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New technologies and the ABC

By Alan Knight - posted Wednesday, 30 May 2007

I am old enough to remember when mainstream media pretty much had a monopoly on mass communications.

Not any more.

Indeed mainstream media, such as the ABC will need to re-invent themselves to avoid being marginalised in an interactive globalised world information order.


I would like to consider some of these new communications technologies from the perspective of a media user and producer with a concern for the future of Australian media.

When I was in Cambodia 15 years ago, Khmer Rouge radio was still up in the hills, broadcasting denunciations about running dogs. But nobody in the capital Phnom Penh seemed to be listening. People had erected satellite dishes on their rooftops, linked with a spider web of cables and were watching Hong Kong made sitcoms and quiz shows.

Four years later in 1997, the British hoped to use global TV to obscure the fact they delivered an educated and democratic population to one of the most authoritarian and corrupt regimes on earth. The British tried to distract the international audience by creating the Hong Kong handover as a spectacle crafted for live, global television. There were fireworks, marching Scotsmen, and even the Prince of Wales delivered on schedule to carefully sited television cameras.

But even ten years ago, people were already using the Internet to bypass satellite television to report, analyse, distribute and discuss. I established a website, Dateline Hong Kong, to progressively record the views of correspondents covering the event, make the material available to journalism educators across the globe, and to create a safe repository for the information so that it might be later published as a book. The book, Reporting Hong Kong, was researched in China, written in Tokyo and Yeppoon in Central Queensland, copy edited in Sydney, published in New York and London and sold globally on

Today websites like Dateline Hong Kong are called blogs. According to Technorati, which monitors the net, by last month there were about 70 million blogs on the World Wide Web. That figure is already out of date. Tehnorati claimed that 1.4 new blogs were being created every second.

In mainland China, dissident journalists are turning to blogs to discuss stories suppressed in the still tightly controlled mainstream press. The religious group Falun Gong, has been funding IT research in the United States to penetrate the Chinese firewalls and allow information to flood in from outside.


Short wave broadcasts are already an anachronism. Last year, we were living at Hong Kong University and found that the mountains defeated the FM transmitted programs of Radio Television Hong Kong. However, the university had campus wide wireless -- remote connected broadband. So I tuned my computer into BBC online programs, connected a small amplifier and speakers to the earphone outlet and was able to enjoy news and music.

So what do these developments mean for mainstream media?

News Corporation's 77-year-old Rupert Murdoch said that he grew up in "a highly centralised world where news and information were tightly controlled by a few editors, who deemed to tell us what we could and should know". Those days were gone forever. Murdoch called his young daughters, digital natives, who would "never know a world without ubiquitous broadband Internet access".

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This paper was delivered at the Friends of the ABC National Conference in Melbourne on May 12, 2007.

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About the Author

Alan Knight is a discipline leader in Journalism, Media and Communications Studies at QUT and national spokesperson for Friends of the ABC.

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All articles by Alan Knight

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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