Current Affairs programs are some of the most highly rated and discussed programs on free to air and public broadcasting stations. A great deal of money is spent on reporters, anchors, crew and promotion. However, there is quite a difference between the current affairs shows on Channel 9 & 7 compared to SBS or the ABC.
Current affairs shows on commercial television are known as tabloid journalism. Tabloid journalism is one of the key differnces between public and private broadcasters. In particular, Today Tonight and A Current Affair will often pay for footage and interviews. This is referred to as ‘chequebook journalism’, whereby every story has a price and they will pay huge sums of money to secure the deal. Scandals, assaults, theft, dodgy tradesmen, social welfare, minority groups etc…are all fodder for the tabloid journalist. The stories are likely to be sensationalised by exaggeration, taking footage or interviews out of context and exploiting the material.
Alternatively, shows like The 7.30 Report on the ABC are considered serious journalism and usually interview politicians or present interviews with respected academics, commentators and/or witnesses. They do not exploit there material and do not pay people for stories.
Over the next few weeks we are going to look at tabloid journalism shows and create one of our own.
I advise you watch Today Tonight, A Current Affair and the 7.30 Report so that you can see the difference between tabloid journalism and serious journalism. Also, you will need to understand the format of tabloid journalism to complete the assignment.
Sample TV News Script