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Saturday, 5 December 2015

TV review: A Taste of Landline, episode 1, ABC (2015)

ABC TV shows it is capable of innovation again in this first show of a series designed to bridge the media divide between city and country. I don't often quote subtitles in the titles of things I review, but I will in this case. The hashtag the ABC decided to use to promote the program on Twitter, #frompaddocktoplate, sums up the impetus behind the effort and I have to say that I think the producers have got the mix pretty right.

I think I have a track record when it comes to bridging the media divide that separates metro and rural communities. When I started writing stories for agricultural magazines in 2010 the first topic I chose was the peach, and that included looking at the history of the fruit in the west. Landline has done exactly the same thing in the piece in this program dedicated to the Angas breed of cattle, going back to the start of cattle propagation in the colonies and trying to document in some abbreviated form how the breed overtook the more traditional beef cattle breed - the Hereford - in Australian domestic meat markets.

It's a gallant first episode from an imaginative Landline team at the ABC. I could see how they made their choices of interview subject, for example, based on the appeal of those subjects in metropolitan markets. The use of Costa Georgiadis in the segment on the town of Felton demonstrated how eager the producers are to make this program fly in metro areas. I also chose Costa once - on the suggestion of an editor - for a story about community gardens, and I even travelled from southeast Queensland to New England to do the interview. The ABC has thrown their significant resources at this new series in order to achieve something full of appeal to metro viewers; Costa has a large following already in metro markets.

Watching this episode made me hope that it will flourish and succeed. It made me think back to all the good times I personally had writing those stories for magazines that were designed to bridge the metro-rural divide - a distinction in the media space that noone really attempts to bridge even today - and so I remembered some of the stories I wrote during those years, with fondness. You can see the stories on my website if you're interested.

I remembered the struggles among other things. There was the story about a new hybrid breed of tomato being developed by the Queensland government and a private company. For the story I wanted to get the view from the other side as well as telling the story from the point of view of the scientists, so I got in touch with someone from an heirloom seed company and captured his views on the trusty voice recorder. I remembered telling the government department of this new direction the story was taking - because when I had originally spoken to the primary scientist I had told him that it would just be the story of the new seed breed - and how they had asked me to kill the story. I didn't do that, of course, but it was quite amusing for me to come up in this way against the hard edges of a debate that has gone on for decades, and looks set to continue raging in some parts of the community for as long as we sell tomatoes in supermarkets.

There's no doubt that the Landline producers will come up against issues of a similar nature to this as they go on to make succeeding episodes of the series for their traditional rural viewers, and for their proposed viewership in metro markets. I personally wish them well. I tried to bridge that deep divide between metro and rural for years. If my experience can function as any kind of assistance to the good people over at Landline then I'm happy.

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