1. Radio Active: Broadcast Journalism and the Dialogical Public Sphere in Indonesia
Radio Active focuses on developments in Indonesian radio journalism since the late 1990s. This radio journalism has been shaped by and made significant contributions to the socio-political process that led to the fall of President Soeharto's New Order and initiated the call for reform or Reformasi. Its dynamics have been influenced by the end of state-ruled Radio Republik Indonesia's (Radio of the Republic of Indonesia) monopoly on the production of news programs in 1998. This officially opened the door for commercial and other non-governmental radio institutions to develop their own journalistic ideas and practices. The project analyses how the institutions in interaction with their audiences have attempted to envision and realise a virtual, but at the same time very concrete, space for people to meet and publicly discuss matters considered relevant to contemporary Indonesian society.
I compare the Reformasi-type of ‘radio-active' publicness with Jürgen Habermas' notion of the bourgeois public sphere. I specifically focus on journalistic ideas and practices with a ‘meta-journalistic' character, which provide a direct sense of the intense process of journalists and audiences exploring and negotiating the boundaries of the newly acquired press freedom. I argue that, in triggering audience engagement in journalistic affairs, the new ideas and practices constitute a reaction against New Order's official culture of ‘monologism' - which was aimed at keeping audiences at a distance - and share characteristics with a Bakhtinian type of ‘dialogism'.
The dialogism of Indonesia's radio-active public sphere is broader and goes beyond participation in ‘normal' dialogue, as it also concerns the ‘ideological becoming' of the participants involved. Although dialogism can be found in literally dialogical conversation, it here refers to journalistic concepts, program genres and institutional organisation forms that are specifically constructed to enhance the media-literacy and thus ideological awareness of the public. In analysing these concepts, genres and organisation forms - without which the process of Reformasi could not exist - the project attempts to make real and tangible what is meant by the seemingly vague and broad ideas of freedom of speech, social reform and democracy, which have been so often and loudly propagated in Indonesia in recent years.
2. Reflections on the Screen: Televisual Metadiscourse in Australia, Indonesia and the Netherlands
Pierre Bourdieu (1996) argues that contemporary television's potential is curbed by factors such as political and economic ‘structural corruption', ‘symbolic violence' on the screen, the ‘circular circulation' of information and cultures of ‘fast thinkers' and ‘instant ideas'. In order to improve the quality of television, Bourdieu suggests that the ‘admission criteria' for television production and broadcasting should be enhanced. This implies that production and broadcasting should become less accessible and more avant-garde. At the same time, producers and broadcasters should use their profession and medium to make ‘the inaccessible' more accessible to the public. By presenting these arguments in a series of lectures on French television, Bourdieu set an example of a critical and publicly accessible (self)evaluation of the medium of television. However, he believed that ‘on-screen criticism of the screen' by media professionals themselves would be more alluring and effective.
In this research project, I analyse instances of such relatively rare televisual self-reflexivity or metadiscourse in three different contexts: Australia, Indonesia and The Netherlands. These contexts represent different socio-political conditions (the ‘new world', the ‘developing world' and the ‘old world', respectively) and cultural-linguistic traditions (English-Australian, Indonesian, and Dutch, respectively). They also represent three different television cultures: Australian television culture has been a mixture of government and commercial broadcasting from its very outset, Indonesian television was initially entirely government-controlled and relatively recently saw the development of commercial television, while Dutch television culture was, and partly still is, based on different religious-ideological pillars, although it has also seen the rise of commercial broadcasters in recent years.
The research focuses on three different categories of televisual metadiscourse in each of the contexts: humorous, journalistic and artistic metadiscourse, respectively. Humorous metadiscourse is the product of comedians, includes cabaret, parody and satire, and functions to ‘denormalise' television by putting it in alternative, humorous contexts. Journalistic metadiscourse is the product of journalists and intellectuals, includes media watch programs and critical debates, and functions to deconstruct and ‘rethink' television by explicitly discussing the commercial and ideological mechanisms behind television production. Artistic metadiscourse is produced by the creators of fine art, including video and installation artists, who not only rethink television, but also literally ‘transform' the medium by re-appropriating its material aspects into autonomous works of art. By revealing television's impact on society as well as the impact of external factors - either commercial or ideological - on television itself, the three categories of televisual metadiscourse help to assess, and potentially increase, the ‘publicness' of the medium in each of the three socio-political contexts. Apart from reflecting on the relationship between television and society, they also shed a light on the historical development of the medium, including the evolution of television genres.