This paper examines presentations by people who are diagnosed with a mental illness, and by lay people talking about mental illness, on Australian commercial talkback radio. Radio ‘talkback’ or phone-in programs are an important site for media analysis because of the supposedly atypical nature of this radio genre. Audience participants, to varying degrees, have the potential to respond and interact with the program’s host and their audiences, and even to initiate topics of discussion. Talkback radio constitutes a narrative genre whose discursive features can be examined in terms of the relationships between host, audiences, topics of conversation, radio’s institutional characteristics and routines, and phone-in participants. The paper focuses on one specific news event – the death by suicide of a patient from Glenside Hospital in Adelaide, South Australia. The patient was on detention but left the hospital and walked in front of a passing truck on a nearby busy commuter highway. The talkback segments analysed are taken from Adelaide radio station 5AA, hosted by Bob Francis, and are from three different days and took place over a period of one week. We identify the devices used by the host to promote his agenda and to control the content and nature of the talkback conversations. We show how topics raised by talkback participants changed from first reports of the incident to one week later. Our analysis focuses on the discursive struggle that takes place in the talkback segments, including the relationships between host, audiences, topics of conversation, radio’s institutional characteristics and routines, and phone-in participants. In particular, we demonstrate how the discursive devices used by phone-in-participants attempt to legitimate or authenticate their opinions, and how the host constructs these comments to fit with his and the program’s agenda. Other lay participants talkback contributions are then examined in relation to the host’s agenda for the day. Our conclusions suggest the characteristic ways people diagnosed with mental illness present themselves and their illness, and the devices these people used to authenticate their self-portrait and positions.
|Title of host publication||Communications Research and Strategy Forum|
|Editors||Professor Franco Papandrea, Professor Mark Armstrong|
|Place of Publication||Sydney|
|Number of pages||23|
|Publication status||Published - 2005|
|Event||Communication Strategy and Research Forum - Sydney, Australia|
Duration: 21 Nov 2005 → 22 Nov 2005
|Conference||Communication Strategy and Research Forum|
|Period||21/11/05 → 22/11/05|
Blood, W., Holland, K., Pirkis, J., & Martin, G. (2005). Voices of mental wellness and illness on Australian commercial talkback radio. In P. F. Papandrea, & P. M. Armstrong (Eds.), Communications Research and Strategy Forum (pp. 1-23). Sydney: Network Insight.