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National Preoccupations and International Perspectives in Communication Studies in Australia
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The Electronic Journal of Communication / La Revue Electronique de Communication
***** PUTNIS *********** EJC/REC Vol. 3, No. 3 & 4, 1993 ***

NATIONAL PREOCCUPATIONS AND INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVES IN
COMMUNICATION STUDIES IN AUSTRALIA[1]


Peter Putnis
Bond University


        Abstract.  This paper reviews the development
     of Communication Studies in Australian
     Universities and surveys recent Australian
     research in the field.  What topics are examined?
     What methodologies are used?  To what extent does
     the research reflect national preoccupations?  How
     has Cultural Studies influenced Communication
     research?  This analysis forms the basis for an
     assessment of the current state of the field in
     Australia.  Areas discussed include mass
     communication, cultural studies, interpersonal
     communication, intercultural communication and
     organizational communication.


     The last two decades have seen remarkable growth in the
field of Communication Studies in Australia.  While there
had been individual Communication and Media Studies subjects
in departments of Psychology, Sociology and Political
Science since the 1950s, the first Departments and Schools
of Communication only emerged in the 1970s.  Yet less than
two decades later, in 1990, there were over 20,000 students
taking Majors in Communication Studies in some 30 Australian
Universities.  There were about 600 full-time staff teaching
Communication Studies in these universities (Molloy &
Lennie, 1990).

     Conditions which led to this growth and determined the
early shape of the field included the following:

(i) rapid growth in participation rates in tertiary
education and the emergence of new Universities and Colleges
of Advanced Education to accommodate this growing demand.
The new institutions were open to innovations in curriculum
design and academic organization.  Communication Studies was
seen as innovative.

(ii) much of this growth in tertiary education was in
Colleges of Advanced Education (in 1990 re-classified as
universities) which, unlike "traditional universities", were
to be centres of applied education and research.
Communication Studies, as a field which held out the
prospect of combining theoretical work with professional
study in such fields as Journalism and Public Relations,
found a fertile environment in these colleges.

(iii) growing recognition amongst Australian academics,
stimulated by the first major Australian Conference on
Interpersonal and Mass Communications held at the New South
Wales Institute of Technology (now University of Technology,
Sydney) in 1976, of the development of the field in the
United States and of developments in the cognate area of
Cultural Studies in the United Kingdom.  These developments
provided ready models for Communication Studies subjects and
Majors.  Indeed it has often been argued that the field
emerged in Australia within a cross-current of American and
British/European influence and that the diversity
of the approaches taken (professional versus critical
orientation; empirical versus critical research; individual
versus cultural and societal focus) can in part be accounted
for by selective adoption of various paradigms drawn from
these countries, where the field was better established.
(Lewis, 1982; Putnis, 1986).

(iv) a degree of dissatisfaction with traditional
disciplinary boundaries.  Most of the early proponents of
Communication Studies as a separate field moved into the
area from related more traditional disciplines such as
Psychology and English.

(v) rapid growth in "communication professions" such as
journalism, media production, advertising and public
relations and the growing recognition that a university
education was an appropriate preparation for these
professions and that such university courses should include
both critical/theoretical and applied elements.

     Communication Studies emerged in Australia as
essentially a curriculum idea:  here was a new
multi-disciplinary field of study which dealt with the
contemporary issues and which, in its inclusiveness, could
accommodate both the traditions of liberal education and the
growing demands for "vocational relevance".  Here was a
study which appeared to accommodate both theoretical and
practical concerns, and which, depending on one's
disciplinary/professional background and stance, could be a
platform for social critique, a training-ground for
professional communicators, or a new discipline which could
address human communication in a way which transcended
traditional disciplinary boundaries.

     Communication Studies as a curriculum idea has been
very successful - perhaps because it was so multi-faceted.
While it gained its academic credentials through its
engagement with the traditions of social science research
and social critique it could also gain industry credibility
and student support through its claims as a vocational
preparation for "professional communicators".  Furthermore
this multi-faceted approach worked and continues to work
despite the misgivings of those who see an unbridgeable
divide between academic critique and professional practice.

