Media activism and democracy in Australia
Faculty of Education and Arts
School of Education and Arts / Centre for Research in Entertainment, Arts,Technology, Education and Communications
When Federal Liberal Party member Daryl Williams was communications minister in 2004 he announced in a key-note address that it is not the role of Australia’s public broadcaster to drive innovation. Ironically at the same time in the UK it was a public and policy expectation that BBC be a driver in innovation and activist in electronic democracy (Kevill 2003). Media activism sounds like something you would not want your kids to be involved in - the phrase hints at questioning authority and rocking the boat. But as Mueller and Page (2004) point out in their major report on media activism in North America, public broadcaster and community media activism are at the heart of ensuring there are informed citizens. Abusive control of information is possible in a modern democracy and a modern dictatorship. Community media, radical media and marginalized media are all attempts to provide communicative spaces for democratic dialogue and diversification of sources of opinion. In this paper the authors will outline the results of a study on how the West Australian Islamic community is responding to Australian media and how it uses its media, national and international, as a means for democratic dialogue. There is a perception that Islamic media are primarily ideologically driven by religious fundamentalism, but the actual activity in Australian Islamic community media is far closer to the principles of public service broadcasting.