The media and the message

As it happens, I was one of those surveyed in the Newspoll during the interregnum while we waited for the independents to bestow the laurel. I therefore kept an eye out for the results when they were finally reported. And I was mindful of the influences on all of us across the country as we waited for the outcome. 

So whatever biases were in the survey were partly accountable for my having been home and in front of the phone on a Saturday afternoon, very unusual. If I’m not there to answer, my entire demographic might have been a bit skewed in the other direction, but that is the nature of such surveys. But as these things go, I thought the survey was done professionally and as fairly as possible. 

But in thinking about the survey and all that led up to it and then from it, I was aware that we were now out of the election period and once again into a period in which the leaders of the parties were no longer in control of their message. Because the networks had to demonstrate at least a modicum of fairness, they gave Coalition spokespersons something like equal time. 

Watching Kerry O’Brien’s limited aggression towards the Prime Minister while trying to havoc the Opposition Leader to the fullest extent, he was more or less representative of the way a segment of the media was directed, particular the ABC. Nevertheless, because Abbott was there and was able to keep his cool and answer whatever issues were raised with him – and then raise some issues of his own – he got his message across. Not perfectly, not always clearly, but people could listen and watch directly. Rooty Hills and all that. 

But with the election over, the Opposition largely disappeared behind a wall of media (mis)representation, again with special emphasis on the ABC. I don’t systematically watch news shows or read the press, but in watching whatever I saw and reading what I read, there was much news that was designed to discredit the Coalition with no one there to respond beyond the three-second sound bite. 

The supposed hole in the budget costings, which were, so far as I understand, no more than a normal assumption made in such costings – the Government has made exactly the same assumptions in its own projections – were trumpeted as Coalition incompetence and I do not recall seeing or reading anyone from the Coalition being invited to discuss the assumptions and why there was no black hole as described. 

Meanwhile, the fact that the deficit reduction scheme is worse under the Government – black hole or not – was given almost no real attention. It was hardly headline material and was in all the stories I recall reading, if it was mentioned at all, it was mentioned in a minor way. 

With the election having gone the way it did, the post-election period in which the sentiment of the nation was being assessed was not done under election conditions in which both sides get to speak directly to the country. With the media now again the message, it does not entirely surprise me that sentiment went in the direction it did.

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