     A comprehensive survey of courses in Communication
Studies in Australia was conducted in 1990 (Molloy &
Lennie, 1990).  The survey clearly demonstrated the strength
of the field as measured by staff and student numbers.  It
also conveyed the diversity of undergraduate studies.  While
"Communication Professions" subjects (e.g.  Journalism,
Advertising, Media Production, Public Relations) were most
frequently offered in the institutions surveyed, there was
also a very strong offering in Cultural Studies.  Nearly all
major Communication Departments and Schools include Cultural
Studies subjects amongst their offerings.  In most
Australian Universities professional/practical courses are
offered side by side with courses which attempt to locate
and understand professional practices within a larger
framework of cultural/institutional practices.

     Other areas of Communication Studies well represented
amongst the 33 institutions surveyed include Communication
Management (information systems, organisational
communication, instructional communication, communication
policy and planning), Social and Cultural Communication (in
addition to subjects which are specifically based on
Cultural Studies perspectives there are many offerings in
mass communication, intercultural communication and
political communication) and Communication Applications and
Skills (speech communication, written communication,
interpersonal communication).

     The 1990 survey demonstrated the strength of
Communication Studies in Australia as an extremely popular
field of undergraduate study.  As I indicated earlier over
20,000 students were taking undergraduate Majors in the
field.  The picture was somewhat less impressive at
postgraduate level, particularly as regards research
degrees.  While there were over 1,400 students taking
postgraduate degrees, the overwhelming majority of these
enrolments were in vocationally oriented post-graduate
diplomas.  Only 7% were undertaking PhDs.

     This situation is, however, changing rapidly.  The 1990
survey documented the first phase in the development of the
field in Australia.  Our priority was, quite rightly, the
development of strong undergraduate programs.  I should make
it clear that there was a substantial amount of research
going on as well, as documented in my 1986 review of the
field in Australia (Putnis, 1986).  But it can fairly be
said that this was more often than not achieved through
individual efforts rather than through facilitating
institutional structures.  Apart from a few relatively small
operations like the Canberra-based Communication Research
Institute of Australia, we lacked communication research
centres.  University-based Schools and Departments of
Communication were essentially teaching rather than research
institutions.

     We have now, I believe, entered a second phase in the
development of Communication Studies in Australia, a phase
which will see the development of much stronger research
programs and institutions.  The 1990 survey, while focussing
on undergraduate study, did note the beginnings of this new
phase.  Between 1988 and 1990 there was a significant
increase in postgraduate research students, though
admittedly from a very small base.  For example, Macquarie
University in Sydney had no PhD students in Communication
Studies in 1988 but had eight in 1990.  Murdoch University
had 17 PhD students in Communication Studies in 1990
confirming it as the strongest research centre in the field
in Western Australia.

     There has been no comprehensive survey of current
research programs in the field in Australia.  There are,
however, many indicators which support my contention that we
have indeed moved into this second phase of development, a
phase which will consolidate and further develop our
research effort.  They include the following:

(i) As indicated earlier, much of the early development of
Communication Studies was in Colleges of Advanced Education.
These have now been re-constituted as Universities and as
such are under pressure to improve their performance in
research.  For example the University of Western Sydney,
which developed out of a networking of three former
Colleges, now has a postgraduate program with over 30
students undertaking research in Communication and Cultural
Studies.

(ii) There is the simple matter of time and priorities.  Now
that undergraduate programs are so firmly established it can
be expected that the focus of development will shift to
postgraduate programs and research.  Furthermore larger
schools have now achieved a critical mass of staff such as
to allow the development of collaborative research teams.

(iii) New research centres have been established, most
notably, the Centre for International Research on
Communication and Information Technologies (CIRCIT) in
Melbourne.  This Centre, founded in 1989 by the Victorian
Government, the University of Melbourne, Monash University
and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology is "an
interdisciplinary policy research centre, examining the
economic and social implications of communication and
information technologies" (CIRCIT, Annual Report, 1991-92).

(iv) There is increased research funding through such
agencies as the Telecom Fund for Social and Policy Research
in Telecommunications and the Federal Government's Office of
Multicultural Affairs.

