Imparja and NITV as initiatives to combat Inequality in Australian Media

In my previous post I aimed to explain the role television media has in Australia in constructing the cultural understanding of individuals and also political understanding through news and current affairs. There is therefore a relationship between a lack of media representation in television and inequality for Indigenous Australians. In this half of my case study I will explore the role Imparja Television has had in addressing the issue of access as Australias first Indigenous controlled commercial television station broadcasting to remote and sparsely populated regions of Australia. I will also look at the impact NITV (National Indigenous Television) has had on the issue of representation, as a station focused on creating content for and by Aboriginal Australians and the trickle down effect this has had in creating social and institutional change.

Imparja, owned by The Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA), first commenced broadcasting in 1988 and still broadcasts today to over 700,000 people across remote eastern and central Australia. CAAMA was successful in vying for the first ever license to bring commercial television to 30 different remote Australian communities by claiming that “38% of the potential audience were Aborigines”(Molloy, 1993), and so CAAMA was best suited to serve the target audience. Imparja was seen as a huge break through after years of government intervention that neglected to support social and cultural movements which would benefit Indigenous people. In addition to the intervention that Imparja created in addressing an inequality in media access, NITV was launched in 2007 as a way for a diverse group to tell their own stories.

The need for a station like NITV was first recognised in the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 when a new section of the Act was pushed through parliament stating:

S 3(1)(n) “To ensure the maintenance and, where possible, the development of diversity, including public, community and indigenous broadcasting, in the Australian broadcasting system”. (Rennie, Ellie and Featherstone, Daniel, 2008, page 57)

This development outlined that there was a clear gap in the diversity of Australia’s television media and that a distinction needed to be made between the community based media model and an Indigenous community media sector. NITV continues to grow as a representative of Indigenous Australians, just last month in July 2017 they launched NITV Radio in partnership with SBS, and in the same month partnered with Choice Magazine to shed light on advertising and sales tactics targeting Indigenous Australians (Kirkland, Choice CEO, 2017).

A more recent initiative than Imparja or NITV is the website ICTV Play. It was launched in early 2016(IRCA, Annual Report, 2016, page 17) and is almost like ABC iView in that it is an extensive data base of recordings of stories, dance, song, hunting, language and bush tucker videos submitted by those living in remote Indigenous communities. It features a segment called ‘Young Way’ which allows students in community to upload their own music videos and stories made by them. ICTV Play is really an incredible device for digitally recording and therefore preserving ancient languages, stories and dance through shared media that is able to be accessed by anyone with internet. The importance of platforms like ICTV Play, NITV and organisations like CAAMA is observed through Michael Meadows when he says;

“Indigenous media produced in remote, regional and urban environments have the capacity not only to offer alternative ideas and assumptions about the world that enable their audiences to make sense of their places within it, but also to offer a critique of mainstream media processes” (Meadows, 2009, pg 121).

ICTV PLAY

In conclusion, initiatives like Imparja, NITV and ICTV Play are imperative to creating a diverse media landscape which represents and gives a voice to those who face every day inequalities in Australia.

P.S check out the hashtag #indigenousdads on Instagram as a response to Bill Leaks cartoon.

Reference List.

Indigenous Remote Communications Association (IRCA), Annual Report 2016, viewed 18 August 2017 http://irca.net.au/sites/default/files/public/documents/IRCA-Annual%20Report%202016-Web-S.pdf

Kirkland, A 2017 ‘A Spotlight on Change for Indigenous Consumers’ Choice magazine, July, viewed 21 August 2017https://www.choice.com.au/about-us/from-our-ceo/2017/a-spotlight-on-change

Meadows, M, May 2009, ‘Walking the Talk: Reflections on Indigenous Media Audience Research Methods’ Participations Journal of Audience and Reception Studies, Vol 6. Issue 1 https://research-repository.griffith.edu.au/bitstream/handle/10072/30199/60693_1.pdf?sequence=1

Molloy, B, 1993 ‘CHANGING CULTURAL CHANNELS: SBS-TV, IMPARJA AND AUSTRALIAN
TELEVISION’, The Electronic Journal of Communication, Vol 3, No. 3 viewed 19 August 2017 http://www.cios.org/EJCPUBLIC/003/3/00334.HTML

