OPINIONPeople Daily

News is serious business; whoever promises it must deliver

Friday news bulletins have been going down the news value sewer in a national TV station for a while, but an episode that played last Friday at the station took it to another level of degeneracy.

A lovely female presenter who has won many a soul with her gentle and happy mien. She established a tradition to bring on board ‘celebrities’ as guest anchors. News, however, should be news and celebrities should have nothing to do with it except as sources.

Often, they do a disservice to the seriousness of a news bulletin. On that Friday it was the turn of a popular musician to grace the TV screen. To be fair to him, he stages eye-catching stunts, but it was obvious from the word go he did not belong to the TV screen.

He may have not been sober, but soon he went personal violating the anchor’s space. Finally, he could not read the news on account of eyesight challenges.

So, why did the anchor do it to her audience? And why did the guest come on set to read news when he is short-sighted? It was a violation of obtaining regulations.

The newly published broadcast code by the Communications Authority requires stations to ensure presenters and participants in their programmes speak language appropriate to the programme and of the highest possible standard.

The problem here is not just what was happening on the screen but a question of the policies in media houses regarding what they can subject audiences to. It is not the first time local TVs have had guests who appear inebriated on the screen.

News is not purely about entertainment. But even with entertainment content there must be guidelines as to what is tolerable.

Unless one was to argue that a state of stupor entertains then there does not appear to be any clear function of the media that is fulfilled by having a guest whose coherence is in doubt. Second, it is important that men respect women.

This cannot be put in any other way! This past week, West Indies cricketer Chris Gayle was fined $5,000 (Sh500,000) for seeking a date from a female sports journalist Melanie McLughlin of Australia’s Channel Ten during a live interview before a game.

His conduct was considered inappropriate even though he insisted it was only a joke. It was simply out of question the local musician hugging the TV anchor on air. He had no business touching her. It was inappropriate for him to make comments regarding her dress. Being a celebrity gives him no licence!

It baffles! Here was a guest who was adding no value to the bulletin. Why subject the public, for a whole 17 minutes, to such circus? In the first place, musician should have not been on the set. And if the anchor did not know his state upfront, she should have assessed it quickly, taken leave and let the man proceed on his way to other engagements.

News is serious business! And why did this local TV station do it to their staff? Some producer was sitting somewhere and watching all this unfold. Didn’t the media house have some responsibility to protect her when she was being touched and spoken to inappropriately, at her work station?

It was dereliction of responsibility by whoever has the responsibility to protect this employee. TV stations should not pander to every guest. The privilege of being on air must be earned and should have its matching responsibilities.

Yet the Friday episode speaks to the bigger picture of what is happening to Kenyan journalism. Many other channels were not doing any better for an individual who was seeking to be informed. Musicians sprinkled across the channels performing at this prime time.

Since when did routine interview with musicians become news? It is understandable for newsroom managers to argue that entertainment is what drives ratings and bring in the advertising shilling. Yet there is an element of deception in it all.

The 9pm hour is billed as prime. Ethics would demand you give your audience what you promised—news. What we are witnessing is a conspiracy to defraud the public, renege on understanding of a contract.

If this is not addressed at a policy level then we risk having a nation glued to entertainment 24/7, even when that entertainment is not entertainment! Writer is Dean, School of Communications, Language and Performing Arts at Daystar University

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