Screen Tests and Digital Dead-ends. "Turning Off the Television: Broadcasting’s Uncertain Future" by Jock Given and "Media Mania: Why Our Fear of Modern Media is Misplaced" by Hugh Mackay. [review]
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At a recent Australian Broadcasting Authority conference, federal communications minister Senator Richard Alston conceded that the early adoption of digital television in Australia had been 'modest'. More impartial observers of the transition to digital broadcasting in Australia have been less restrained. 'A digital dead-end' and 'dismal failure' are representative of recent media commentary on the subject. Jock Given, however, is optimistic. "Turning Off the Television" discusses the technical, commercial and policy choices already made about digital broadcasting, and examines their implications. As much about the past as the future, this comprehensive study traces the technological changes that have led to the so-called digital revolution, from Marconi to the dot-com crash. Mackay's book examines in turn those aspects of the modern media around which claims about media influence have revolved: television advertising, media violence, the Internet, and the current trend towards lifestyle programs. Advertising, which appears to be the most overt form of television propaganda, is found to be greatly overestimated in its ability to influence consumers. The theoretical framework of Mackay's thesis is not new. The view that the media contribute to attitude formation rather than shaping it directly has prevailed for at least forty years. Mackay's achievement is to present it in an accessible and appealing manner. At a time of intense debate in Australia about media ownership laws, the funding of the ABC and SBS, and the transition to digital broadcasting, both of these books make a valuable and important contribution to our understanding of media practices and influences.