The ‘public sphere’ is a metaphorical term which describes an undefined virtual space where individuals can publicly engage, interact and debate over issues of general interest with one another (McKee 2005, p.4).
The Channel Ten show, The Project is one example of a ‘public sphere’ where a broad range of social, political, economic and moral issues are discussed by the panel. Topics covered on the show include: daily news, same-sex marriage, animal cruelty, pornography, political issues etc. In fact, some of these issues —such as Gay Rights —are not even discussed by the traditional, institutionalised media. I personally love how the panel discusses —as oppose to simply informs —these issues in an informal and casual manner with a mix of their own personal perspectives and opinions.
As opposed to your same old, yawn-worthy, old school news bulletins, The Project discusses relevant topics with a touch of entertainment and humour. As their slogan asserts, ‘It’s news done differently’. For example, the show regularly invites celebrities —such as Jared Leto, Rebel Wilson, Will Ferrell —to join the panel. However, some might criticise this approach as being too trivialised and fragmented. According to Jürgen Habermas, the ideal public sphere should:
deal only with serious issues of real importance…it should refuse to dumb down to consumers…It should only engage in rational, logical argument: not emotional or spectacular appeals. And it should be unified and homogenous, refusing the fragmentation of niche audiences and different kinds of culture (McKee 2005, p.14).
While this structure is more informal, it’s not fair to downgrade it as ‘trivial’. In fact, unlike traditional news, The Project also engages and encourages young people to join the conversation on important issues. The Project is in the top 15 shows for 13-29 year olds. This is important as the young generation is the future of our country and there must be a healthy debate amongst young people in order to stimulate new ideas and a better direction for national, as well as global affairs. Furthermore, while I believe celebrity issues are unnecessary in the public sphere, I agree with McKee and believe that such issues —as well as issues relating to entertainment and sports —are vital parts of culture (McKee 2005, p.30). As the post-modern commentators claim, ‘different groups think and communicate differently about issues and we should respect that’ (McKee 2005, p.17).
The Project directly involves its viewers to contribute to the show’s content and facilitate further debate. For example, The Project offers the public to have their say and share their thoughts on stories they have watched on the show. Public members can also offer tips for future stories and send breaking news. This demonstrates a shift in the way news is told in the 21st century. Unlike the old school days where media content was told in a more monologic manner, today we live in a dialogic media landscape, whereby the public can directly contribute to the news and in essence, dictate and direct what should be classified as ‘news’ (Bruns 2007). Furthermore, through the use of social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, individuals can directly and instantaneously join the conversation from their own living rooms.
Therefore the Project is a great example of the ‘public sphere’ as it empowers individuals to discuss, debate and formulate their own opinions on a variety of issues —this is a sign of a healthy democratic society.
Here is a clip from The Project when Ron Burgundy from Anchorman decided to share the daily news with a comedic twist:
Bruns, Axel (2007) Produsage: Towards a Broader Framework for User-Led Content Creation. In Proceedings Creativity & Cognition 6, Washington, DC.
Knox, D 2014, ‘Andrew Bolt to Replace Charlie Pickering on The Project’, TVTonight, 1 April, viewed 9 April 2014 < http://www.tvtonight.com.au/2014/04/andrew-bolt-to-replace-charlie-pickering-on-the-project.html>
McKee, A, 2005, ‘Introduction: the public sphere : an introduction’ in Public Sphere: An Introduction, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp1-31.
The Project 2014, Your Say, Tenplay, viewed 9 April 2014 < http://tenplay.com.au/channel-ten/the-project/your-say>
Alvopenrescue 2010, 7pm Project Puppy Farming, video, YouTube, 21 September, viewed 9 April 2014 < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PwmDBl9LE6o>
Australian TV Fan 2013, Election Project Channel 10 Highlights, video, YouTube, 7 September, viewed 9 April 2014 < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVTjUl3PSno>
Bianca Walker 2013, Rebel Wilson on The Project, video, YouTube, 18 February, viewed 9 April 2014 < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-MWSO_-4Yk>
BunyipBlue1 2010, Gay Marriage Debate in Australia, video, YouTube, 16 November, viewed 9 April 2014 < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UbYk1TTyORA>
James DeWeaver 2014, Jared Leto ‘It’s all Good’ LIVE Australian Tv Interview FULL 27-3-2014, video, YouTube, 27 March, viewed 9 April 2014 < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qEuTj523uCo>
RoveOnlineClips 2012, Will Ferrell Interview on The Project (2012) -The Campaign (Plus PM Julia Gillard), video, YouTube, 7 August, viewed 9 April 2014 < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9VAOYiMlyM>
The Project 2014, Porn Addiction, video, 9 April, viewed 9 April 2014 < http://tenplay.com.au/channel-ten/the-project/extra/season-5/porn-addiction>.
WAWProductionsAU 2013, Ron Burgundy Vs. Ray Martin (The Project, 25/11/13), video, YouTube, 25 November, viewed 9 April 2014 < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_wED8BW6NQ>