Truth is a concept that exists throughout the cross-section of society. Telling the truth is extremely complex as truth is compromised by commercial self-interests. This is represented by the satirical television series Frontline directed by Rob Sitch et al. Frontline humorously mocks a typical current affairs show and its representation of the truth. In the episodes ‘The Siege’ and ‘Smaller Fish to Fry’, Sitch utilises sophisticated techniques to demonstrate how truth is manipulated and concealed. The notion of truth is that it is easily a victim to manipulation.
Rob Sitch successfully portrays the manipulation of truth to achieve goals in ‘the Siege’ through his utilisation of exaggeration. At the siege site, Martin crouches in front of the camera to create a fake impression of danger although he is 5km away from the farmhouse. He is also wearing a flak jacket, a protective vest against shrapnel and indirect projectiles to manipulate the audience into thinking that he is in jeopardy. Martin doesn’t inform the audience that he is actually reporting the story 5km away and that there is no imminent danger to him.
Martin behaves this way to heighten the emotions of the audience and to bring higher ratings for the show. Mike Moore feeds manipulation with his closing dialogue, “Martin Di Stazio, live from the line of fire” a term generally associated with soldiers under attack in war, thereby creating a false, and totally fabricated context. The irony there contributes to the portrayal of the notion of truth because Martin is actually 5km away from the farmhouse, nowhere close to the line of fire.
Brooke Vandenberg’s behaviour is similar to Martin’s when she interviews Mrs Forbes, encouraging her to cry for the camera to heighten the emotions, thus gaining greater ratings for the interview. Even when the sound operator forgets to put the batteries in the tape recorder, Brooke is determined to get a dramatic interview so she asks Mrs Forbes “do you have any 9 volt batteries? ” and “would you be able to cry again? ” The use of close-up shots of Mrs Forbes suggests the intrusiveness of the media and their level of desperation on emotion to boost ratings.
The Siege’ demonstrates how the truth is manipulated to sensationalise the truth to provide higher ratings, rather than reported as it really unfolds. Rob Sitch applies various techniques to show his intentions. The manipulation of truth is demonstrated in another episode of Frontline. In ‘Smaller Fish to Fry’ the manipulation of truth to achieve goals is evident through the issue of journalistic integrity. The honesty and the truth behind journalism is demonstrated when Martin and his camera crew deliberately stage a story concerning the dry cleaners stealing money.
In this scene, the use of a camera that shoots in a point-of-view angle illustrates the authenticity of the situation, emphasising the ‘crimes’ committed. Also, the fact that Martin uses entrapment shows that the media will go to drastic measures, completely manipulating the truth, to find a story that will claim better ratings. The manipulation of truth is also shown in the frontline meeting room through the power hierarchy. A close up camera shot of the minders of the prime minister crossing out specific questions and suggesting the lawn at the Lodge shows that those that are in power are designing truth.
The close up shot of Emma and Brooke being chummy and both dropping some of their questions suggests that they are unconcerned with that questions they do, as long as they get the interview with a high standing person in the nation. ‘Smaller fish to fry’ relates to the notion of ‘telling the truth’ as it shows that in some cases, truth is manipulated through power and journalistic integrity for their own profits. The concealment of truth is another notion portrayed in Frontline’s ‘The Siege’. This notion is shown in ‘The Siege’ through the empowerment of image over truth.
When Mike Moore is in front of the camera reporting the incident and talking to the gun man, he is perceived as serious and prepared. This is shown through a close camera shot of him in a suit, tie and his sudden change of tone in his voice. However, in reality he is unorganised. This is shown with a close camera shot of him surrounded by 6 people spouting information to him simultaneously, which indicates his lack of preparation. In this scene, juxtaposition between Mike on television and in reality shows the empowerment of image over truth.
Symbolism is used by Rob Sitch through Mike Moore. The contrast between Mike’s appearance and reality is shown in what he is wearing. The suit, which symbolises his serious attitude, is viewed on camera but his scatterbrained reality is viewed through his go kart shorts, which are not able to be seen by the audience. Rob Sitch’s uses these techniques effectively to convey the notion truth of truth as being hidden from the audience which also reinforces the idea of the concealment of truth.
Rob Sitch represents the concealment of truth in ‘The siege’ by contrasting between reality and what’s presented in public using film techniques. The concealment of truth is also emphasised in the episode ‘Smaller Fish to Fry’. The empowerment of image over truth conveys this notion when the audience is able to see the difference in personalities between public and private times. When Brooke and Mike are paired up to host the Frontline show, the audience visually comprehends with Brooke’s inner thoughts towards Mike.
This is evident in Brooke’s ending lines, ‘you dumb bastard’ (to Mike)… ’Hi I’m Brooke Vanderburg from Frontline, wanting to wish you and your family a very merry Christmas and a happy and safe new year’ (in front of the camera). The juxtaposition between Brooke’s expletives to Mike and her warming messages to her intended audiences shows how Brooke has hidden her true image and hence covering the honesty and truth of her. The complexity of telling the truth is apparent here, as it is extremely difficult to be informed of the inner truth that the media hides from its audiences.
The concealment of truth is also shown in Frontline’s entrapment of the drycleaners. The fact that the camera is shaking as Martin and his crew walk in the drycleaners shows the sense of urgency and the idea that they know the money will be missing. This links to the concealment of truth because they didn’t mention their plot on camera, which shows that the absolute truth is never going to be revealed. ‘Smaller fish to fry’ presents the concealment of truth through Frontline’s covering up of the facts that will damage their reputation.
In conclusion, Rob Sitch applies sophisticated techniques to demonstrate how the telling of truth can be easily manipulated and concealed in a pursuit of ratings and commercial success. The fact that Frontline has a show within a show structure, the reality vs. the finished ‘Frontline’ product demonstrates how truth is a construct. A study of Frontline’s ‘The Siege’ and ‘smaller fish to fry’ reveals to the audience that discovering the truth is not an easy process.