West Australia franchise executives should walk the plank

Hooray! Perth has once again become rugby league relevant with the WARL’s John Sackson announcing the franchise’s intention to rejoin the NRL at the next expansion date. It will be great to see the red, gold and black jerseys of the old red roo resurrected in the west as the… Wait, I’m sorry. Did he just say West Coast Pirates?

Yarr that is correct! The Pirates are set to replace the Reds as Western Australia’s rugby league identity.  And in one dredging announcement they have joined the ever-growing culprit list of Australian franchises with an uninspiring knack for the adoption of Americanised team names.

Sure, the Pirate mascot has an evident upside in its potential for crowd participation but much like the sight of an eyeliner-wearing, fake plastic sword-wielding grown man, the existence of an Australian pirate-themed football team is a novelty that borders on complete joke.


Present vs the past

What was wrong with the red kangaroo anyway? The image of that great thumping marsupial had a connection to the deserts of the west that oozed locative relevance and cultural embrace. As far as mascot potential is concerned, the kangaroo is as abundantly unique to the west as the shark is to its coast – relocating the Cronulla Sharks here may not be a good idea due to the understandably sensitive issue concerning shark attacks out west.

However the point remains valid. For names sake! Pick something with relevance!

A rugby league team’s name is intrinsically special to its supporters; a sacred connection between a city or suburb and its people.

Please, no more of this insipid American influenced nonsense. In the 1980s Brisbane Rugby League missed the chance to put the brumby on their emblem, instead opting for the Australia-absent bronco. An opportunistic ACT Rugby Union would later scoop up the vacant brumby. So why did Brisbane pass on what seems to be a perfect fit for a name? Alliteration was not going to be a problem. The rhythm of the Bs bouncing off double syllable words would have worked just as well and the chance of a supporter seeing a brumby was at least realistic.

One would hope that the broncos moniker comes from something more than an idolisation of an American football brand in the snowy state of Colorado.

And one would truly hope that the christening of the North Queensland Cowboys in the mid 90s was not of the same approach. Apparently there is a pretty successful and well-known team in Dallas with the same name. You may have heard of them.


American Inspiration. Dallas Cowboys and the North Queensland Cowboys

It wasn’t always like this though. There was a time when rugby league teams would select their names for purposes outside of marketing. Purposes based on locative, historic and social factors, not advertising.

You don’t have to go far to find some good examples. The Rabbitohs of South Sydney is a social reflection of the days when the poorer classes of the area would engage in the trade of dead rabbits for food. The catch cry ‘Rabbit-Oh,’ was a commonly spruiked mark of the vendors. As for Parramatta, well the Eels found their name through the direct indigenous translation of their suburb. Parramatta being ‘the place where the eels lie down.’

Traditional teams just got it right. But hold on a moment, I can already hear the counter-arguments. Some will sharply point out that the closest thing to a tiger in Balmain would be a house cat, or that the panther is a creature of Asia, Africa and the Americas, certainly not Penrith. This information may be correct but to challenge these names would disrespectfully show a lack of understanding of the areas. In the case of Penrith, legend has it that a giant panther lies at the foot of the mountains. Whether it actually exists or not is irrelevant, what is important is that there is a link between the Penrith suburb and their iconic mascot. And those who argue there are no dragons in St. George are clearly unfamiliar with one of the great fables of the eleventh century. The connection between the suburb and the mascot is quite obvious.

These are just a few examples of many steeped in tradition. Rugby League is rich with history but it should also be strong in cultural identity. I am not suggesting the traditional name is always the best one. In fact, I am probably in the minority with my disdain for the West Coast Pirates. Furthermore, my opinion may amount to nothing when I admit to thinking the Canterbury Berries was cleverly fantastic.


Up the Berries!

However, I will not be excited by the emergence of the new Western Australian football team. Rather than being on board with the Pirates I will likely be bored dead by the Pirates.

