It’s around this time every 4 years that our nation becomes transfixed with its sense of patriotism. We sit down to watch the heats, the splits, the strokes and the jumps, and we feel connected as a nation. A unified nation cheering on our fellow Aussies as they go for Olympic gold.
Or are we? Especially when the likes of James “The Missile” Magnussen, the Kookaburras and Michael Diamond fail to achieve the lofty (yet somewhat valid) expectations that are placed upon them. It doesn’t help when headlines such as ‘Misfires at the crying Games’, ‘Michael Diamond outgunned’ and ‘Kookaburras come up short once more’ dominate our headlines. Personally, I feel alienated. After all, athletes don’t always win. Physical ability isn’t the only thing determining the outcome of the Olympic Games – Steven Bradbury anyone?
Despite this, there are still some unifying features of these Olympic Games in particular. Take Karl Stefanovic. He’s Australia’s favourite dad – perhaps purely thanks to his plentiful dad jokes. So too, the immersion of Olympic reportage across all mediums, as annoying as that may be.
Unifying or not, the Olympics can be consider extraordinary television. Pumped out to an entire nation it covers all possible emotions on the spectrum. Another medium that captures a nation (debatable), and is our favourite dad’s native habitat is breakfast TV.
David Morley posits in his article ‘Broadcasting and the Construction of the National Family’ that “through content and form – television produces a sense of time for the audience’. This could not be more true for a format such as breakfast television. Headlines scroll across the bottom of the screen initiating us in the happenings of the world and our nation. Field reporters report from afar noting how cold it is at 6.00am in the morning. We are treated to interviews on the latest topics of the day. If we can get even more specific – the time is shown at the bottom left of the screen. I would make use of another Morley quote here to back up my note, “broadcasting is not simply involved in ordinary life but… constitutive of it”. Indeed, broadcasting in the form of breakfast television “is obsessed with identifying itself with the daily world of the television viewer” J. Weiten & M. Pantti. (2005). Karl the Dad. Lisa the Mum. Ben the Brother. Georgie the sister. Actually Karl could still be a brother. Come to think of it, the Today team could actually be the Brady Bunch.. Regardless of their familial ties, we feel so safe and comfortable in the company of these people. We’re happy to wake up to their voices and hear their stories, or at least hear them talk about them.
Sadly, (not really, I just love Karl), I’m sure a lot of people wouldn’t agree with me. Just like I feel a little alienated by the Olympics coverage, there is bound to be plenty of people out there who feel sick watching Karl construct witty puns and Richard Wilkins interview the fluff of Hollywood.
Can TV then be considered a ‘counter public sphere’ in the way it polarises it’s viewers? I would suggest not. While some of us feel included, others excluded, it opens up a forum of discussion, and with the addition of live tweeting, fango and increased amounts of audiences willingness to be active viewers – television will always assume a role in the ‘”cultural thickening” of the nation state’ (Anderson, 1983)