“The Shire” is a television program which was aired in Australia in 2012. It was labelled as a “dramality” by Channel Ten, the network in which broadcasted it, due to its combined reality and apparent scripting. It was created by Shine Australia and is centred around the lives of people in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire. The television show created extreme controversy and was constantly criticised, resulting in a very wide public sphere (the gathering of people engaged in a debate), before it was cancelled after a mere month of existence.
As somebody who attended high school in the Sutherland Shire, I have to admit that I cringed when viewing this program for the first time. I was admittedly a little amused at the far-fetched language, the characters’ appearances and the general concept that they seemingly wished to portray to the whole of Australia. I remember commuting to work the day after the first episode aired, and the train was a frenzy of people discussing the show. They all gathered together to exchange their opinions on this controversial, yet popular program. Some believed that it was entertaining and enjoyed it due to personal reasons such as the relationships on the show and being able to relate to the location it was set. However, others felt ashamed that people may associate them, as locals of the Sutherland Shire, in the same light the program’s characters were portrayed in.
It was widely known that the Mayor of Sutherland, Carol Provan, was strongly against “The Shire”, which is evident in the article “Sutherland Mayor disowns Shire cast, offends Burwood Mayor” (by Natalie Hambly). Mayor Provan believed the program would degrade and put the area of Sutherland in a negative light. The Mayor of Burwood, John Faker, did not agree with Mayor Provan’s opinion, which is a good example of a mediated public sphere. These two people generated an opinion based political debate, which all citizens had the access and freedom to respond to. The Mayors’ conflicting opinions were bound to have affected the opinions of the general public, which can be seen in the comment section of the above website. This in turn can be classified as a metaphorical gathering of people.
After it aired for the first time, Channel Ten was surprised at the criticism “The Shire” received. In the article “Ten surprised at the criticism of The Shire” (by the Sydney Morning Herald) the network seemed genuinely puzzled by the criticism and thought that their show was “going to be the next Big Brother.”
“The Shire” was also discussed in elite mediated, and non-dialogical public spheres, and due to the accessibility of the Internet, generated a much wider audience. It was featured in the Herald Sun, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Daily Telegraph. The article “The Shire makes Lara Bingle’s show look like Q&A” (by Emma Ashton), is an article where the writer goes into detail of the characters’ fake physical attributes, of which could be seen as an issue in respect of promoting insecurity and distorted body image. The thoughts in this article are debated in both positive and negative lights. The article provides details of a Twitter Feed where viewers could express their opinions on the program. This is an excellent example of the modern day public sphere, where there is a distance in space and time because of the non-dialogical aspect of written communication.
It is obvious that no matter how negatively “The Shire” was perceived, it contributed to many debates in the public sphere. It provoked issues such a body image insecurities, as many of the characters had undergone an extended amount of plastic surgery. Cultural differences were also an issue because, as seen in the above article regarding the Mayors, the Mayor of Sutherland was depicted as “criticising” characters who were “from Burwood”, which offended the Mayor of Burwood. Other issues such as it being too fragmental to a specific audience, too commercialised, too much sexual behaviour, gender equality issues and sexual identity topics were seen throughout the show’s short life span. The combined effect of a mediated public sphere and normal public sphere generated quite a lot of publicity and this talk was being delivered, discussed and debated everywhere!
Below is a video that pretty much sums up everything I have just discussed, and it was ironically aired on the Channel Ten News!
Ashton, E. 2012. ‘The Shire makes Lara Bingle’s show look like Q&A’, Herald Sun, viewed 2 April 2014,
BCM110 Lecture and Tutorial notes, 31 March 2014.
Hambly, N. 2012. ‘Sutherland mayor disowns Shire cast, offends Burwood mayor’, Sydney Morning Herald, viewed 2 April 2014,
McKee, A. 2005. ‘Introduction: the public sphere: an introduction’, Cambridge University Press, viewed 31 March 2014,
SMH.com.au. 2012. ‘Ten surprised at criticism of The Shire’, Sydney Morning Herald, viewed 2 April 2014,
Take40.com. 2012. ‘The Shire Axed From Channel 10 – Final Show Announced!’, Take40.com website, viewed 2 April 2014,
Ten News YouTube Channel. 2012, ‘Controversial show’, viewed 1 April 2014,
Twitter.com. TheShire Twitter Feed, Twitter.com website, viewed 2 April 2014,