Three points are worth drawing out from the way in which O'Regan defines '"Australian"' and '"culture"' within the book. The first point, which is developed in Chapter 1 of the book, is involved with defining the distinctiveness of Australian television culture, as a medium-sized program-producing nation by world standards, with a history of a strong presence of imported material from the dominant program producing nations (the US and Britain) and of a mixed system of commercial and public service broadcasting, where programs go out to a geographically dispersed and increasingly multicultural society. For O'Regan, recognition of these points enables a nuanced understanding of how Australian television appears as both 'a particular invention of television and...simply an imitation of the transnational form of television' (xx). The second point involves developing a broad definition of "culture", understood in a sociological rather than simply an aesthetic sense, so that it is understood in this context as 'the ways we do things with television in Australia' (xx). The third point, which is central to Chapters 5 and 6 of the book and is one of its key problematics, is the consideration of what it means to speak of a 'national television culture', where such a conceptual undertaking is framed by the nation-building projects of governments, regulatory bodies, public broadcasters and private interests, by the diverse and often conflicting interests and orientations of different geographical and cultural communities, and by processes of globalisation and the transnational and cross-cultural transmission of television programming and its associated cultural codes. O'Regan's argument, which forms one of the cornerstones of Australian Television Culture, is that one cannot prove or negate the existence of such a thing as a 'national television culture' through focussing solely upon one level of analysis of these issues, but rather that there must be a recognition of how the concept forms a 'contested terrain' within and between these various sites through which television content is formed and read by its audiences.

The chapters "High Communications Policy in Australia" and "The Rise and Fall of Entrepreneurial Television in Australia 1986-92" will be familiar to many readers as updates of the essays published by O'Regan in Continuum and Screen. Both of these essays have introduced key concepts to the vocabulary of television studies in Australia, and I believe that the same will be true of the concepts of the "double face" and of Australia as a "medium-sized TV nation" developed in Chapter 4 of this book. To understand the usefulness of O'Regan's analysis of Australian television within a global audiovisual market which is developed in this chapter, we need to consider its relationship to the "free trade" and "cultural imperialism" theories which have constituted the polarities of debate on the Australian industry in the global television system.

In relation to the "free trade" argument, derived from neo-classical international trade theory, O'Regan points out that such analyses simply 'get it wrong' about the dynamics of the Australian television industry and its relationship to global markets. 5 He points out, firstly, that contrary to the arguments of groups such as the Bureau of Transport and Communications Economics, Australia in fact has one of the world's least protected television industries (76), with local producers always being subject to competition from imported product, lacking the barriers presented by language by many of the European and Asian countries, and without the obstacle to imported material presented by audience preferences in countries such as the United States and Britain. The second error made in these arguments is the assumption that specific Australian content quotas for local drama constitute a privileging of this sector, with the effect of driving up production costs above an 'efficient' level. 6 O'Regan points out that local drama production is in fact the most cost-efficient area of the local television industry, due primarily to the fact that it is the area most obviously subject to import competition and the area of programming most likely to disappear in the absence of regulatory assistance: the proof of this is to be found in its significant presence in world export markets, and in program schedules in countries such as Britain, Holland, Ireland, Germany and New Zealand, where in some instances Australian serial drama production is taken as the 'model' of cost-effective TV production for overseas markets in 'medium-sized TV nations' (see Cunningham and Jacka). It is in the area of series and serial production and programming that the synergistic and fluctuating relationship between local and imported material are most apparent: if these economists were looking for "fat" in the Australian TV industry, O'Regan points out, the most obvious areas are rather the areas which have some form of "natural protection" in world markets, such as news and current affairs, light entertainment and sports. 7

The relationship of O'Regan's argument to theories of "cultural imperialism" is more complex, and perhaps should be read in conjunction with his essay on the global popularity of "Hollywood" film and TV published in Continuum ("Too Popular"). To paraphrase the argument very crudely, the critics of American "cultural imperialism" have the economic dynamics more or less right, but not the relationship between text production and audience reception. It is true to say that American TV is "local" in the sense of there being little imported programming, and that the size of the American market, combined with their traditional dominance of the global industry, allows American programs to be sold in countries like Australia at disproportionately low prices. These factors would in turn significantly undercut the local audiovisual industry in the absence of some form of state protectionism and assistance, a point recognised in more sophisticated economic analyses of the sector. What is not allowed for in these accounts, however, is the sense in which American television is television, just as Hollywood cinema is film, in the sense that it has established the parameters within which viewing audiences interpret audiovisual texts, and audiovisual producers outside of the US have come to understand the process of making programs of mass appeal. Insofar as the experience of modernity in the 20th century is synonymous with film and television, it is also equated with "Hollywood". For better or worse, American audiovisual product, like Elvis Presley, Madonna or The Terminator is a core component of the lingua franca of global culture, through which local cultures the world over "make sense" of the experience of modern life. It also provides the template for local cultural production, from the "indigenising" of the American cop drama first developed in programs such as Homicide, to the borrowing of US program formats for game shows such as Wheel of Fortune, to the use of the on-screen marker pen in Channel Nine's cricket coverage, a technique taken from the coverage of American football. 8 To observe this does not make the programs mentioned less "Australian", or less central to the idea of an "Australian television culture", but rather recognises the complex dimensions of the relationship between local and imported material in the programming strategies of Australian television.

