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The rise of popular factual television in the Asia-Pacific region

Friday 23 October 2015, by SIGNIS

Auckland, Brussels, October 23rd, 2015 (Pacific Journalism Review/Pacific Media Watch/SIGNIS). The rise of popular factual television has threatened the key claim on “reality” of documentary practice but there is hope on the horizon in the post-documentary era, says Pacific Journalism Review in its latest edition published in October 2015.

This edition examines the state of documentary practice in the Asia-Pacific region and also profiles the work of many contemporary filmmakers.

“Documentary programmes on broadcast television have been progressively replaced by lavish series, formulaic docu-soaps or reality TV,” writes edition co-editor Professor Barry King in his editorial. He adds that a “troubling implication is that post-documentary forms threaten the legitimacy and credibility of the documentary tradition as a whole.”

King noted that one symptom of this “tangible appetite can be found in the rise of citizen journalism, which, however evaluated, still answers to civic impulse”. The surveillance of authorities also boosted this eyewitness function. “On the other hand, it can become merely a form of self-promotion, as in the case of the selfie and celebrity-centric Twitter.”But he also observed on the positive side that some documentary makers were welcoming the opportunities by digital media to “significantly reduce production costs and open up new means of distribute their work online”.

Introducing a section on “Views from the field” from filmmakers, co-editor Professor Annie Goldson, herself also a leading documentary maker, reflectively analyses her own body of work over many years in the context of contemporary film making challenges and developments. She argues positively that “long-form creative documentary has re-emerged on the cinema screen, and, of course, online”.“Filmmakers are able to take more political and formal risks than television traditionally permitted, breaking from notions of balance and objectivity,” she adds.

This edition of PJR features the work of Asia-Pacific filmmakers and radio documentary makers such as Anne Keala Kelly, Jim Marbrook, Tom Morton, Joshua Oppenheimer, Max Stahl and Kim Webby. The journal also features a series of unthemed articles such as on “the sense of place” in indigenous affairs reporting, death coverage in The New Zealand Herald, and tweeting, friending and reporting for media academics and a large review section coordinated with edition co-editor Professor David Robie and reviews editor Dr Philip Cass.

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Tame Iti featured on the cover of the latest Pacific Journalism Review. Image: Jos Wheeler/The Price of Peace

The edition is the second volume in the two-part series based on papers from the PJR2014 conference marking 20 years of publication of Pacific Journalism Review. The journal PJR is published by Auckland University of Technology’s Pacific Media Centre.

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