(v) There are the successful efforts of the Australian
Communication Association to stimulate research and
disseminate it through its conferences and its two sponsored
journals, the _Australian Journal of Communication_ and
_Media Information Australia_.  Particularly noteworthy in
this regard was a workshop of 19 leading Australian
communication scholars held at the 1992 National Conference
of the Australian Communication Association with the purpose
of generating a research agenda for the Communication
discipline in Australia.  The agenda, subsequently published
in the _Australian Journal of Communication_ (Norton, 1992),
sets out research questions and directions in terms of a
hierarchical model which "organises the agenda questions
ranging from the larger units of abstraction and
increasingly specific applications.  The model first focuses
on meta-questions about the parameters of a discipline.
Then, the model introduces components relating to contexts,
contents, processes and outcomes."  (Norton, 1992, p. 33).
This agenda is at once a record of what leading scholars in
the field are currently focusing upon and a "wish list" of
research questions that they would want to see addressed.
The document is too complex to be adequately summarized in
this paper.  Perhaps I can suggest its flavour by indicating
some of the research questions that were posed.  They range
from the philosophical (What root metaphors underpin our
conception of communication?  What is ethical communication
practice?) to the highly pragmatic (What is the effect of
various reward structures, opportunities, or systems on
organizations and interactions in organizations?).  Some
questions relate specifically to the Australian cultural
context (What are the communication problems arising from
multicultural Australia?  How is the nation state of
Australia constructed by the media?), while others take a
global perspective (How can communication scholars
particularly contribute to alleviating potential world
disaster?).  Some questions seek to explain general
processes (How does communication perpetuate disadvantages
and disempower individuals?), while others consider specific
professional contexts (What are the critical issues in
doctor-patient communication?).

     These, then, are some of the on-going questions that
communication scholars in Australia are addressing.  Let me
now turn to the two journals sponsored by the Australian
Communication Association and highlight some of the more
detailed concerns and research preoccupations that emerge
from a review of their contents for the years 1990-1992.
Let me conduct you through an "interpretative tour" of the
last three years of the _Australian Journal of
Communication_ and _Media Information Australia_.

     There is a strong pragmatic strain in the articles in
_AJC_, a journal which deals predominantly with
interpersonal and organizational communication.  The
underlying question is usually, how can we improve
communication in interpersonal and organizational contexts?
This pragmatism is, however, most often coupled with
critique of simplistic approaches to questions of
effectiveness, particularly approaches which are based upon
an information transmission model of communication or which
frame the problem narrowly as one subject to technical or
managerial solutions.  There is a strain of scepticism about
"effectiveness" in Australian communication research.  As
David Sless (1988, p. 23) once put it "misunderstandings and
failure to get one's message across are the norm, not the
exception."  This does not mean that we give up efforts to
improve communication competencies and structures but that
we base them on a proper appreciation of the complexity of
human behaviour and and a recognition that the concept of
"effectiveness" is itself problematic.  Effective for whom?
To what ends?  In what kind of ideological and moral
framework?

     Elizabeth More's work on communication and
organizational change (More, 1991) argues that some popular
managerial approaches to organizational change tend to sweep
under the carpet complex issues of culture and politics
which are in fact the core of the matter.  She argues for a
"contingency approach" which can respond to the complexities
of a particular situation.  The difficulties of any attempt
to "change organizational culture" are also noted by Lewis
(1992), who argues for a more focused approach on particular
behaviours as a way of implementing change.  The question of
how an organization can "craft communicative processes which
allow it to deal with problems that involve change, conflict
of interest and perception and threat" (Hearn, 1992, p. 66)
also forms the background to Hearn's study of the use of a
video in a large organization (an airline with 56,000
employees) to disseminate, via a cascade process, material
on the organization's revised mission and goals statements.
Hearn notes that "though the content of the video was
constant, its meaning and impact appeared to change on its
journey through the organization" (p. 66).  Furthermore "one
pivotal variable appears to have been the interpersonal
communication competence of the leader of each group
process" (p. 67).  This was particularly crucial as the
video form, produced as it was in the genre of a
professional news magazine, tended of itself to distance the
audience:  "When the video succeeds in its powerful
portrayal of the ideal it runs the risk of disengaging the
campaign from the present" (p. 67).

     Harry Irwin's work on doctor-patient communication
competency (Irwin, 1991) is another example of research
which involves a reassessment of what is meant by
"effectiveness".  Taking the view that "communication
competency lies as much in the relationship as it does with
the interactants", Irwin develops a competency model for
doctor-patient interaction which emphasises "shared
influence" and the "mutuality of the relationship" rather
than the transmission of information.

