There are many things I love about the US media. When it comes to newspapers, theirs are unquestionably the best in the world – led by the New York Times, and followed at some distance by the WSJ, WaPo, LA Times, and others. Moving back to Australia after living in the US from 2000-04, I was stunned at the drop in newspaper quality, and quickly set the NYT as my homepage. But of course, Australia has only about 1/14th of the population of the US, so worse newspapers are really no great surprise. In some sense, we should be comparing our newspapers not with the best in the US, but the best in Florida – a state with a population similar to Australia’s (compared to the Miami Herald, the Australian broadsheets look pretty good).
What I’d somehow forgotten while in the US was how great Australian broadcasting is. In terms of radio, the best of US current affairs comes through NPR, which has some great programs, but barrages its listeners with incessant appeals for money. Next to NPR, ABC radio current affairs is definitely better. The flagship current affairs programs on radio – AM, PM and TWT – are first class. LNL is unique. And the local radio programs are genuinely interested in exploring new and interesting ideas from around the world.
In terms of TV current affairs, Australia does pretty damn well too. It would be nice to have something like C-Span Australia, but the 7.30 Report and Lateline are equal to 100 US programs featuring two shouting ideologues. Being able to see our politicians regularly get a BBC-standard grilling is a luxury I hadn’t appreciated before leaving the country. And did I mention that Australian Story is magnificent?
Which brings me to the Chaser, a program of such blokey irreverence it could only have been developed in Oz. For some odd reason, the Chaser lads have been copping flack over the past 24 hours for their APEC stunt. Watching stern-faced Mark Day on Today Tonight last night, you would have thought that the lads brought us within inches of armaggedon. Is it just me, or does anyone else feel a kind of cheeky pride at being part of a country where the public broadcaster pays comedians to dress up as Osama in a a Canadian car, and attempt to meet George Bush?