Reality TV enters politics

The reality television craze is set to enter Australian politics, with the launch of a programme that encourages viewers to select candidates to run in national Senate elections.

    Politicians become celebrities or celebrities politicians?

    Channel Seven on Wednesday said the programme Vote For Me would audition ordinary Australians who believed they could contribute to national affairs.
    A panel of experts will select 18 candidates - three for each of Australia's six states - before the audience is asked to use mobile phone text messages to whittle them down to one candidate per state.
    The winners will receive $6800 campaign funding and receive daily airtime on Channel Seven's Sunrise breakfast television news show.
    Seven said the contestants would be "serious" candidates tackling major issues.

    The television station said it would not endorse the candidates, merely give them a platform to directly address viewers.
    "We are not providing the candidates with policies, we are simply providing them with exposure and this is something that past independents have not had the luxury of," Sunrise executive producer Adam Boland said. 
    Academics debate

    The concept was criticised by some academics, who said it trivialised politics.
    Sydney University senior lecturer in government Rod Smith said the show would add nothing to the political debate. 

    "There is generally a lot of politics around getting into politics and it's not something that most people understand or experience"

    Catharine Lumby,
    associate professor,
    Sydney university

    "Channel Seven's motives are obviously ratings, so it seems a pretty dubious exercise for Channel Seven, which is on the one hand presenting itself, presumably, as a serious reporter of television news about the election and at the same time promoting a slate of candidates," he said.
    But his Sydney University colleague, associate professor Catharine Lumby, said the programme would make politics more democratic because it bypassed traditional "elitist" methods of breaking into politics. 
    Getting into politics

    "There is generally a lot of politics around getting into politics and it's not something that most people understand or experience," Lumby said.
    "One of the pathways into politics is through university politics. Well, not everyone goes to university."
    The national elections, where Prime Minister John Howard's conservative government is seeking a fourth term, is expected to be held in October or November.
    Vote For Me will initially screen as a segment of the Sunrise programme, with the option of expanding to a separate show if it proves popular.



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