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News as Entertainment

Video clip synopsis – John Safran talks about the use of 'doorstopping' in current affairs programs. Scott Goodings traces the celebrity and entertainment value of today's news broadcasts to the 'news wars' of the late 1980s.
Year of production - 2005
Duration - 2min 57sec
Tags - culture, media influence, media ownership, news media, popular culture, see all tags


News as Entertainment

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About the Video Clip


The interviews with John Safran and Scott Goodings were recorded for the website From Wireless to Web, produced in 2005.

John Safran is a filmmaker and self-proclaimed media hooligan. Scott Goodings is a self-proclaimed 'TV freak’ and walking archive. You can view their full biographies 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


Outcomes from this digital resource
In this English unit students will learn:

  • that news and current affairs items, particularly on television, may be presented for reasons other than merely informing the audience
  • to observe, discuss, analyse and critique these types of news items
  • to experiment with producing and critiquing samples of their own.

Viewing and creating texts about news and current affairs, students will have the opportunity to explicitly develop and demonstrate their knowledge and abilities in terms of:

Affective objectives

  • engaging: participating effectively in activities that involve connecting with people, feelings, places, ideas, issues and events
  • playing: experimenting with the flexible nature of language, exploring its possibilities, and creating desired effects

Knowledge and control of texts in their contexts

  • making meaning in texts, taking account of how language and meaning are shaped by cultural purposes, genres and register variables
  • using and controlling texts in their contexts, by making choices of register to achieve particular purposes in particular cultural contexts and social situations
  • developing and demonstrating knowledge of genres, language, literacies as social practices and of subject matter relating to texts selected for study
  • selecting, synthesising, analysing, infering from, and evaluating subject matter and substantiating with evidence as required
  • establishing and making use of the ways that writers, speakers/signers and shapers’ roles and their relationships with their readers, listeners and viewers are influenced by power, distance and affect
  • using modes and mediums, combining where necessary, to interpret and produce texts.

Knowledge and control of textual features

*making decisions about the appropriateness and effectiveness of the staging of texts and the sequencing and organization of subject matter, and of the use of cohesive ties to link ideas in a range of texts, including those that are multimodal
*considering and selecting vocabulary
*making use of a range of sentence and clause structures, and using grammar, as appropriate
*experimenting with visual, auditory and digital features, using them in combination as appropriate in written, spoken/signed and multimodal texts to make meaning
*making use of a range of spoken/signed and non-verbal features

Knowledge and application of the constructedness of texts

  • making use of their knowledge that discourses shape and are shaped by language choices
  • exploring ways that cultural assumptions, values, beliefs and attitudes underpin texts
  • choosing ways to represent concepts, and the relationships and identities of individuals, groups, times and places
  • making choices about how to invite readers or viewers of, or listeners to, their own texts to take up positions in relation to the text of parts of the text.

This is an extract only. Teachers and students should consult Queensland Curriculum: Learning, Teaching and Assessment for updated curriculum information

Background Information


In April 1993 news crews descended on a siege at a remote farmhouse west of Grafton in NSW. They outnumbered the police by more than two to one. It was being reported that five people were already dead, and two children were being held as hostages. Journalists phoned the farmhouse to interview the gunmen.

Media coverage of the appalling event was compulsive, and dominated prime-time news. Broadcasters competed for the best story, the best interview. Channel Nine’s A Current Affair secured a telephone line to the children who were captives in the house. 'Did you see anyone being killed? Have you enjoyed this adventure?’ compere Mike Willesee asked the eleven year old. Willesee also conducted an interview by phone with the fugitive responsible for killing and burning the body of a girl.

Coverage of the event was widely condemned by police, psychologists and media commentators. The line between reported news and entertainment had been blurred. The tricks of television entertainment television had been pilfered to spice up the news. But meantime audience ratings had soared, and the networks were quick to realise that there were profits to be gained from an 'infotainment’ approach to news and current affairs.

Classroom Activities

  1. Getting started
    View the two interview clips, then discuss in class and make notes on the following:
    1. characteristics that make a ‘newsworthy’ and informative news item
    2. characteristics that make a ‘non-newsworthy’ news item, one that entertains, advertises or promotes rather than informs.
    3. the possible values, attitudes and beliefs underpinning these decisions.
  2. Changes in Technology
    Since this clip was produced, technology (especially the widespread use of the fast internet connections and mobile phones) has influenced the way that audiences can be engaged and entertained. What are some current methods of involving and entertaining audiences that are evident now and were not dealt with in the clip?
  3. TV news and current affairs analysis
    In small groups, video-record some TV news and current affairs programs. View these programs, taking note of items that you think are presenting news and current affairs items as entertainment or as disguised advertising or promotional material. Within your group, prepare a written report of about 350–400 words on one of these items, discussing the messages it is imparting to the audience. Take note of:
    1. who they ideal viewer seems to be (HINT: the advertising during the news or current affairs program can give you a clue here)
    2. presenter’s and interviewer’s spoken text, physical appearance, posture and gesture, voice tone and inflexion, facial expressions
    3. text captions
    4. visual background stills
    5. film footage, and the way camera shots are edited together to create meanings and emotional responses,
    6. music and sound effects.
    7. the positive and negative consequences of going along with the ideas expressed.
  4. Create your own news story
    In pairs, plan and write the scripts, then video-record and play to the class two different versions of the one television news story. The first version should be a news report telling the viewer the basics of What, Where, Who and When. The second version should be a news item presented with the purpose either of entertaining the audience rather than of informing them, or of advertising or promoting a product or an event. Examples are:
    1. a medical or pharmaceutical ‘breakthrough’
    2. a lottery win
    3. a fashion show
      You should keep notes of your planning, editing and progress, altering the presentation where necessary, before releasing the final product for audience viewing. The rest of the class is to provide constructive and positive feedback about your presentation.

Further Resources


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

Television series: Frontline (episode 5, series 1) The Siege (1994) Santo Cilauro, Jane Kennedy, Rob Sitch, Tom Gleisner (director/producer)