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New technologies create new TV formats

Video clip synopsis – John Safran talks about the unique techniques, structure and ideas of reality TV.
Year of production - 2005
Duration - 1min 41sec
Tags - broadcasting, communication, creativity, culture, emerging technologies, identity, media production, technological change, television, television programs, see all tags


New technologies create new TV formats

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About the Video Clip


This interview with John Safran was recorded for the website From Wireless to Web produced in 2005.

John Safran is a filmmaker and self-proclaimed media hooligan. You can view his full biography at From Wireless to Web

The website is a selective history of broadcast media in Australia. Decade by decade, from radio and newsreels to TV and the internet, this history shows how the Australian broadcast media developed and shaped the way Australians see themselves.

From Wireless to Web is a Film Australia production in association with Roar Film.

Curriculum Focus


Area of study 2. Technologies of representation

This area of study focuses on the production of representations by students in two or more media forms. Students then compare how the application of the different media technologies affects the meanings that can be created in the representations. The implications for the distribution and/or consumption of these representations are also discussed.

Different media technologies represent the world in different ways. Each, through its technology, materials, techniques, applications and processes, produces a particular representation of the world. While the different forms of media (for example, television, radio and the internet) have practices that are common, they also have features that result in the production of media products with characteristics that are unique. The use of codes and conventions to convey ideas and meaning in the representations is considered in the context of the media forms in which the technologies were applied and with reference to the specific forms and characteristics of the representations produced.

This material is an extract. Teachers and Students should consult the Victoria Curriculum and Assessment Authority website for more information.

Background Information


The rise of home video technology was behind the ratings success of a new kind of program, Australia’s Funniest Home Video Show, launched on Nine in 1990. The show combined viewers’ video clips with sound effects and comedic voiceovers. However it was not without its predecessors, such as Candid Camera.

These technologies have also reduced the cost of professional news gathering and led to increased sourcing of footage from the public, most famously in the 1992 Rodney King case in Los Angeles.

The 1990s were the start of the low-cost 'reality TV’ phenomenon that dissolved the boundaries between games shows and documentaries. Reality TV productions involve using 'ordinary people’, and in doing so the medium of television comes to play a direct role in contestants’ lives.

Cheap and portable cameras were also behind the success of the ABC’s 1997 Race Around the World. The program followed a group of young filmmakers who were funded to travel the world and record 10 four-minute documentaries using camcorders. Race Around the World introduced the viewing public to John Safran, who infamously demonstrated his techniques for breaking into Disneyland and streaking through the streets of Jerusalem.

SBS was also experimenting with production technologies and drama and comedy formats in its 1999 program Going Home. The show was based on the interactions of evening commuters on Sydney’s rail network, and their commentaries on the events of their day.

Classroom Activities


Answer the following questions from the Video Clip Context and the video clip itself:

  1. What do you the impact of the new technology has been on television?
    1. Look at both the news/documentary field and the entertainment field.
    2. What moral and ethical implications might there be with this technology?
  2. How do you think it has shaped the way shows are made? Do you agree with John Safran about how it compares to film?
  3. Do you think ‘reality television’ is really capturing reality?
    1. Do you believe that people behave the same when they are in front of a camera?
    2. Is there a selection process that happens in production and post-production?
    3. Is it possible to ever really capture reality? How or why not?

Further Resources


Go to From Wireless to Web for more about the history of broadcast media in Australia.