Relevance is everything to a rugby league team’s identity, and with expansion a big issue on the rugby league agenda, I just hope I am not around the day that the Darwin Penguins take on the Adelaide Snowmen.

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Global crises: How to delay a serious issue

“Oh, people can come up with statistics to prove anything, Kent. 14% of people know that” – Homer Simpson


Homer Simpson may not be aware of media bias or the notion of false balance but this sentence here demonstrates that he would be in good company with 2GB broadcaster Alan Jones.

On the 15th of March 2011, Jones stated that “human beings produce .001% of the carbon dioxide in the air,” a figure widely refuted by climate change scientists who believe the contribution to be closer to 30%. When a debate is misrepresented like this, particularly by one of Australia’s highest rating radio hosts, then there is definite cause for concern.

False balance is the description used when the media portrays a balance between viewpoints that is not representative of the actual issue.


Climate Change is perhaps the greatest example of a global crisis flooded with false balance. The discussion swirling around the issue has been a strong focus of media and political debate, however from a scientific perspective there should be little debate at all. Climate change is very real and we are contributing to it.

Here is Media Watch’s contribution to the debate.

This has not stopped the media, particularly commercial radio in Australia, from inaccurately reporting on the issue, giving equal and in some case more time to climate change skeptics than climate change scientists who accept the reality of man-made global warming.

Thankfully Alan Jones part in the debate is under investigation by the Australian media watchdog, ACMA. Under the code of practice it states that licencees must ensure that reasonable efforts are made to “promote accuracy and fairness in news and current affairs programs,” an effort Mr. Jones clearly has not made.

Cottle (2009) states, “Different crises and their complex articulations with and interpretations by the fast-changing world of journalism demand detailed, comparative and sustained empirical study.” If we are to take global crises such as climate change seriously, as Cottle proposes, then our media watchdogs must act tougher to ensure the Alan Jones’ of this world cannot use their power to misinform the masses.


Cottle, S 2011, ‘Taking global crises in the news seriously: Notes from the dark side of globalization’, Global Media and Communication, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 77-95

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In the case of an emergency, DO NOT PANIC!


In the event of a fire, stay calm, sound the fire alarm, call the emergency services and leave the building in a safe and organised manner. Whatever you do, do not panic.

When encountering a large and mean looking shark in the ocean, assess the situation, remain calm, do not thrash about and do not panic.

When your football team loses three games in a row, do not give up on the season or call for the coach’s head. Look for the positives and identify areas of improvement. Just don’t panic.


We all know these things. Human beings have the ability to choose rationality over impulse and in all of the examples above, the rational being is better equipped for a crisis situation than the impulsive one.

However, not all of us are rational beings.

When you attend an art exhibition and notice one of the works depicts a naked, pubescent girl, what do you do?

Well according to Judy Annear, the senior curator of photography at the Art Gallery of NSW, 65,000 people were confronted with this situation in a 2005 Bill Henson retrospective. No complaints were made. It would seem that the 65,000 people remained calm, assessed the situation and dealt with it on its merits. This is an art exhibition not a hidden file on a laptop computer.


“Outrage Over Child-Porn Art” – Does this really help anyone?

Bill Henson has had no complaints made against him from any child or parent involved in his galleries. There is a difference between the use of a child in art, advertising and pornography. The motivations for each should be obvious. Nevertheless a healthy discussion and debate is warranted.

All common sense aside, let’s now try this again from a different perspective.

When you are sitting at home and Mr. Television Presenter tells you that an art exhibition is depicting images of naked pubescent girls (you have no knowledge of the artist or any background information of the issue), what do you do?


You might approach the issue like this man from an Australian Identity forum discussion, “A 53 year old man taking pictures of naked 12 and 13 year old girls.  sick (sic) bastard.”

It seems that the media’s contribution to an issue all too often comes down to this,

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The chicken must listen to the egg if it wants the best ratings.

