The death of ABC Radio National ~ theatre notes

Friday, October 17, 2008

The death of ABC Radio National

I've long contended that the arts are the canary in the coal mine of media quality. Healthy arts coverage signals a wider vitality and depth. And bad arts coverage is the beginning of the end for quality journalism.

My thesis has been proved mournfully correct by Radio National, which has been steadily whittling away what was once impressive arts coverage, over the past few years cutting its daily arts program and Julie Copeland's Sunday Arts. Now they've decimated the arts, they've moved on to axe some major flagship programs. Yesterday they announced the axing of The Media Report, The Religion Report, The Ark, In Conversation, Perspective, Sports Factor, Radio Eye and Street Stories. Can't say I didn't see it coming. Lynden Barber and Nicholas Pickard have the goods.

Which brings me tangentially back to the Melbourne Festival and to something that's been bothering me for a couple of days. In their print edition, if not their disgraceful online coverage, the Age has been doing some thorough coverage of MIAF. I haven't had a chance to see the visual art (although I did have an enjoyable wander through Rita Antoniol's vivid photographic portraits of musicians at the Arts Centre) and the general media consensus seems to be Could Do Better. Fair enough.

But Robert Nelson's review of the visual arts in the Age is deeply puzzling. He attacks the program for making the visual arts a "handmaiden to the stage", and opens his thesis with complaints about - a play and a film! The confusion seems to be that they're occuring in galleries, but still, that's what they are, and thus they do indeed follow "the conventions of the performing arts". "Unless you can get to ACMI on October 17 to 19 at an appointed hour, [Eve] Sussman's seductive film will flit by," grumbles Nelson. "So will Tim Crouch's play England, at the NGV Australia, where 'no latecomers will be admitted'." Ah, the rigors of performance. You have to be on time and everything.


Anonymous said...

He's a twit and should not be taken seriously.

Alison Croggon said...

He's also the senior visual arts reviewer... I was quite amused by his comments on the Ecstatic City piece too. Did he really spend two and a half hours in those booths, I wonder?

Anonymous said...

I sat through two films in the first booth before I began to consider drowning myself in the pool.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe the Sports Factor is ending. That's one of my favourite shows!