Truth and lies on TV screen

Wanganui Midweek - - NEWS -

The world is re­plete with cur­rent af­fairs pro­grammes or in­ves­tiga­tive TV shows that pur­port to be fair and un­bi­ased.

In fact they fol­low a path of in­quiry pre­de­ter­mined by the shows’ pro­duc­ers and all video footage and in­ter­views present the “ev­i­dence” that in­quiry is bound to un­cover.

How many shows seek to show one thing and, along the way, find the truth points in a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion?

And if that hap­pens, do they go to air with their find­ings? Some­thing worth pon­der­ing.

Most of our “in­ves­tiga­tive” TV shows set out to prove a par­tic­u­lar viewpoint, usu­ally one not shared by the police or courts. They want us to see some­one ac­quit­ted of a crime as a nasty crim­i­nal who got away with mur­der/fraud/ what­ever, and only the TV chan­nel and its re­porters have the gump­tion and the re­sources (and the newly dis­cov­ered se­cret wit­ness) to en­able them to find and present the truth.

Or they “in­ves­ti­gate” a crime com­mit­ted by some­one con­victed for that crime to “prove” they are not guilty.

They cast as­per­sions on the police in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the le­gal sys­tem and the jury that de­cided oth­er­wise — the jury that heard ALL the ev­i­dence from BOTH sides of the story.

That’s why we have a De­fence and a Pros­e­cu­tion.

A TV show presents one side of the story, ei­ther De­fence or Pros­e­cu­tion, but never both, un­less to show one in a bad light.

All in­ter­views are edited and some things — things that go against the pro­ducer’s grain — are with­held from pub­lic view. They have to fit the en­tire in­ves­ti­ga­tion within the frame­work of a one-hour TV show so a lot of ma­te­rial has to be shed in the in­ter­ests of time­frame and the of­fi­cial sta­tion viewpoint.

Of course the police make mis­takes and some­times ju­ries get it wrong, es­pe­cially if — just like TV shows — ev­i­dence is with­held or dis­torted. But the num­ber of “in­ves­tiga­tive” shows and their at­tempts to re­write le­gal his­tory sug­gests the courts get it wrong all the time, ev­ery day.

Th­ese TV shows are en­ter­tain­ment and they are at­tempts to im­prove or main­tain rat­ings.

To sug­gest a one-hour, edited, sub­jec­tive TV show can take the place of days or weeks of ev­i­dence, ques­tion­ing and due process in a court of law is naı¨ve and, in most cases, wrong.

But spon­sors and our tax money will con­tinue to sub­sidise en­ter­tain­ment which prom­ises to do ex­actly that.

Video lies. Most of th­ese shows prove it.

Aus­tralia’s a funny place, isn’t it?

I lived there for a few years and, mostly, en­joyed it. It was the 1980s, a time of body shirts and big hair and days when we waited anx­iously for the next tele­vised ap­pear­ance of Queens­land Premier, Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, just so we could hear yet an­other won­drous tid­bit of wis­dom. He loved talk­ing to the me­dia: he called it “feed­ing the chooks” — as op­posed to his pol­i­tics and party eco­nomic pol­icy, which was all about feed­ing the wealthy, the ap­pro­pri­ately named “white shoe brigade”. He would tell women re­porters, “Don’t you worry your pretty lit­tle head about that,” when they tried to ask ques­tions about his poli­cies and ac­tions. His an­tics were amus­ing and showed Aus­tralian pol­i­tics to be quite silly. Still, his wife and fel­low se­na­tor Flo made lovely pump­kin scones. Since then, Aus­tralia his slipped even more down the slip­pery slope of silli­ness, es­pe­cially with this “ship them back to New Zealand” men­tal­ity.

New Zealand is in line to in­herit the prod­ucts of Aus­tralian culture, peo­ple who have com­mit­ted crimes in Oz and have been iden­ti­fied as Ki­wis. Some of them have never set foot in Aotearoa, while others left at a ten­der age, their crim­i­nal habits and pro­cliv­i­ties yet to be formed by the very na­tion that wants to eject them back across the Tas­man. Pe­cu­liar, isn’t it, that Aus­tralia now wants to iden­tify their own cit­i­zens as Kiwi, af­ter years of claim­ing Ki­wis as Aus­tralians.

Ev­ery New Zealand mu­si­cian or singer that crossed the ditch and made it big in Aus­tralia was sud­denly claimed by their adopted coun­try. Never mind that they learned their skills and de­vel­oped a fan base at home, it was all about Aus­tralia. Not just New Zealand suc­cesses, of course. John Farn­ham, the Bee Gees and Olivia New­tonJohn had been in the coun­try five min­utes (fig­u­ra­tively) and were adopted by Aus­tralia. Poms? Hello no! They’re dinkum Aussie!

Dragon and Crowded House are just two in a long list of Kiwi bands that be­came “Aus­tralian,” be­cause it suited Aus­tralia. Now the re­verse is true.

Ne’er-do-wells of du­bi­ous Kiwi her­itage, raised and par­tially ed­u­cated in Aus­tralia, are be­ing re­turned to a land they have never known be­cause it suits the nar­row think­ing of Aus­tralian politi­cians.

It makes them look like they’re get­ting tough on crime and look­ing af­ter “real” Aus­tralians.

We’ve seen how real Aus­tralians are treated. The Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple were un­able to vote in Fed­eral elec­tions un­til 1962. Queens­land was the last to re­move their in­abil­ity to vote in State elec­tions in 1965.

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