Tuesday, July 12, 2005

MEDIA: Why Canberrans Prefer Radio National

Canberra is a beautiful, vibrant, cosmopolitan city. A place where ordinary Canberrans share space with diplomats, overseas students and other temporary residents.

Canberra is also an educated city. Just about everyone has at least a TAFE diploma or is in the process of getting one.

Canberra is also a city where new Australians participate and are made to feel welcome. It is not a racist place. You can wear any kind of clothes in civic without anyone being the slightest bit interested. Canberrans have seen it all.

How do I know all this? Because my family are from Canberra. My sister was born in Canberra. I myself have lived in Canberra, and am currently enrolled in the ANU Faculty of Law. I have relatives and friends living in Monash, Evatt, Gordon, Belconnen and other Canberra Suburbs.

So when I was asked to be interviewed by Canberra radio, I expected the interview to be a polite and intelligent exchange of views. The interview was being conducted in the aftermath of an article published in the Daily Telegraph on that day (11 July 2005).

That night, I was to be interviewed by one of Sydney radio’s more colourful identities. Stan "the Man" Zemanek just doesn’t hold back. He asks you the most provocative question directly and will insist you provide a direct answer. And he can be very tough.

So when I received the call from the lady from 2CC, Canberra’s talkback radio station, I was rather surprised. Why?

Well, for a start, I never knew Canberra had talkback radio. When I am in Canberra, my only radio listening is to one of the pop music stations, Triple-J or ABC Radio. Most people I know in Canberra do the same.

I was surprised when I ended up being interviewed by someone who clearly was not accustomed to the ways and mores of Canberrans. He was clearly someone who had never set foot into Civic (as Canberra's CBD is known) or had a few drinks at King O’Malleys on a Saturday night. And from his questioning, it was obvious to me he had not set foot in an educational institution.

Here is a sample of some of the infantile questions I was asked. Now before reading them, I must tell you that I am in the process of obtaining a transcript. So what I write here may or may not be 100% accurate.

“Why aren’t more Muslims protesting in the streets against terrorism?”

“When will all your clerics condemn violence?”

“When will your clerics preach a version of Islam that does not award 72 virgins to you if you blow yourself up?”

“Why can’t your clerics see that Australians are scared of Muslims?”

“Why don’t you migrant Muslims learn to assimilate?”

I wish I knew which Canberrans were scared of Muslims. Because I have never known that fear to exist. Perhaps the absence of fear might explain why so many Canberras are happy to eat out at Ali Babas. It might also explain why there are so many branches of the National Australia Bank in Canberra. People in Canberra probably don’t find Ahmed Fahour (one of the NAB’s senior executives) all that scary.

The questions on assimilation were really quite silly. I mean, fancy a shock jock with a slightly English accent telling a Sydney lawyer with a broad “Strayn” accent to assimilate more. A bit like John Howard telling the Prince Charles to be more favourably inclined to constitutional monarchy.

And I wish I knew what role a protest in the streets would play in the aftermath of Australian deaths and injuries in London. Surely making loud noises is not the way to pay one’s respects to the dead (at least 10% of whom were Muslims anyway). My preference is quiet contemplation and prayer, not protests and burning effigies of Usama bin Ladin or some other wacko we only started hearing of when he was reported in the Western media.

As for the clerics, well I have never met a Muslim cleric. And you can imagine how my interviewer must have felt when, after asking a long-winded question about clerics, he was informed that Islam does not have clerics. And to make matters worse, he did not bother to read an article in the Canberra Times (which perhaps many of his listeners would have read) in which I spoke about the absence of clerics in Muslim societies.

A range of other questions were asked, often based on presumptions which anyone who has attended ANU or UC or ACU or even high school in Canberra would know are just infantile. And when I pointed out that these types of questions are not the type ordinary Canberrans would answer, the interviewer realised he was out of his league.

The interview ended with a humorous monologue in which the interviewer claimed that my describing his questions as those of a “shock jock” was racist. When I suggested to him that radio talkback hosts did not constitute a race, he completely lost it.

It was truly hilarious stuff. A shock jock tries to be a smart-ass with a poor migrant unassimilated pro-terrorist follower of extremist clerics looking forward to 72 fictitious virgins. And the shock jock ends up being given a good kick and completely losing it on air. In the end, most listeners would have realised where the real extremism was coming from.

Is it any wonder more people listen to Radio National in Canberra? Is it any wonder Canberrans prefer the good humour of James O'Loghlin (with whom I was fortunate enough to work as a duty solicitor at the Blacktown Local Court during the mid-1990's) to the rants of some morning shock jock whose name is so easy to forget?

Postscript: I though I would ask some Canberra people what they thought of the interview. So I rang one of my Canberra clients. He was at work at the time.

“So did you hear the interview on 2CC?”, I asked him.

“Yeah. You sure gave that bastard a good pasting. I hope you perform like that for me when we get to court!”, he replied.

I asked another client. He said: “Mate, I never listen to talkback. It makes me sick. My wife only has it on when John Laws is talking.”

I then asked a lecturer at one of the universities in Canberra. He said: “Talkback is about as popular here as pork is at a bar mitzvah.”

That’s life. And I certainly am not Derryn Hinch!

