Jana Wendt was described as "Australia's most prominent female journalist" and according to a 1996 newspaper survey, "one of the 100 most powerful women in the world." The 5 years between 1988 and 1992 were regarded phenomenally successful years for Jana Wendt as host of 'A Current Affair' which consistently won 30 plus ratings points in the all-important 6-7pm time slot.

Ray Martin remarked, "I think 'A Current Affair' is the best daily current affairs show around." At the end of 1992, Jana handed back the chair to Mike Willesee, "It needs someone who is revitalised and who can plunge into what can be the horrors of five-nights-a-week current affairs TV. I have done so many interviews over the years for 'aCA'. Lots of them are good fun or intensely interesting or exciting in some way, and it's great when it goes to air."

Women in the 25-39 age group, the 55-plus and the 40-54 comprised the largest viewers in Sydney which "seem to go for more issue-based programs." Women also identified with Jana Wendt. In July 1992, Jana made a guest appearance on the 'Face The Press' program. The SBS show attracted 6 ratings points, twice the normal result. Former '60 Minutes' reporter Ray Martin made the remark in 1993, "Jana's a star. She would have been a star in the U.S. or Britain."

Based on her star power, channel Seven hired Jana Wendt in 1996 to host its flagship public affairs program, 'Witness'. The program was designed to set the benchmark in current affairs. "I don't want to put down current affairs, but public affairs is more responsible – although by degree, rather than a mile. Current affairs relies on 'stunting' to grab audiences, and some of those stories might be seen as, if not borderline, then possibly beyond the pale. 'Witness' is public affairs, designed to be top quality, a program that is not only informative but is also entertaining," the network managing director Gary Rice stated.

Ross Warneke reported "'Witness' clearly is an attempt to take mass-market TV current affairs up-market, away from the phony sensations, celebrity reporters and feel-good stories of little Aussie battlers that proliferate elsewhere. It is 'current affairs', not 'public affairs', and there is a difference. But is that what viewers want at 9.30pm on Tuesdays?"

Christine Hogan reported, "Seven is doing its best to give 'Witness' the softest possible landing, airing it after the top-rating Australian drama 'Blue Heelers'. This is intended to give the fledgling public affairs program a flow-through audience from a compatible demographic base. The Seven network wants viewers to 'find the show naturally.'" 

"I think we are very important to the future of current affairs," Jana voiced at the time. "If we don't make it work, the victory flag will go up on the wrong side of the current affairs line. It will say that current affairs is really better off being relegated to entertainment than to entertaining information." It was noted "in its first 7 weeks on air, its winning margin has not always been that clear-cut. But the numbers generally have been satisfactory, if not consistently impressive...If power be measured by a person's ability to draw a crowd, she surely is the most powerful woman in this country." 

"Current affairs television is, by and large, not current affairs television," Jana pointed out at the time. "It is an entirely orchestrated event...(Stories) are created, they are created almost on the spot. In other words, they are stunts or gimmicks...That is no longer current affairs, it is something, it is a spectacle or an entertainment, but it is not current affairs. I think it is my duty in my position to try and deliver something that is honest, that is as untainted by gimmick as possible and that tells the truth."

Back in 1994, Peter James Spielmann of the Associated Press reported, "Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has begun beaming news, Parliament debates, educational programs, old movies and comedy shows to millions of TV viewers from the Indian subcontinent to the Philippines. Australia sees the regional TV service as a way of strengthening its economic and cultural links with Asia.

"The fare its transmits via Indonesia's Palapa B2P satellite has something for nearly everyone. The favorite of many viewers, particularly politicians, is parliamentary debate. President Suharto of Indonesia loves watching Prime Minister Paul Keating slice and dice opponents with his rapier tongue. On Keating's last visit to Jakarta, he gave Suharto a videotape of his prize insults." Peter also mentioned, "The regional service can reach more than one-third of humanity in a great arc running from Bangladesh to Brunei, southern China to Indonesia." 

Mr. Suharto, who like many Indonesians used only one name, died in 2008. Marilyn Berger of The New York Times with contribution from Seth Mydans told the public, "Like his predecessor, Sukarno, Mr. Suharto worked to forge national unity in a fractious country of 200 million people comprising 300 ethnic groups speaking 250 languages and inhabiting about 6,000 islands spread over a 3,500-mile archipelago.