The study of media and audiences is a fascinating one that inevitably boils down to the following question – Does the media influence its audience? Or does the audience influence its media? The ambiguous relationship is very similar to the philosophical dilemma – What came first the chicken or the egg?


If, for the moment, we are to assume that the media influences its audience then we must talk about the potential threat of a decline in Australian content in our media.

In 2010, the Rudd Government introduced a $250 million licensing rebate as incentive for commercial television networks to increase their level of Australian content. Additionally, just recently, a new industry-funded watchdog has been proposed to, among other things, bolster Australian content, particularly children’s programs, dramas and documentaries.

In other words, Australian content is on the decline in some areas, not all areas.

Australian children’s programs, dramas, and documentaries may be dwindling but what about our other programs?

Australian sport is soaring. Let’s take a look at the NRL. One of the biggest stories in Rugby League right now is the upcoming TV rights deal that will see the code land its most profitable negotiation ever.

Fighting for Australian content? Nar. Just playing Rugby League.

Australian Reality TV is also peaking with The Voice constantly topping the ratings.

Seal enjoys the success of Australia’s edition of The Voice.

And, while Adam Hills on Gordon Street is the only locally made talk show on free-to-air, it gets a better timeslot and higher ratings in Australia than American successes such as The Late Show with David Letterman and Late Night with Conan O’Brien.

If we now consider that the audience influences the media, can we justify the necessity of regulations on global content?

The networks are listening to what the audience wants and acting accordingly. Quite simply, Australian children’s programs just can’t compete with classics such as Sesame Street, and Australian dramas like Sea Patrol will not rival the high budget of American dramas such as Dexter.


Sesame Street remains the benchmark for children’s television.

This does not mean Australian content is in danger, because when we consider sport, no network would ever consider dropping their coverage of the cricket in favour of America’s showpiece the NFL.  Sport is part of our culture and we will not be influenced by America or any other country in this regard.

Essentially it comes down to quality and culture, and we, the eggs, rely on our media chickens to provide us with a certain standard of viewing. However, until the standard of Australian content increases, global content will continue to fill the gaps.

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Choose – Open freedom or closed security?

The open Internet is under threat but why is this happening?

When SOPA went under consideration there was a collective uprising amongst Internet users and website owners against the proposed bill. If SOPA or its slightly altered partner PIPA had passed through congress, the Internet would have been as open as a bank on a Saturday morning.


SOPA had devastating potential to turn innocent people into criminals with its overreaction to copyright infringement. By simply having features available to make it possible to post infringing content on a website, website owners and operators would land in the crosshairs of SOPA super agents.


The guys at Cyanide & Happiness sum it up nicely,

“Without user content portals like NewGrounds and YouTube the Internet becomes just another mainstream media outlet, instead of the wild proving ground of ideas that allows regular people like us to find a large audience.”

I will say this though. Walls only restrict those who do not possess ladders. Some computer savvy individuals quickly found a way to bypass SOPA’s restrictions and build the perfect ladder to climb the potential great wall of SOPA.

SOPA was bad. Its next incarnation (Because let’s face it, there will be another one) will also be bad. However, just because this evil force has been temporarily defeated does not mean that our Internet will remain open. There are threats in less obvious forms. The Internet is becoming a closed society because we are letting it happen.

As Zittrain (2008) says, in the wake of the Internet revolution came “unexpected cool stuff” and “unexpected very uncool stuff.” Essentially the freedom of an open Internet led to horrible things such as viruses, spam, identity theft and crashes. As a result we the people choose the completely controlled and efficient products such as the iPhone because “the promise of security is enough reason to give up that freedom” (Zittrain 2008).

Thomas Jefferson once said,

“Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.”

He may have lived in an era far gone but he still has a point that can be applied to the problematic issues of the Internet.

Oh, and just to emphasise how hated SOPA was, here is a video of Hitler’s take on the issue.