     Bill Ticehurst and Anne Ross-Smith's research on
communication satisfaction in Australian organizations
(Ticehurst & Ross-Smith, 1992), like a considerable amount
of pragmatic/administrative work in the organizational
communication field in Australia, applies research
methodologies and studies developed in the U.S. to the
Australian context.  In this case established instruments
such as the Communication Satisfaction Questionnaire (Downs,
1988) and the Organizational Commitment Questionnaire
(Mowday, Steers & Porter, 1979) were used to investigate
the relationship amongst such constructs in Australian
organizational settings.

     The Ticehurst and Ross-Smith study works within a
framework of standard empiricist assumptions -
"communication satisfaction" and "commitment" are viewed as
"states" which can be measured via questionnaires and then
compared.  Other work embraces a more critical approach to
organizations and to the constructs and discourses of
traditional organizational communication research while
nevertheless retaining a desire to improve communication
structures and practices.  Nielsen (1991) uses the
methodology of metaphor analysis to explore the role of
metaphor in constructing commonality of understanding in the
computer industry.  Debra Jones, a New Zealand researcher,
notes that "post modern critiques of modern organizational
theories centre around their emphasis on rational,
co-ordinated concepts of efficiency and effectiveness" and
that "the rhetoric of this seemingly neutral approach, with
its emphasis on efficiency and economy, conceals the
sectional interests that it in fact represents" (Jones,
1992, p. 35).  Jones' research involves the analysis of New
Zealand government organizations from a post modern
perspective with a particular emphasis on gender and
ethnicity.  Following Rosenau (1992), she notes that "a post
modern approach can be intensely pragmatic . . . the
abandonment of the search for general, universal theory puts
an increased emphasis on practice, on the local and
specific" (p. 36).

     Particularly notable in this strain of pragmatic yet
critical research is the work of the Canberra-based
Communication Research Institute of Australia (CRIA) whose
senior staff are David Sless (Director) and Robyn Penman
(Research Director).  The Centre aims to develop and
evaluate communicative practices (e.g. form and public
document design and the human/machine interface) and to
offer an alternative to "the prevalent view of communication
as simply a tool to achieve effects" in which "any genuine
distinction between manipulative and non-manipulative
relations between people has been obliterated" and which is
based on a reductionist "conduit view" of communication
(Penman 1990).  The final issue of the _Australian Journal
of Communication_ for 1992 (Vol.19, No. 3) was edited by
Sless and Penman.  It includes a critical analysis of the
Plain English movement which argues that there is much more
to communication problems in our legal system than "legal
gobbledygook".  Viewing the problem as one of "plain
English" misconceives its nature and dimensions (Penman,
1992).  It also includes a critical assessment of multimedia
which focuses discussion about multimedia "upon human
capacities and characteristics rather than upon the
information processing capacities of multimedia
technologies" (Lowe, 1992) and an account of the Institute's
redesign of "The Telecom Bill", a computer-generated report
received by almost all Australian householders (Sless,
1992).

     Another focus of pragmatic research has been in the
field of intercultural communication.  Kaye (1992) has
written on the applications of intercultural communication
theory to vocational education and training institutions
while Irwin (1992) has reviewed the relationship between
cultural sensitivity and communication management.  More
often questions of the "cultural and the intercultural" have
been analysed at the level of community and nation.  So it
is appropriate if, at this point, I shift focus to what I
see as a second major strain in Communication Studies in
Australia - a concern with the concept of "multicultural
Australia" and with the communication processes whereby
Australian cultures and sub-cultures are constructed,
represented and transformed.  The role of the media in this
process has been an ongoing concern of _Media Information
Australia_, Australia's major media studies journal.

     It is worth reminding ourselves that the European
settlement of Australia only began just over two hundred
years ago in 1788, the year Captain Philip founded a British
convict colony at Sydney Cove.  Perhaps because of their
short history, white Australians are very conscious of the
cultural formations in which they live and of the process of
their construction.  There is a sense of an evolving society
which, having emerged from colonialism, has yet to discover
an identity.  Consider for example the rapidly changing
attitudes to the notion of Australia becoming a republic as
evidenced by opinion polls since 1953.

Should Australia remain a monarchy or become a republic (%)?
============================================================

All people 1953 '75 '77 '79 '81 '83 '84 '88 '91 '92 '93

Republic    15   28  26  26  28  28  30  29  36  44  52
Monarchy    77   61  62  62  59  60  62  64  56  49  38
Undecided    8   11  12  12  13  12   8   7   8   7  10

Source:  The Morgan poll.  Time (Australian Edition), April
     26, 1993.

