This is a clip of Home and Away in 2009 showing a controversial lesbian scene between Charlie Buckton (Esther Anderson) and Joey Collins (Kate Bell). Conservative family groups reacted angrily to the plot in the PG-rated show, which boasts a large child and teen fan base.
Jürgen Habermas imagined the public sphere to be like an 18th century coffee house- a place for news and debate about new ideas. The public sphere, according to Habermas, is a product of democracy. But, this was criticized because his ‘citizens’of the day were affluent men. Which brings to question, how was this a fair and equal public sphere when all other participants had limited ability to contribute to this debate?
Which is why I have chosen the ‘popular’media text of Home and Away. It is a perfect example of the new mediated or tabloid public sphere, as it is easy to mock with its trivialised, commerecialised, apathetic and spectacular rather than rational story lines and characters. The tabloid media sphere recognises that as a generation we don’t receive all our information from the same source, therefore our consuming of content becomes fragmented. The sphere is concerned with the domestic, the emotional, the personal, relationships and moral issues, as we see Monday-Friday at 7 pm on Home and Away. We see a serious issue of homosexuality being displayed to the nation through this light entertainment program.
At the time, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says “Labor took a plan to the last election to remove all legal discrimination against same sex partners, but made it clear that gay marriage would not be allowed”. And we see this stance resonating through on to now PM Julia Gillard. However, it is evident that over the past decade and even just in the past few years, the political and social standing on such issues like homosexuality has changed. These somewhat controversial and sometimes taboo issues are being played out within the mediated public sphere and creating debate. We have also seen this through the television program of Big Brother which raises all sorts of issues from racism to political protest to sexual behaviour and identity. The most recent series winner Benjamin Norris, made a public stand for gay marriage by proposing to his boyfriend on live television during the finale.
Serious issues that are raised within the mediated public sphere create widespread debate and bring to light such subjects. These debates do not exclude certain citizens, creating a well rounded and whole discussion through the medium of the new tabloid sphere.