Thursday, June 7, 2012

Disappearing comments!?

Some aspects of this blogging business continue to confuse and intrigue me – most particularly the way in which posts and comments simply disappear for no apparent reason. The following comment appeared yesterday in response to my open letter to Tim Burrows and I responded to it. For a while it was up on my blog and then disappeared. God knows why! Here it is again:
“For the information of those who may be unaware of it, Encore has form when it comes to censorship. Last year, at an industry forum, Encore was instructed by Screen Australia that the magazine would be able to broadcast the speeches given by the pannelists (one of whom was Ruth Harley) but would not be able to film or broadcast any of the questions and answers that followed. The reason for this is that Encore has, in the past, broadcast online material that Screen Australia has objected to being out in the public domain. When Tim Burrows claims that he was under no pressure at all from Screen Australia to terminate the discussion about the banning of Ricketson he may well have been speaking the truth. Judging by the comment of my own that was censored and comments by others that were censored Burrows may well be fearful of receiving a nasty letter from Screen Australia's legal department if he allows through what he refers to as defamatory comments but which may well be merely statements of fact. And who can blame him for being cautious. The mafia only has to actually perform the occasional kneecapping for its 'clients' to get the message. My reading of Ruth Harley's letter to Ricketson is that its purpose was to intimidate him with its barely veiled threat to sue him. This was the stick. The carrot was, if you read the subtext, 'Stop calling Fiona Cameron a liar in public and we'll consider welcoming you back into the fold of filmmakers we will deal with." Whether Cameron or Harley are liars or not I cannot say but it would be so easy for them to prove that they are not and totally demolish Ricketson. Why don't they? It is not just Encore that should be asking questions and it is not just people in the film industry who should be concerned. These are powerful people whose wages are paid by the Australian tax-payers. They have a right to expect of the Chief Executive the highest level of integrity and honesty.
My response:
You are right about Harley’s capacity to demolish me. She could, so easily, if she could produce evidence of the crimes she has charged, found me guilty of and sentenced me for. She wont release the evidence because she can’t. It doesn’t exist. He real problem here is that no-one will insist upon her releasing it – not the Screen Australia Board, not the office of the Minister for the Arts, not Encore magazine or any other film journalist. I find this odd. What is being set here is a very dangerous precedent. What if this same lack of transparency and accountability were to be applied to something really significant to all of us in the industry and Harley (or her successor) simply brushes off all questions with, “No comment.”
As for censorship of the Industry Forum by Encore, the organizer of the Forum (who has no relationship with Encore) explained why the filming of mission statements could occur but not the Q & A that followed, in the following way:
“Just confirming I am not having filming of questions. This is the decision of the organisers, and the speakers were not even consulted on this.

I am an experienced organiser of events and too often I have seen creatives that do not often do public speaking regularly and audience members make statements they later would prefer not to be on the web.

With the seminar I mentioned earlier that I filmed and dumped the footage the speakers knew they were being filmed and said afterwards they did not want it on the web. People should be allowed to say whatever they like in the moment and I am protecting that right.”
My own questions to the panel were censored, as were the questions of other questioners. Again, this was not an Encore decision. It was explained to me that the censoring was so as not to hurt the feelings of filmmakers in the audience or of the panel onstage. It is hard to see the point in forums if we can only say things in public that are not going to hurt someone’s feelings. I had a film of mine voted the 3rd worst at a film festival once. Yes, my feelings were hurt. So what. No one is twisting my arm and forcing me to be a filmmaker who puts his films out into the world to be assessed, criticized and, if need be found to be the third worst. Why are film bureaucrats a protected species when it comes to criticism of the role they play within Australian film?

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