===========================================================

     Consider also the multicultural character of the
Australian population:

    o In 1990 over 20% of Australians were born overseas.
      Of these 22.5% were born in the United Kingdom or
      Ireland, 30.2% elsewhere in Europe and 21.1% in Asia
      and the Middle East (National Population Council,
      1992, p. 10).

    o The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population
      is projected to increase from 277,000 in 1986 to about
      300,000 in 2001 (National Population Council, 1992, p.
      11).

    o In 1987, 74.6% of Australians were of Anglo-Celtic
      origin, 18.4% of other European ethnicity and 5.4% of
      Asian and Middle East origin.  If migration continues
      at about the present level and with the present ethnic
      composition the corresponding figures would be 66.3%,
      18.0% and 12.9% respectively in 2031 (Price, 1989).

    o Of the 7.8 million Australians employed in 1991 almost
      1.1 million came from non-English speaking backgrounds
      (Bureau of Immigration Research, 1992).

     Perhaps not surprisingly the project of cultural
studies, a project "devoted to understanding the specific
ways cultural practices operate in everyday life and social
formations [and] also devoted to intervening in the process
by which the existing techniques, institutions and
structures of power are reproduced, resisted and
transformed" (Editorial statement, _Journal of Cultural
Studies_ ) has been embraced and developed in Australia with
great energy by many academics.  The multicultural nature of
Australia lends impetus to the study of culture.

     It is also worth reminding ourselves (if only, in this
instance via an anecdote) that miscommunication
characterized the project of forming a "European Australia"
from its earliest days.  This story is about kangaroos.

     Eighteen years before Captain Philip's settlement at
Sydney Cove in 1788 Sir Joseph Banks, a member of Captain
Cook's exploratory expedition, had compiled a list of 180
aboriginal words.  He had taken advantage of a seven week
delay in North Queensland (Cook's ship, the "Endeavour", had
struck a coral reef and was under repair) to record the
list, which included the work kang-oor-oo, meaning in North
Queensland aboriginal, "large black kangaroo."  When Captain
Philip arrived at Sydney Cove in 1788 he had Banks' list
with him.  Notwithstanding the fact that he was some 3000
kilometres to the south, he assumed that the language would
be the same.  (In fact there are many hundreds of Aboriginal
languages).  There was much bewilderment when the natives
around Sydney Cove didn't understand the words - not even
kangaroo!  In fact when the white men kept pointing at these
animals and saying 'kangaroo', the aboriginals assumed that
they were being taught English.  Might kangaroo be a generic
term for large animal?  Were the cows the settlers had
brought with them also kangaroos?

     Let me now attempt to indicate the main strains of
research related to cultural practices and representations
as evidenced in the journals under review.

     Working within the traditions of the ethnography of
communication Walsh (1991) attempts to characterize the
conversational style of Aboriginals living in remote
communities in the Northern Territory.  He notes that within
Aboriginal communities group talk is "continuous" rather
than "switched on and off" as in White Australian middle
class discourse and also tends to be non-dyadic.  There is
not the predisposition, noted in White Australian middle
class discourse, to "talk in twos".

     Pittam & McKay's (1991) study of representations of the
Vietnamese in Brisbane's press identifies the characteristic
narratives (e.g. the victim-success story) which construct
the Vietnamese refugee experience.  The study is one of many
which focus on ethnic stereotypes in the media and question
the "rights of representation" of ethnic minorities.
Meadows and Oldham's (1991) analysis of the television
portrayal of Aborigines during Australia's bi-centennial
celebrations in 1988 argues that "the dominant images
presented by television news reinforced the notion that
Australia should celebrate its 200th birthday and that
Aborigines were deviant and possible initiators of violent
protest against this commonsense inclination."  Bell (1990)
outlines the dilemmas of an "ethnographic film-maker" who
believes there is a legitimate role for non-Aboriginal
professionals in making films about Aboriginals.  Jacubowicz
(1992) critiques the reproduction of media constructions of
"minorities" and "majorities" in Australian culture in other
institutions, including higher education.

     A major theme of recent debate has been the role of the
media in the construction of a national Australian culture.
Australia has a dual television system - two networks
largely funded by government and three commercial networks.
The system has traditionally been quite highly regulated,
with one of the rationales for regulation being that the
media had a special role in the evolution of a distinctive
yet multicultural Australian society - hence government
support of the film industry, the establishment of SBS (a
special broadcasting service focussing on the needs of non
Anglo-Saxon Australians), and Australian content regulations
for commercial television.  The fear has always been that
without content regulations, Australian television would be
swamped by cheap American product.