Zittrain, J 2008. ‘Thethered Appliances, Software as Service, and Perfect Enforcement’. In The Future of the Internet and How to Stop it, Yale University Press, New Haven, pp.101- 126; Available at: http://futureoftheinternet.org/static/ZittrainTheFutureoftheInternet.pdf

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Watchdogs for the watchdogs

Journalists be warned! You are under surveillance at all times.


What lies ahead for the profession of journalism in the wake of advancing technology? It is an interesting time for the profession as it goes through its greatest ever change. User-generated content has created several problematic issues, particularly legal and employment, for the traditional print journalist. But let’s, for the moment, focus on the benefits of this democratic communication machine.

I would suggest that to be concerned for contemporary journalism as an established profession in the wake of new technology would be to overlook the importance of a system very much capable of assisting journalism on all levels.

For the longest time, journalists have been regarded as the gatekeepers of information. And it should be noted that even in the wake of user-generated content such as online blogging, the profession should still very much serve as a filter of what is and what is not important. Do you care about Infotainment? I don’t. Therefore I will get my information from somewhere outside of Channel 9 and other commercial broadcasters.


It is not a bad thing that we can choose our supplier of information. People have the right to be suspicious of the information that is presented to them even if it comes from reputable news corporations. “Traditional journalism is, more than the profession realises or is willing to admit, a product of industrial society with its centralised, hierarchical and paternalistic characteristics” (Heinonen 1999).

We are entitled to a watchdog for the watchdogs. While lots of blogging is complete and utter rubbish (My teenage neighbour hates school and fake people – What a scoop!), other blogs can serve as corrective mechanisms for bad journalism (Andrews 2003).

I encourage you to have a look at this “bad journalism debunking” from England. It serves as a lesson to all aspiring journalists that accuracy and research is extremely important.

While you’re at it, take a look at this headline I found in the Herald Sun just last month. See if you can spot the error.


To wrap up, if you feel that the profession of journalism is dying and that journalists are at risk of losing their jobs at the expense of what is ultimately one of the greatest democratic communication systems ever, then you sound just as ridiculous as these guys,


Heinonen, A. (1999). Journalism in the Age of the Net. Tampere: Acta Universitatis Tamperensis.

Andrews, P, (2003), Is Blogging Journalism?, Nieman Reports, accessed 14/4/2012, http://www.nieman.harvard.edu/reportsitem.aspx?id=101027

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The Power of Equality

As technology advances the gap between abled and disabled people is seemingly growing.

So enters the question. Are the advances in technology hindering the disabled people of our world?


Goggin and Newell insinuate that the needs of disabled people have become an afterthought in the age of technological advances. The main concern here is that technologies are rarely incorporating built in functions for disability into their designs. The disabled ultimately have to pay extra for the additional content they require, if the content is even provided at all.

When Edward Roberts fought for the disabled rights movement in the 1960’s, the outlook was promising. If absolute equality is the goal achievement then the lack of inclusive technology today is a definite concern.

Equality is something a perfect society should strive for. And if the opportunity is there then we should take it. However, this is not a perfect world. It is a struggle. And businesses understand this more than anyone else.

Some people do not want to pay extra for features or functions that they do not require. It would be difficult to imagine that inclusive technologies could run and function for the same price as current technologies.

Perhaps the sentiments made by Goggin and Newell are a little unfair on what technology has actually achieved in assisting disabled people. While some companies fail to be inclusive, other factions prioritise using technology to assist the disabled. Here is a great example:

The example Goggin and Newell share with us (having to walk farther in an airport terminal for being disabled) is not the worst case scenario one could be given.

Disabled people will face bigger problems in society today than missing out on luxuries available to others.

Last year BBC news covered this very topic of accessibility. They found that the current situation in most cases was disabled user friendly. However, with the advent of innovations such as multi-gesture controls on phones, there is a definite and very real concern that the disabled will be left behind.

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