Tabloid TV – it’s one of modern life’s little irritations but, thankfully, one that’s easily avoided – unlike Melbourne’s Myki system, the rococo convolutions of bus routes in Melbourn’s outer suburbs and numb-nuts who conduct loud conversations on their mobile phones while you’re trying to read the latest edition of New Scientist. You just have to take care, when you’re channel surfing on the TV between 6:30 and 7:00pm that you avoid Today Tonight and ACA much as a real surfer avoids surfing through a sewage outfall.
Well that’s the theory; in practice it doesn’t always work out that way. Then you’re reminded that tabloid TV isn’t merely an irritant – at times it’s quite noxious.
I got two such reminders on Monday: the first when I was a bit too slow on the remote control when ACA came up on the TV and got sucked in by a morbidly fascinating teaser for an upcoming story; the second when I tuned in to Media Watch.
Media Watch’s main story was this report on how if you’re ‘not sick but want the day off … these doctors are happy to make every weekend a long one. Just ask and they’ll give you a certificate.’ ACA sent Brisbane Producer Aaron O’Brien out with a hidden camera to get footage of doctors casually handing out medical certificates. Unfortunately for ACA one of the doctors featured in the report was recognised by colleagues and patients when the story was aired. His version of what happened during his consultation with O’Brien is very different from the ACA version.
ACA ran a similar story in 2001 and Colin Chapman, the ACA reporter who obtained the hidden camera footage was later convicted – in 2002 – of deceptive conduct after one of the doctors he filmed complained to police. While the deceptive conduct occurred while he was employed by Channel 9, by the time the case reached court, Chapman’s occupation was ‘freelance reporter and licensed private investigator’.
It seems, from the Media Watch report that ACA have learnt nothing from that experience. Or, on reflection, maybe they have – maybe Aaron O’Brien, the ACA producer who was sent out to gull doctors into providing spurious medical certificates, was the office newbie unaware of what happened to Chapman. However, too much speculation along those lines would be imprudent.
As for the ACA teaser I sucked myself into watching – well that showed quite a lot of vile promise so I didn’t make much of an effort to watch Tuesday’s ACA. I have checked it out on-line and a mere minute into the on-line video I stopped it; it had already met my expectations. I don’t want to say much more than that about it right now because the interests of a minor are involved and ACA made only the most token efforts to protect her from being identified. If ACA had any genuine concern for the girl’s welfare they wouldn’t have put the story to air at all; so, even though this post will most likely attract at most a couple of hundred readers, I’ve decided to be all prissy about it and deny them the linkage.
Whatever redress Dr Liam Carroll – the doctor who complained to Media Watch – or the not-so-anonymous minor discussed above might gain after being dragged into the spotlight for 15 minutes of unwanted notoriety, it will come long after the damage ACA has done. Ironically, this is the situation that features in many ACA stories of ordinary Aussie battlers who are put upon by landlords from hell, tenants from hell, neighbours from hell, children from hell etc, while the authorities do nothing. And, in an especially pungent irony no doubt many of those put upon Aussie battlers are prepared to tell their story on air because of the image ACA has cultivated – the self-appointed morals police who will stand up for decent Aussie battlers when no-one else will.
I’m not shocked by any of this – it’s just tabloid TV as usual after all. I did consider organising a secondary consumer boycott – a campaign of writing to corporations that advertise on ACA telling them we won’t be buying their products until that advertising stops. But that might get me accused of trying on a politically correct attack on the right of free speech. That’s only a minor consideration – what really kills the idea for me is the idea of having to watch ACA, even in fast forward, to identify the advertisers. That’s a prospect as attractive as watching faecal matter pour from an outfall; I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
*– One’s a total parasite wallowing in shit, the other’s just a worm.