Rennie, Ellie and Featherstone, Daniel 2008, ‘The Potential Diversity of Things We Call TV’: Indigenous Community Television, Self-determination and NITV’,  Media International Australia, Incorporating Culture & Policy, No. 129 52-66  <http://search.informit.com.au.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/documentSummary;dn=909934871951567;res=IELLCC>ISSN: 1329-878X,  viewed 21 Aug 17

SBS Radio, 2017, ‘NITV Radio has Arrived!’ SBS, 3rd July 2017, viewed 21 August 2017 http://www.sbs.com.au/yourlanguage/aboriginal/en/article/2017/07/03/nitv-radio-has-arrived-sbss-flagship-indigenous-radio-program-living-black-radio

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Access and Representation of Indigenous Australians in main stream media

Our modern culture is saturated with imagery and how this imagery is presented to us is crucial to the formation of individuals cultural understanding. Stuart Hall (1997) describes representation as how culture interlocks with how things are presented to an audience. He goes further to say that the practices of representation are one of the key processes in the “cultural circuit” (Hall, 1997, pg. 3). The representation of Aboriginal Australians in television has vastly improved both on and off the screen with characters identified as Indigenous Australians at 5 per cent, compared to their proportion of the population (3 per cent) as of 2011. Contrast this with figures in 1992 of no Indigenous actors on screen and only 2 in 1999 (ScreenAustralia, pg 6), this is a major improvement of cultural diversity in Australian television.

However, Indigenous characters were concentrated in fewer programs than characters from European or non-European backgrounds and nearly all programs were aired on SBS or ABC. This is important because it means that although there are more Indigenous actors and characters, they are not widespread throughout main stream media and therefore according to Hall’s theory, effects audience’s cultural understanding of Indigenous Australians.

The problem with a lack of representation is that it can mean misrepresentation, stereotyping and racism. An example of this was published last year in The Australian. The below cartoon by Bill Leak depicts an Aboriginal father with a beer can who can’t remember his son’s name, a hurtful and degrading stereotype that clearly illustrates how main stream media marginalises Indigenous Australians by representing them as incapable of parenthood. This negative sort of representation in main stream media continues to foil Aboriginal advancement. Aboriginal people face shorter life expectancies of up to a decade, make up 50% of all Australian suicides as of 2010 and equate to over a quarter of the adult prison population (2013) despite only making up 2.3% of the adult population.  Negative main stream media representation not only shapes cultural understanding by perpetuating stereotypes but also prolongs inequality.

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Bill Leak 2016 The Australian

The issue of representation for Aboriginal Australians can not be overcome without overcoming the issue of access to culturally diverse creative goods. The UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity promotes access to culturally diverse creative goods as a basic human right. However, in Australia, as of 2006, 25% of Indigenous people were living in remote areas of Australia compared to only 2% of non-Indigenous people. It can be hard to access media in remote Australia at all, especially media that is reflective of and relatable to those living in remoteness. Indigenous programming on mainstream television accounts for less than 2 hours per week, or around 1.2% of the total airtime (Ausgov 2016), which is arguably a severe under representation of the indigenous people of Australia and hardly culturally diverse. For Australians cultural understanding of Indigenous people to improve, the diversity of Australia’s media landscape must also improve. It is arguable that when there are few relatable and tangible role models, you  ‘can’t be what you can’t see’ and so the “cultural circuit” continues. In the second part of this case study I will explore several organisations and initiatives that have been created to address the under representation of Indigenous Australians in media, as well as access to relatable and relevant media for those living in remote Australia.

Resources

http://www.presscouncil.org.au/uploads/52321/ufiles/Op_Ed_items_in_The_Australian_re_Bill_Leak_cartoon.pdf

https://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/getmedia/157b05b4-255a-47b4-bd8b-9f715555fb44/TV-Drama-Diversity.pdf

http://www.australia.gov.au/about-australia/australian-story/indigenous-radio-and-television

http://www.australianstogether.org.au/stories/detail/the-gap-indigenous-disadvantage-in-australia

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-10-20/bill-leak-singled-out-for-racial-discrimination-investigation/7952590

http://www.pc.gov.au/research/ongoing/overcoming-indigenous-disadvantage/2011/key-indicators-2011-factsheet-remote.pdf