Charity and the Media|
An Australian Example|
Aidan Simmons, Bachelor of Journalism/Arts|
“There are an estimated 600,000 entities in the not-for-profit sector which contribute around $43 billion to the economy of Australia making it larger than the communications industry, agriculture or tourism. The majority of these are small unincorporated neighbourhood groups or associations that provide support for and wellbeing in the community”. – Office of the Not for Profit Sector Website of Australian Government. Clearly charity is alive in Australia. Personally, I am an active participant in a Charity in my local community. As a student of Journalism though I have always paused to ask myself: Why then do charities seem to have such a tough time with media exposure? The answer is long and complex and will be the focus of this report. One thing is for certain though more research needs to be done on how charities utilise the media in Australian context, as this study is only a cursory analysis of a much, much bigger issue. |
The primary focus of this report is the way Australian charities use the news media. It draws heavily on a similar study conducted in Canada called: ‘Promoting Philanthropy? News Publicity and Voluntary Organizations in Canada’ by Josh Greenberg and David Walters. This study heavily influences my own personal look into the reporting on charity in the Australian media which follows my discussion of Greenberg and Walters. I have also endeavoured to try to provide a cursory history of Australian social welfare attitudes and a brief history of Australian charity, largely informed by Brian Dickey’s brilliant ‘No Charity There’. I also will look at the reasons given for ‘giving behaviour’ amongst people. The ultimate purpose of this study is to strive to better understand the way charities and the media interact, as well as to better understand charity and social welfare issues in Australia. I sincerely hope my analysis is useful for both those in the not-for-profit sector and media scholars. A Background to the Australian Context:
Australia’s first charity was founded in 1813. Still active today this group now simply known as ‘The Benevolent Society’ and was then called the ‘New South Wales Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge and Benevolence in these Territories and the Neighbouring Islands’. The majority of the men in this group were evangelical Christians having previously served as missionaries elsewhere. The story of this first charity is interesting in illustrating a two themes tied up in my research. The first is charity’s deep connection to religion, which will be explored as we continue to wind through this paper. The second is the way that charity often serves to partner government incentives. In his book No Charity There Brain Dickey looks extensively at the social welfare history of Australia, regarding the early benevolent society he writes: Governor Macquarie put considerable pressure on these men of Christian faith to employ the majority of their resources garnered from donations in New South Wales on the needs of the colony, rather than on supporting missionary endeavour on the islands (Dickey, 1987) The result of this was that:
The founders [of the Benevolent Society] craved Macquarie’s approval… for they knew that without it neither funds not social acceptance would be forthcoming. They abandoned their missionary schemes and decided to concentrate on mortality and benevolence in Sydney… They raised money from donations and dispensed outdoor relief… they saw their work as supporting, rather than replacing government rations. (Dickey, 1987) Clearly Modern Australia has very little in common with its colonial origins. Exploring the vast and deep history of the Benevolent Society lies beyond the scope of this paper and will not be attempted. This example is demonstrative however in encapsulating the way charity has worked...