O'Regan draws attention to the economic and cultural dimensions of this "double face" in the following ways:

Australian television faces two ways. Its medium size makes it more outward looking. It is a local window and a window to the world, with local programs making up only half the schedule. Audience allegiances attach in equal measure to local and imported programming....Australian programming negotiates a local presence in the context of imported programming; imported programming needs to be 'naturalised'. Without the cross-subsidisation made possible by cheaper imported material, there would be only limited local programming...Imported programming is both competition for local production and complementary to it. (59, author's emphasis)

Australian audiences routinely deal with local and imported products, and move easily between local, regional, national, international and minoritarian levels. The political and strategic differences within television and between audiences occur in an overall context of continuity between different cultural levels. International programming and the adoption of an international orientation are not fundamentally at odds with national cultural level(s) and diverse national ambitions, but are often complementary to them. (87, author's emphasis)

The structure of Australian Television Culture provides some insight into how O'Regan sees the argument developing in the text. It begins with a consideration of "macro-structural" issues such as technology, ownership, communications policy, and the relationship between local and imported programming, to then discuss more "micro-cultural" questions relating to the SBS, multiculturalism in Australian television, and Aboriginal television. In this sense, Chapters Five and Six constitute the core of the book, since it is in these chapters that the issues relating to television and national culture are developed. I found the discussion of television and national culture to be worthy but somewhat prosaic, with the argument - that the relationship between television and national culture is complex, sometimes mutually reinforcing and sometimes in conflict - lacking in the sorts of textual resources which an author such as John Hartley would have drawn upon: it needed examples from television (ads, programs etc.) and from various national cultural projects to illustrate and enliven the conceptual apparatus being constructed.

In these chapters, O'Regan does challenge some influential arguments about television, national culture and multiculturalism in ways which are likely to generate a critical response. O'Regan argues that it is impossible for commercial television or the ABC to adopt either the "globalist" or the "critical multiculturalist" approaches to program provision. In the case of a globalist, free-trade orientation, the problem is that there is not an either/or relationship between nationalism and internationalism, but rather a set of possible policy approaches which would benefit distinct fractions of the national television industry over others. In the case of the multiculturalist critique, O'Regan argues that for such a demand for more multiculturalism to be adopted in non-SBS Australian television production and programming, it requires both the "mainstreaming" and the "localising" of constructions of ethnicity and difference. The arguments are that there is no NESB/ESB divide within the Australian television viewing population reflected in preferences with regard to TV programming, that the capacity to represent the diversity of identities found within Australian society is very much shaped by the program type which is being referred to, and that the capacity of Australian television to "relate" to different communities is very much shaped by a range of historical and social factors. With regard to the latter point, O'Regan argues:

There is unlikely to be the phenomenon of the "professional" Australian (like Barry Humphries or Clive James) on any Asian television service. There will be no Rupert Murdochs becoming Japanese citizens. Japanese and Hong Kong symbolic culture may be becoming more valued in Australia, but neither is as inclusive for most Australians as are Hollywood's and Britain's symbolic cultures. Australian (non-Asian) cosmopolitans can only weakly participate in "Asian" culture and can only attenuate their own traditions so far. (118)

The two chapters on the SBS and the chapter on Aboriginal television possess a sharpness and clarity which I found lacking from the two chapters on Australian television culture which precede them. The points previously made about multiculturalism being a policy technology, and about 'multicultural' programming practice always possessing a relationship to both the national culture in which migrant communities now find themselves within, and to the viewing preferences of various NESB audiences, are most clearly put in the chapters on SBS as both symbolic politics and as a television service, which are co-written with Dona Kolar-Panov. These chapters argue that SBS is something more than 'ethnic television', defined in the sense in which SBS radio services are 'ethnic radio'. The subtitling of programs, the emphasis upon commenting upon Australian multiculturalism and on events in Australia from a multicultural perspective, and the dual commitments to both 'quality' and 'minoritarian' programming make SBS-TV a resource (and a very important resource) to non-NESB Australians and to the multiculturalist project in Australia which makes it something more, and something more interesting than, a service designed specifically for ethnic communities. In this sense, the authors reject the "left" critique of SBS as being too oriented toward an Anglo-Australian mainstream, and share with Hartley the view that it is pioneering a new kind of television service.

