Thinkers Corner


A Thinking Persons Critique of the Commercial News

a SMALL RANT OF THE QUALITY OF commercial media

This is something I have noted more and more through exposure to commercial news – It is not for thinking people. The changes I have seen in the last ten to twenty years for the worst mean I only watch ABC or SBS for news and current affairs, and have for the last ten years at least. However, I have recently been unable to escape the commercial channels due to sharing a house, bringing me face to face with this beast called commercial network news and current affairs. As a thinking person you can do one of two things with the commercial news – You make fun of it to yourself in your head or you end up arguing with your house mates TV news in complete frustration.

This is because of the diminishing quality of the news in the last ten years especially. As budgets have been cut, commercial news networks face increasing competition they seem to have been going on a race to the bottom which if it was not so dangerous would be as funny as a satire. There are obvious informercials in the main news bulletin unlabelled as news, entertainment news now leads the headlines instead of genuine public interest news. And what is worse missing children, tragedies and other things that at best should be handled with care are handled as a complete spectacle. A current example playing out at the moment is the wall to wall Clio Smith coverage. This wall to wall coverage, including pieces of police evidence such as body cam footage from the raid, are dangerous, not just sensationalist. Especially with the slanted, sensationalist nature of the coverage it has a chance it has jeopardised the trial of the suspect by tainting the jury pool – Meaning that the person charged with the abduction could walk. But this is just one example – The way that the Gabby Petiito case was dangerously sensationalised on mainstream as well as social media is another. This was not done for anything else but ratings and could have major long term consequences for legal due process. This is an escalating trend that has made me increasingly worried with time.

This has also been noted in the way that COVID 19 is covered in the commercial news as compared to ABC news and current affairs. Contrasting the two approaches is quite interesting. ABC ran with facts, especially in the coverage of Dr Norman Swan. They bought in epidemiologists, economists, intelligent commentary. In contrast the commercial news ran sound bytes based on government talking points, victim blaming, police talking points, all light on facts. The slant that was taken was clearly against the health orders for ratings. Giving airtime to anti-maskers among others for issue as small as getting acne from masks, it was clearly slanted for sensationalism and ratings rather than informing the public. This, combined with what could only be described as complete government politicking and incompetence, created a toxic feeling against what was very necessary government actions from an uninformed public. This is not something I support as it is not just bad, it is dangerous.

This has gone hand in hand with another two trends – The inclusion of entertainment news and informercials in the nightly news bulletins. Remember Entertainment Tonight? I do. This program, separate to the news carried all the celebrity and entertainment news. This was a place where if you wanted to watch entertainment news, you could go. It was a thirty minute program separate to the nightly news. Now, especially on Channel Ten, entertainment tonight is the news. I have lost count of the number of times, even on seven and nine, entertainment news leads the bulletin instead of public interest news. This is not a good thing. This has gone hand in hand with what is basically advertising – Infomericals – In the nightly news bulletins. If you are a thinking person you can spot it straight out. It is only a glowing puff piece for a sponsor who blatantly has an ad in the ad break next off... As though the audience has no brains. This is not just a clear breach of ethics, but insulting a thinking persons stupidity.

Sadly, this is not a trend that is decreasing. More and more, cases like Gabby Petito and the completely irresponsible way that the Clio Smith case was covered are becoming the rule, not the exception. When Angry Andersons son was murdered even the ABC got into the action with long lens through the trees of the grieving father taking to detectives, though they are the ones with the most limits. It is just others have no limits and will do anything for ratings. This is a form of mis-information folks. A dangerous one, where commercial news networks slant the news for their own commercial gain, be that ratings or be that being paid to by advertisers. To this thinking persons ideal, it has to stop. News needs to be news again, because we all have to vote. When we vote on mis-information we make the wrong choices. When a case is overcome to the point it jeopardises a trial it becomes dangerous again. This all means that well, we need to really have some critical thinking on where and how we watch the news, and what we take in from it. In so many places, well, at the moment it's a case of buyer beware.

Monique M. Toth