"Mr. Suharto dealt gingerly with Sukarno, a founding father of the nation who still had support within the army. Sukarno was kept as a figurehead while Mr. Suharto, a relatively little known major general, waited 3 years to officially succeed him, in 1968. In the following years, governing through consensus, traditional mysticism, military repression and authoritarian control, President Suharto restored order to the country and presided over an era of substantial development.

"Many Indonesians benefited from his programs, but none more so than members of his family, who became billionaires many times over. Last year (in 2007), he topped a new list of world leaders who had stolen from state coffers. The list, by the United Nations and the World Bank, cited an estimate that he had embezzled $15 billion to $35 billion.

"He rarely took a public stand on any issue. Instead, by waiting to allow a consensus to form, he was usually able to make events evolve the way he wished. He can be better understood in the context of the old forms of Javanese kingship in which the ruler was surrounded by courtiers who tried to divine the royal mind. Although he was a Moslem, Mr. Suharto seemed imbued with Indonesian traditions of animism and mysticism overlaid with Hindu and Buddhist teachings.

"In a country given to superstition, where ancient patterns of belief coexist with more modern ideas, he consulted gurus and dukuns, spiritual advisers and soothsayers who were believed to be in touch with natural forces. Whether it was those forces or his timing, good fortune came to him. Just as the United States was becoming embroiled in Vietnam, he stood as a bulwark against communism in Asia.

"The United States rewarded him with a foreign aid program that eventually amounted to more than $4 billion a year. In addition, a consortium of Western countries and Japan established an aid program that in 1994 alone totaled almost $5 billion. In doing so, the United States, along with much of the rest of the world, showed a willingness to overlook the corruption, favoritism and violations of human rights, including the disappearance of opposition politicians, that came to characterize Mr. Suharto’s rule.

"Many Indonesians, too, supported him, at least while the economy was buoyant. But the Asian economic turmoil in 1997 exposed Indonesia’s economy as on the brink of collapse. The currency lost 30% of its value in 1996, a drought made rice scarce, unemployment rose and the widening income gap led to rioting and violence. Mr. Suharto turned to the International Monetary Fund, which agreed to a $43 billion bailout if Indonesia would abide by its terms.

"His signing of those terms was seen as a humiliating capitulation, but he equivocated when it came to instituting them. Many saw his hesitation as an effort to protect the fortunes of his family and friends, money widely believed to have been stashed in foreign banks. Mr. Suharto called for belt-tightening. He raised fuel prices, then revoked the order. He promised bank reform and ended tax breaks, then reversed himself or left wide loopholes. His failure to come to grips with economic problems brought a wave of student unrest. In May 1998, student rallies spilled from the campuses into the streets and across the archipelago. Hundreds died in fires and clashes with security forces.

"Apparently unable to grasp the seriousness of the situation, Mr. Suharto left on a trip to Cairo, but was forced to cut it short in an effort to restore order. The economic crisis was a challenge that he did not seem to know how to handle. 'This is something he cannot shoot, he cannot put in jail, he cannot close down, like our newspaper,' said Jusuf Wanandi, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta, an Indonesian policy institute.

"When Mr. Suharto took over from Sukarno, the country was bankrupt. Inflation was rampant and hunger was commonplace in a country rich in natural resources. Mr. Suharto ended Sukarno’s policy of confrontation with Malaysia and became a force for regional stability by helping to establish the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Indonesia rejoined the United Nations, from which it had withdrawn in 1965. With the help of American-trained economists, Indonesia moved from being the world’s largest rice-importing nation to a rice exporter.

"During the 1970s, oil was a major export and a significant source of foreign exchange. High oil prices allowed considerable economic development, but when Pertamina, the national oil company, was shaken by scandal in the late ’70s, the country again neared bankruptcy. Mr. Suharto brought what became known as the New Order to Indonesia, but at the price of repression.

"The repressiveness of the Suharto era broke into the headlines during President Ronald Reagan’s trip to Asia in 1986, a trip meant to highlight the 'winds of freedom' in the region. Just before Mr. Reagan's arrival in Bali, the government expelled a correspondent for The New York Times and barred 2 Australian journalists after unfavorable reports about the great wealth accumulated by the general and his family.

"Indonesia was a Dutch colony, and with the outbreak of war in 1940 he joined the Royal Netherlands Indies Army, which surrendered to the Japanese 3 months after Pearl Harbor. Indonesian nationalists began cooperating with the Japanese as a step toward independence, and he joined the Japanese-sponsored Volunteer Army, reaching the rank of commander. After the Japanese surrender he joined the independence forces, emerging as a lieutenant colonel, steeped in anti-colonialism and anti-communism."

Blog Archive