The final chapter on Aboriginal television culture, co-written with Philip Batty, usefully indicates between different forms of Aboriginal initiative and intervention in the construction of television, distinguishing between:

  • projects based upon Aboriginal control of all or most aspects of the service, as found with some rural and remote services;

  • Aboriginal programming, with substantial Aboriginal input and/or control, on predominantly non-Aboriginal services, as with programs screened on the ABC and SBS such as First in Line and Blackout;

  • Aboriginal organisational control of television services which screen both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal programming, such as Imparja in Central Australia;

  • the presence of Aboriginal on-screen and off-screen personnel in programming aimed primarily at a non-Aboriginal audience.

    The chapter points to similarities and differences between Aboriginal strategies and multicultural demands in relation to television. Similarities include: the demand for inclusion in "mainstream" services; the demand for special recognition, particularly with regard to the public broadcasters; and debates about positive and negative representation. Differences include: the distinct identities arising from the political status of Aboriginal peoples as a group (or in fact a range of groups) initially of this country who were dispossessed by non-Aboriginal colonisers, as opposed to being (generally) voluntary migrants to the country; the associated lack of a linkage to distant "homeland" nations; the greater diversity of locations of Aboriginal populations; and the greater extent and ubiquity of poverty and structural disadvantage of Aboriginal Australians. The results are that there are similarities between the demands of the Aboriginal and NESB groups in relation to television (such as the demand for recognition and the call for specific services), but also important differences, such as: the greater need to recognise Aboriginal protocols in production by non-Aboriginal groups concerning Aboriginal Australians; the demand for a separate public sphere, as distinct from the call for a greater presence within the existing frameworks; the lack of program material which can be sought from other sources rather than being produced within Australia; and the need to establish frameworks which can reconcile state resourcing of Aboriginal television projects with Aboriginal control over such projects. It would be useful to read this chapter alongside Marcia Langton's recent discussion of Aboriginal film and television commissioned by the AFC, with its extended discussion about the relational nature of "Aboriginal media", just as it is useful to read the chapters from O'Regan's book on the SBS alongside John Hartley's discussion of the SBS as a new kind of television service.

    Tele-ology and Australian Television Culture draw upon a diverse range of methodological resources to study the curious hybrid that is the medium of television, and the particularly hybridised forms it takes in an antipodean, English-language, multicultural post-colonial site such as Australia. Both works indicate the considerable scope that exists for approaches which combine textual studies, political economy, cultural studies and policy analysis, and in many respects mark out television studies as a distinct field of methodological innovation in the humanities and social sciences. After reading both books, it is difficult to sustain the argument that Australian television is a mongrel, due either to its inferior status vis-a-vis the "pure-bred" forms of public service monopoly with a patrician instinct, or to free market, "give-the-punters-what-they-want" commercialism. It is also difficult to sustain the argument that television is a cultural object less worthy of serious study than other areas of cultural production. Television is rather a complex hybrid form, reflecting and shaping the diverse range of complex social and cultural forces which interact both with and within it, which in Australia continues to possess some stark limitations, but which is also developing cultural forms which the best of the new media production initiatives, as well as new areas of intellectual activity, can learn from in a fruitful way.


    1. The excellent collection Logics of Television edited by Patricia Mellencamp, came out of a series of seminars held at this Centre, at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, in 1987/88, declared by the Centre for Twentieth Century Studies to be 'the year of television'.

    2. This essay has been republished in Frow and Morris' Australian Cultural Studies: a Reader.

    3. I have discussed elsewhere these shifting boundaries and the limits of ideological critique of mainstream media, in more detail in relation to The Simpsons. See Terry Flew, "The Simpsons: Culture, Class and Popular TV". Metro 97 (Autumn 1994).

    4. This is true of what have been the two major texts in Australian media studies Windschuttle's The Media and Bonney and Wilson's Australia's Commerical Media. It is also, I would suggest, true of the dominant critical tradition in Australian media studies, with its emphasis upon the "media barons" and their relationship to their "mates" in Federal Parliament.

    5. The "free trade" argument which underpins the critique of local content regulations by some neo-classical economists is developed in Jones, McGuinness Industries Assistance Commission, and Bureau of Transport and Communications Economics.

    6. A similar error is found in Docker, although Docker sees the privileging of drama as the result of an imposition of a "high culture" aesthetic by local regulators.

    7. The concept of "natural protection" in economic theory refers to industries and economic activities where "local" advantages (which may relate to spatial distance, language or culture) give indigenous producers an inherent advantage over import competitition. A good example in Australia would be the building construction industry, particularly in the area of domestic dwellings.

    8. It is worth noting that many of Reg Grundy's program ideas are alleged to have come from his sitting in Los Angeles hotel rooms for hours watching American television.

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    _______. "Towards a High Communication Policy" Continuum 2:1 (1988/1989): 135-158.

    _______. "The Rise and Fall of Entrepreneurial Television". Screen 32:1 (1991): 94-108.

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    New: 6 December, 1995 | Now: 26 March, 2015