     Recently, Australian content regulations have come
under attack from both social critics and economic
rationalists.  Docker (1991) argued that such regulations
embodied a discredited statism which favoured certain
cultural elites at the expense of the popular.  Others have
argued that the idea of "national cultural identity" is
itself a "suspect ideological construction which in
Australia is still 'identified' with the male dominance and
xenophobia of _Crocodile Dundee_" (Flew, 1991a as reported
in Sinclair, 1992).  Still others have argued that "the
globalisation of industry and culture, and the increased
integration of Australia into the global economic system,
make nationally-based forms of regulation appear redundant .
. . the long-term economics of media industries are global
rather than national" (Flew, 1991b).

     Flew (1991b, p. 26) argues that the Australian
Broadcasting Tribunal's standard for regulating the amount
of Australian content on commercial television, a revised
version of which was introduced in 1989 after a six-year
exhaustive study, is an unusual document as it goes against
the tide of recent economic and cultural developments:

          It tightens regulations on content at a time
     when the push is for deregulation; its regulations
     are prescriptive rather than market-based; it
     seeks to define 'Australianness' when the official
     discourse is one of multiculturalism; it stresses
     that local production should be 'by Australians'
     and 'for Australians' when the current policy push
     is for opening trade barriers and production for
     the world market.  It gives Australia one of the
     most encompassing forms of TV content regulation
     in the world.

There are, however, many defenders of this regulation.
Sinclair (1992, p. 27) argues that "regulation of Australian
content is a fundamental issue of sovereignty"; Dick (1992,
p. 7) comments that "The very definition of our identity -
as a nation in a shrinking world, as members of cultures
within the nation, and individuals within cultures - is at
stake here."  Craik (1991, p. 36) argues that "with the
imminent signing of the GATT agreement liberalising world
trade in 'audio visual materials', the future of local media
production is far from secure.  The basis of broadcasting
policy must be the provision of popular and diverse programs
which stimulate national culture and the public good."

     The "Australian content debate" is indicative of
growing involvement by communication and cultural scholars
in policy issues, particularly in relation to the role of
the media.  There is a concerted attempt to build bridges
between critical cultural theory and cultural policy-making.
Cunningham in particular (1992a) has sought to re-align
cultural research in the wake of a perceived crumbling of
some of the central theoretical presuppositions of Cultural
Studies as shaped in the 1960s and 1970s (principally the
neo-Marxist tenets of media studies - the "dominant
ideology" theory and its attendant media or cultural
imperialism thesis) in a way which ensures that research is
relevant to realistic and implementable policy initiatives.
His work has instigated a lively debate on the role of
research in policy formulation as well as re-opened
theoretical debate on the relations between social theory
and policy.  Recent areas of policy discussion framed by
these concerns include media ownership and control, cable
television, and the revision of the Australian Broadcasting
Act.

     Australian research in Communication Studies spans all
the divisions and interest groups of the International
Communication Association.  The strongest area in terms of
numbers of researchers and volume of output is, however,
Mass Communication (more often referred to in Australia as
Media Studies).  As well as the work on the relationship
between the media and national culture noted above there are
many more detailed studies on media representation and
audience response.

     The most recent studies on media representation have
been in the area of health, most notably Lupton's (1991,
1992) studies of health reporting with particular reference
to changes in metaphors about AIDS in the Australian press.
There is also a great deal of on-going work on news
discourse and the conditions of its production:  e.g.  Ward
(1991) on the construction of political news; Jenkins (1990)
on the role of news illustrations; Weaver (1990) on the
dramatic structuring of current affairs programs and Putnis
(1992) on the ethics of television news representations.

     Australian researchers have over the last decade
followed international trends in giving much more detailed
attention to the diversity and complexity of audience
response to the media (e.g.  Palmer, 1986).  As Cunningham
(1991, p. 28) notes, this "has been an important corrective
to the fashion of the 1970s to see audiences as supinely
'positioned' by textual processes."  Recent studies by
Patricia Gillard and her research team (Gillard et al.,
1993) on children's recollections of television coverage of
the Gulf War exemplify the detailed attention being given to
audience responses.  Gillard et al. note that their studies
followed the approach of Lindlof (1991), and that they "were
not designed to study the 'effects' of the coverage but to
explore the ways in which children constructed their own
meanings from the coverage.  . . and to see whether their
viewing experience or social positioning (gender, age, race)
patterned their recollections in any way.  Interview and
group discussion methods were used to explore children's
thinking in detail" (p. 100).

