“The Drum” is a worthy and interesting discussion of current news that takes place each week day afternoon at 5.30 on the ABC. A selected panel review and debate contemporary politics and events, but it suffers from one flaw. It must give way to other programs just before 6 pm, even if discussions are unfinished. Too often interesting topics are cut short because even national television must dutifully defer to whatever program is scheduled to come next. Even worse, such interruptions are not usually acquiescing to anything of importance; the Drum usually comes to an abrupt end because the ABC feels the necessity to allot the next few minutes to promotions of other programs, or simply list details of what will follow the rest of the evening.
I saw an interruption that prompted me to write this when The Drum had a sector on the 70th anniversary of Russian troops discovering the Nazi death camps. The day the world first began to learn the hideous news of the holocaust. It was a moving segment; Auschwitz survivor Roman Kent spoke emotionally of the horror he’d endured, and discussion led to recent events in France, when four Jews were randomly shot. It was the day after the massacre of the Charlie Hebdo journalists. The four had nothing to do with the satirical magazine; they were shot for simply being Jewish. Vic Alhadeff, CEO of the Jewish Board of Deputies, spoke of how creeping anti-Semitism is growing again in Europe. He illustrated how the holocaust was able to exist in a country like Germany because the Nazi policy isolated Jews as early as 1935, not allowing them to own shops or run businesses, preventing them from inter-marriage, marginalising them to such an extent that when they were arrested and taken away to camps the rest of the population had been brain washed to accept it, and look the other way. The panel including Simon Cowan and Jonathon Green enlarged on this, adding that anti-Semitism was growing in many countries including Britain and Australia. Mr Alhadeff was endeavouring to expound on this when he was politely interrupted. An apologetic smile from Julia Baird, chairing the panel indicated that unfortunately time was up; a rueful smile from Alhadeff accepted the show was over, and we were thus deprived of the final part of his explanation.
An interruption is an affront in any serious conversation, and this was both serious and riveting. I’m certainly not blaming Julia Baird, who has written a worthwhile article on this very subject, as she was no doubt obeying an order from the control booth. But it was a pity. Television suffers too often from this tyranny of timeslots, and when a valuable discussion must be cut short for one of the increasingly intrusive ABC adverts, it is like reading a book and finding the last few pages missing, or cutting a serial or a play during the final scene. There would be complaints galore if that happened.
It is a pity national television cannot forgo a promo, and allow a speaker whom they have invited to at least finish what he is saying.