> March 2012 - Political theory and practice
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March 2012

SBS movies bring the world’s cinema to our televisions screens. It has been a godsend since it started and it still is a small miracle every night and day. Films that would never be shown on commercial free-to air channels, and probably not on pay movie channels either. The pay television movie channels also have a commercial imperative to satisfy their audiences. Moreover, there is a perception of audience resistance to subtitles on television screens. I have been told this many times, though no one has ever offered any evidence to support it. Nonetheless, it is a plausible contention. And it brings me to the point of this post. (At last.)

SBS logo.jpg

Many, most, perhaps all, the films SBS screens terminate with an attribution of the subtitles to SBS.* Ergo I conclude SBS is responsible for these subtitles. I have no criticism of these labours, but I do have a wish. I wish the subtitlers would forego, cease and desist, and stop forever their efforts to render the subtitles into the Australian argot. No doubt this is done in the belief, mistaken, that it makes the movies more accessible to audiences. In fact, it is more often jarring to find a Chinese character sounding like Mick Dundee in the subtitles.

Moreover, this reduction of the foreign to the familiar defeats part of the purpose of world movies, which is to increase the audience’s knowledge of differences in the world. I am sure that I am not alone in wishing to know the idioms, analogies, metaphors that Finns, Thais, Bulgarians, and Turks use rather than have them all use Strine-speak à la SBS in the subtitles. We go around the world with SBS Television and everywhere we go the people sound like the local leagues club. What a dreary old world it is!

By the way I have posted this comment on SBS feedback sites more than once to no avail.

*I do not know for a fact if every film terminates with this claim, since I do not watch them all, but only some. Hence the guarded generalization above.

Melvyn Bragg is a higher being. He is erudite, cogent, neutral, and direct. He is an expositor with few equals. I am addicted to 'In Our Time,' his weekly podcast from BBC4. It is a feast for the mind each week. He handles the panel discussion with three specialists with a deceptive ease, striving always to get them to drop the academic caution, the polyglot speak, qualifications that swamp the main point, and communicate to the educated listener who would like to be informed.

Some of these qualities can be seen in the ABC-Television interview he did recently in Sydney in the link below.

Compare him to the aggressive, simple-minded journalist who interviews him. Her goal is to trip him up into yet another slang-off at the Murdoch press, as if the ABC was ever short of them. When that fails she loses interest until another slang off at religion from the ever full arsenal of clichés that pass for journalism. Spirituality is evidently unknown there.

Along the way, by implication, he gives her a lesson in interviewing, help the subject say what he has to say. Point not taken, I should imagine.

As a result only about half the interview concerns the subject that brought Bragg to the interview. Thus do ABC journalist grind their own axes on the public dole.


Lord Melvyn Bragg of Wigton is a prolific author of fiction and non-fiction. We first encountered him with his masterly "The Adventure of English." There is a book, but it is boring compared to the film, so find the DVD. We loved the recitations.

Bragg adventure,jpg

Dress sense was not his strong point in this film.


The man – George C. Marshall - emerges from all the deeds, but the deeds are numbing in number and variety.


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Thoughts on the canon of poltical theory and life.

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