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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Does True Editorial Independence Exists at Mainstream TV Channels?

stop-media-bias

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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