'I want to be a TV historian when I grow up!': On Being a Rewind Historian

Michelle Arrow

Abstract

In 2004, I worked as a presenter on a new ABC TV program called Rewind. Produced as part of a special initiative to make programs about Australian history, Rewind used several historians as presenters and promised to tell new stories from Australia’s past. Few historians experience the production processes of television in such a detailed way: the media and the academy are arguably a little suspicious of each other. The experience of working on Rewind was an extraordinary one – both exhilarating and frustrating. In this article, I draw on this experience to explore some of the issues that one faces as a ‘television historian’. How much control were we able to exert over our role and presence in the storytelling process? How were we used in the program and marketed in its publicity? The article also explore the qualities of television history itself: what are its flaws and virtues? How is it different from written history? It examines recent history on television to consider the media context in which Rewind was made and received. Finally, the article considers the role of historians in the making of Rewind and examines audience perceptions and responses to the program.

Keywords

Television; Media; Australian Broadcasting Commission; Australian History; Television production

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