Words © 2005 Irfan Yusuf


samuel said...

I have been considering wearing a large 2CC sign and your comments have now prompted me to do so. It is people like you who manage to take an entire show out of context by listening (or contributing) to five minutes of it, come away with a bad taste in their mouth because they disagree with the presenter and then declare the entire station to be of the same ilk that give talk radio a bad name.

In my opinion, the fact that people seem to be moving away from talk radio in Canberra shows an amount of ignorance and a blatant disregard for the events that go on around them. Is it any wonder that the government can get away with whatever they want when people don't try to be informed about what their elected represetatives are doing.
ABC Local Radio and 2CC both lost ground. ABC 1.1% (Down from 19.1 to 18.0) and 2CC 0.2% (Down from 7.9 to 7.7).

Maybe if people didn't have these stupid little rants about how they didn't like every word that the announcer said, then more people would know what is going on around them because they wouldn't be turned off by idiotic lunatics.

Talk radio isn't supposed to be something where everybody agrees, it is there to promote debate and discussion about the events that are occuring, and at the same time, provide some entertainment to the listener.

Don't worry, only 7.7% of Canberra heard you get a pasting.

gravelrash said...

Irf...... we are getting closer and closer, so close, it's SCARY!
Until I moved here, Victoria, I lived in...... Canberra! From 2000, when I was medivaced back to Oz, until August 2003, BUT WAIT, there's more. I also lived there from 1974 to 1981, by choice too, I might add, because I loved it so much. Bungendore,Gundaroo, Collector, Captains Flat, Deakin,Ainslie, O'Connor, Aranda.....have all had gravel rash!
I lived in Kingston, before the Yuppies arrived, when it was a real suburb, full of rampant sexual, drugged out hippies, screwing the Government and as many pollies daughters as we could!!! You try to get some 'cache' by alluding to "King O'Malleys", a wankers pub, but, tell me, were you there in the glory days of the "Boot and Flogger"????
As a good Muslim, well, you don't really know that much about a good pub, do you.
Don't try this "I was surprised when I ended up being interviewed by someone who clearly was not accustomed to the ways and mores of Canberrans. He was clearly someone who had never set foot into Civic (as Canberra's CBD is known) or had a few drinks at King O’Malleys on a Saturday night. And from his questioning, it was obvious to me he had not set foot in an educational institution." Nobody likes a sore loser.
I qualify on all those counts, by the way. Lecturer at ANU, busker in Civic, no less!!!!.....plus, in my mispent youth, I worked on CC, playing the blues!! Canberra has had talk back for a looooooong time mate! Hahahaha.... wherever you go....there I am!!!!
Mate.... you just got splattered, that's all. Cop it, and lick your wounds in private. It's "life in the fast lane". Don't winge....it's so..........unbecomming.
So....my challenge to you about setting up a media challenge? Guess we can rule out Canberra radio, huh? 7.7%!!!
Hehehehehehehe. Well, it would probably happen to me in Auburn!
We have radio in Vic. Maybe we can "make a date" here. Hmmmm, there's a thought, Leave it with me, I'll get back to you.
(Copy posted....on....oh, lots of blogs, so people can see if you "post" me.)

Irfan said...

thanks for your comments. did you hear the interview? i hope to be getting a copy of the trancript over the next few days.

i am not sure what the interviewer said before or after the interview. perhaps you are right. perhaps i was taking his comments out of context. i guess i might have to try and get the transcript for 30 mins before and after the interview. and if you are correct, i might have to eat humble pie and send the dude a gift as a means of apologising (as opposed to bribery).

perhaps i could send him an Ali Baba's voucher so that he can see the extent to which Muslim Australians have assimilated. or maybe a guided tour of the Canberra Islamic Centre in monash.

one of my Canberra clients heard the interview and was quite impressed with the pasting i gave the talkshow host. he said that it was perhaps the first time he had woken up and NOT listened to ABC Radio. so at least 2CC now has one more listener.

thanks for dropping by.

Irfan said...

er ... gravelrash. you from canberra? after reading your infantile rants, i can see why you are no longer there.

samuel was far more gentlemanly than you in his criticism. for that reason, i appreciate his comments. as for you, it is a shame One Nation no longer exists. perhaps you should have done a hilaly and offered yourself to go to jail instead of poor Pauline.

love and kisses.

Steve Edwards said...

Well, Irf, it's a pity you've boycotted Faris's place. We're up to 92 comments now!

samuel said...

I guess the bottom line is that it provided some entertainment and helped get your message out there.

I'll admit, I went on a bit of a rant myself at 9:05pm, no harm intended.

Some of my best friends are Muslim, they are fantastic people. I am glad that we are able to live in a (mostly) tolerant society.

There is a saying that I like to use "All publicity is good publicity".

Anonymous said...

Irf, not very deep down at all, quite near the surface actually, I really do think you are a big fuzzy cuddly thing....you remind me of my Sri Lankan mate.... and if you didn't feel it incumbent on your good self to defend the indefensible, well, I'd shout you a few beers and a kebab gladly.
Sadly, it's "war" and a bit of a take no prisoners situation. I have a very strong conviction...so do you... and this town ain't big enough for the both of us!!!!

gravelrash said...

Oooops, sorry....anonymous is me!!!!