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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


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.

Reading Standard: students view, analyse, critique, reflect on and discuss media texts that explore social and cultural issues of significance to their own lives. They analyse and discuss these texts and identify the purposes for which texts are created. They compare and contrast the features of particular texts to draw conclusions.

Writing Standard: students compose a range of texts, plan and deliver presentations, sequencing and organising complex ideas. They maximise the effects of rhythm and tone and write with developing fluency. They proofread and edit their own writing for accuracy, consistency and clarity.

Speaking and Listening Standard: students analyse critically the relationship between texts, contexts, speakers and listeners in a range of situations. They compare ideas, build on others’ ideas and reach conclusions that take account of aspects of an issue. They draw on a range of strategies to listen to and present spoken texts, complex issues or information imaginatively to interest an audience.

The activities in this unit are relevant to the Interdisciplinary Learning strands of Level 6 Communications (Listening, Viewing and Responding standard; Presenting standard), and Thinking Processes (Reasoning, Processing and Inquiry standard; Creativity standard).

The activities are also relevant to the Physical, Personal and Social Learning strand of Level 6 Interpersonal Development (Working in Teams standard).

This material is an extract. Teachers and Students should consult the Victoria Curriculum and Assessment Authority website for more 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.
  2. 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. presenter’s and interviewer’s spoken text, physical appearance, posture and gesture, voice tone and inflexion, facial expressions
    2. text captions
    3. visual background stills
    4. film footage, and the way camera shots are edited together to create meanings and emotional responses,
    5. music and sound effects.
  3. 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)