     A recognition of the complexity of audience response
also informs John Tulloch's (1992) investigation of the
effects of television in conveying health messages.  The
study involved screening health messages (both promotional
and embedded in the Australian soap opera _A Country
Practice_) to different groups of students who were selected
by class and gender.  Responses were gathered via
questionnaires which contained closed and open questions and
semantic differentials.  The results, while too complex to
summarize here, suggest the significant impact that messages
embedded in fictional forms such as soaps can have.  In a
parallel study John Tulloch and Marian Tulloch (1992)
examined children's response to television violence,
specifically their tolerance of violent solutions in
different genres of television programs.  I should note in
passing that the "violence on TV debate" is alive and well
in Australia, a highlight being the 1991 four-volume report
of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal on the matter.
Significantly the ABT eschewed the perspective of social
science effects research, tacitly conceding that such
research could not be expected to, as it were, "prove things
one way or another".  Rather, it adopted as its principal
method of inquiry the concept of "community perceptions of
violence" and commissioned audience surveys to show how
perceptions vary in accordance with such variables as
gender, age, parenthood and religious beliefs.  Via this
approach "those who believe in cause and effect become one
part of community perceptions" rather than having any
privileged "scientific" perspective.  The Report, which
eschewed censorship, but recommended some tightening of
guidelines was a response to "community concern" rather than
any "scientific findings" into the alleged effects of TV
violence (Cunningham, 1992b).  The Report in this respect
reflects the shift in academic debate on this issue over the
last two decades.

     The final area of research I wish to note relates to
the impact of new (and old) communication technologies.  Let
me first turn to the telephone.

     Partly stimulated by the threat proponents of economic
rationalism have posed to current telecommunications
policies in Australia (e.g. threats to introduce timed local
calls and threats to end cross-subsidization of telephone
services) and partly stimulated by the establishment of the
Telecom Fund for Social and Policy Research in
Telecommunications, there has been an upsurge in research
into the use of the telephone by various social groups and
its role in the maintenance of "psychological communities".
Noble and Harbilas (1991) have examined telephone use by
Australians of Greek descent; Moyal (1989) has examined what
she calls "the feminine culture of the telephone" through
extensive survey research while Noble (1991) has set up
various projects to investigate the role of the domestic
telephone, particularly in rural Australia.

     As research continues on traditional communication
technologies, policy debate is particularly intense on the
implications of new technology.  The February 1993 issue of
_Media Information Australia_ (No. 67) is a theme issue
entitled "Digital Worlds" which canvasses many of the issues
of concern:  access and control, privacy, equity, the
implications of "virtual reality" and the role of
interactive television.

                        Conclusion

     There has been a remarkable growth in the field of
Communication Studies in both teaching and research over the
last two decades in Australia.  The initial impetus was
towards the development of undergraduate studies.  More
recently, however, the emphasis has shifted to the
establishment of research degrees and centres.

     A review of recent issues (1990-1993) of the two
journals sponsored by the Australian Communication
Association, _The Australian Journal of Communication_ and
_Media Information Australia_, indicates the range and depth
of current Australian writing in the field.  Current work
reflects national pre-occupations such as the role of the
media in forming a national culture and the communication
implications of multiculturalism.  However it should be
noted that while in one sense such issues are national ones,
they are also international in scope.  Australian work, in
its concerns and methodologies, is closely linked to work in
other centres, particularly in the United Kingdom and the
U.S.A., and contributes in a significant way to the
international communication research effort.


                            Note

[1] This paper was presented to the Annual Conference of the
    International Communication Association, Washington,
    May 1993.


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------------------------------------------------------------
Correspondence:  Peter Putnis
                 School of Humanities and Social Sciences
                 Bond University
                 Queensland 4229 Australia
                 Peter_Putnis@Bond.edu.au
                 Telephone:  (075) 952 507
                 Fax:  (075) 952 545
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                      Copyright 1993
   Communication Institute for Online Scholarship, Inc.

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