Thursday, April 9, 2009

Nick Minchin, the ABC, Robotic Cameras, and the zen of public broadcasting

The clip above comes from YouTube, and as it features one of our favorite Liberal party loons, the "so dry he makes desiccated coconut look like a muddy swamp" Nick Minchin, I thought it was worthwhile spreading a little further.

Whoever "qednet" - the poster - is, he obviously has good contacts within the ABC, though this clip has only attracted three hundred views and a couple of comments to date.

Nothing much happens, and that's probably the point of the experience. It's almost zen, the gateless gate, the camera that won't move, the robot that remains intractable and unflinching as it observes the hapless Minchin, who shuffles, jigs and dances to the lens's cold, Dave-like stare, desperately trying to satisfy the off-screen marionette master's demand for a wider shot.

Minchin in the end offers to jump up and down on the spot, but that job really should be reserved for Malcolm Turnbull.

What it does evoke, in its emptiness and desolation, is the precarious, impecunious condition of the ABC, and the wretched condition of the ABC Breakfast News program, which makes the fast cutting on Radio National's AM seem so much more visual.

The derelict studio is on about a par with the ABC's currently derelict strategy in drama, which seems designed to make so many boring shows that viewers will gratefully watch the abundant BBC material broadcast on a Sunday night.

Now it so happens that the ABC is the most innovative and interesting of the FTA broadcasters when it comes to connecting to its audience online, but it currently suffers from a truly wretched neglect in terms of funds actually going to generate content for use either in conventional broadcasting or for online distribution.

Maybe the guy who put the clip together was trying to make a point about ABC management, robot cameras, early morning news gathering, the degutting of the ABC during the Howard years, in which Minchin played a handy 'dry' role, or maybe it was just a matter of chortling at Minchin looking like a prize gherkin in front of a robot camera. Somewhere in there I sniff a little payback.

None of this will mean anything to an international reader, but zen when applied to Nick Minchin has a nicely dry taste for locals driven insane over the years by his ponderous pontifications. 

Perhaps Minchin could develop a parable about the new ABC and the way it was necessary to kill off all the camera people, so that robot cameras could become implacable observers of politicians desperate for their 15 minutes under lights (if they're on). Everything must change, things must pass, and whatever you do don't touch the camera, you might break it:

Ikkyu, the Zen master, was very clever even as a boy. His teacher had a precious teacup, a rare antique. Ikkyu happened to break this cup and was greatly perplexed. Hearing the footsteps of his teacher, he held the pieces of the cup behind him. When the master appeared, Ikkyu asked: "Why do people have to die?"

"This is natural," explained the older man. "Everything has to die and has just so long to live."

Ikkyu, producing the shattered cup, added: "It was time for your cup to die."

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