Does True Editorial Independence Exists at Mainstream TV Channels?

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Last month, the communications and media studies department at a local university called upon me to be a speaker at an educational seminar organized by the students. One of the most poignant questions raised by the students in the course of the seminar was the one pertaining to editorial independence at mainstream TV channels. That is where the student who raised that particular question wanted to know whether, in fact, true editorial independence exists at mainstream TV channels.

I found myself at a loss on how to answer the question (as to whether true editorial independence exists at mainstream TV channels). This was due to the fact that I didn’t know how much the students knew about how the mainstream media really works. In other words, I didn’t want to give the students too complex an answer – one that they wouldn’t understand properly. Thus, the answer I gave to the question had to be one that the students could make sense of, given their level of understanding of how things work at mainstream media. All said and done, I just bluffed around — and to my pleasant surprise, the students seemed to be satisfied with what I told them!

But now that I have come to think of it, does true editorial independence really exist at mainstream TV channels? In my experience, all I can say is that some level of editorial independence does exist in mainstream TV channels. In the United States at least, the folks who run things in mainstream TV channels tend to have some editorial independence, when it comes to choosing the stories they are to focus on. But the editorial independence does tend (or seem) to be curtailed a bit, when it comes to choosing how they are to deal with the stories. In other words, the core underlying message in the stories they choose to cover has to be consistent with the ‘mainstream message’. That is the mainstream message as defined by the society they operate in – even if the said ‘mainstream message’ happens to be pure hogwash. But that is just my reading of the situation, and I am just one of the numerous media practitioners out there…

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How New and Upcoming TV Channels Manage to Keep Their Operating Costs Down

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New and upcoming TV channels tend to face major financial challenges. This is due to the fact that new and upcoming TV channels don’t attract as much advertising revenue as the well-established TV channels. Thus, the new and upcoming TV channels have to figure out ways to keep their operating costs down, as they try to build up their revenue bases. How, then, do they (the new and upcoming TV channels) manage to keep their operating costs down? I posed this question to a fellow who has taken advantage of the digital TV migration to set up a number of new (and increasingly successful) TV channels. I wanted to know how they manage to keep their operating costs down.

It turned out that one strategy used by new and upcoming TV channels to keep their operating costs down is that of utilizing office space in the most efficient manner possible. Hence the open plan offices you see at these stations’ headquarters.

Another strategy used by new and upcoming TV channels to keep their operating costs down is that of utilizing their human resource in the most efficient manner possible. Thus, for instance, the news anchor can also work part-time in the editorial department. Furthermore, the upcoming TV channels also tend to offer their people modest pay packages and benefits (with promises to improve things as soon as the revenue bases improve). Indeed, while asking for a job at a small, new and upcoming TV station, one doesn’t expect to get benefits akin to those that Hilton offers its workers through the Hilton.com/tmtp program.

Yet another strategy used by new and upcoming TV channels to keep their operating costs down is that of buying ready-made programming, as opposed to preparing programs in-house. The same approach is used when it comes to news: where an effort is made to buy ready-made news stories from the news agencies, as opposed to the TV channels retaining and having to facilitate their own reporters.

Credits

  1. Forbes
  2. Wick Geek
  3. AP

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Why the Major News Stories in All Mainstream TV Channels Seem to be the Same

Someone recently asked me why the major news stories in all mainstream TV channels seem to be all the same. This is where you tune to channel A, channel B and channel C – and you find that the main news stories being covered are all the same. As the person who posed the question put it, it is as if the TV channels are in a ‘choir’. The person who raised the issue expected me to know the answer to this question, because I am a media practitioner, and I am supposed to know how stuff works in this particular industry.

So why is it that the major news stories covered (nearly) in all mainstream TV channels seem to be the same?

Several answers can be given for the question as to why all the major news stories covered in all mainstream TV channels seem to be the same. The one that makes most sense is, however, the simple fact that all mainstream TV channels ‘buy their news’ from the same agencies. You have to understand that there are agencies whose core business is that of collecting news stories. When it comes to print media, we all know of agencies like AP, AFP, Reuters and so on — whose core business is that of collecting stories. There exists similar agencies in the TV world. Usually, mainstream TV channels buy reportage from those agencies, and then proceed to simply broadcast the same, hence the reason as to why all the major news stories seem to be the same.

It is also to be understood that the folks who run the mainstream media TV channels tend to be folks who went to the same media schools, and whose definition of ‘what is important’ therefore tends to be the same.

Further, it is to be understood that the mainstream TV channels tend to run ‘scoops’ against each other: where each TV channels endeavors to know what the other channels are focusing coverage on, so that it too can focus coverage on the same, ‘so as not to be left behind’. The end result, then, is a situation where the main stories given the limelight in all TV channels seem to be the same.

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