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.