Four Corners Television History: Gallipoli and the Fall of Singapore

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Kevin Blackburn


This article analyses how the Australian current affairs programme, Four Corners, which follows a style modelled on the BBC programme Panorama, has represented Australian military history in two of its programmes, Gallipoli: The Fatal Shore and No Prisoners on Australian deserters at the fall of Singapore. Chris Masters was the reporter on both programmes. These historical documentaries claim to investigate Australian Anzac mythology. Four Corners is noted for its rigorous pursuit of issues in current affairs. Programmes construct argument that the journalists steadfastly pursue in order to ‘expose the truth’. Rather than neutrally representing both sides of a debate, the programmes tend to take the side that the journalists perceive to be in the public interest. Examining how Four Corners has applied its own style of investigative journalism to the Anzac mythology is explored by outlining whether the programmes follow Ken Burn’s ideas of documentary-makers as ‘tribal story-teller’ crafting stories that uphold national identity or Bill Nichols’ view that documentary is an argument that is representative of reality rather than reflects reality. Examining the history of Gallipoli and the fall of Singapore in the Four Corners programmes tends suggest that the journalists working on the programmes preferred to reaffirm the assumptions of the Anzac legend, but attack or ignore historians and evidence that questions it. The programmes appear to be a mixture of Burns’s and Nichols’ ideas of documentary making.

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Author Biography

Kevin Blackburn, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Associate Professor, National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore