by Robin W Marsh

It was the last weekend of February, I was seated at my grandparents’ dining table with my liquid breakfast of black coffee and my trusty MacBook. On the TV was Channel 7’s Sunrise, which amongst interviews and a lot of light-hearted feature pieces has ‘newsbreaks’ every 30 minutes.


Normally I am not one to watch the “news” of commercial TV stations, because I find the “infotainment” is a little too heavy on the entertainment. However as it is part of my grandparents’ morning ritual I figured how bad could it be?


The show started at 7:00am and opened with the hot topic of the Social Media universe at the moment, the Black/Blue/White/Gold Dress, which should have been enough to have me questioning my choice to remain in the same room as the TV, what is Social Media doing crossing over to TV News? I had coffee in my cup and emails to read, so I stayed seated at the table.


News is increasingly based on what will interest an audience, rather than what the audience needs to know.”


Over the course of an hour they had three newsbreaks, which were comprised of a story about Prince Harry, some Australian politics, some sport and some other public interest stories. At first they appeared to be repeating the same stories with each newsbreak, but by the time the third newsbreak had come around, the Australian politics story along with some of the minor public interest stories had been dropped, the only story that remained the whole time was the story of Prince Harry.


At this point I was furious! I quickly finished my coffee, grabbed my laptop and left the room. I could no longer handle watching the presenters babble and jabber on about a topic that barely concerns the Australian public, allowing it to overshadow stories of our current political crisis, or about the death of our citizens.


The constant bombardment of non-news celebrity stories has brought the general public to a place where they can tell you what North West ate for breakfast, or which supercouple’s relationship is in jeopardy, but leaves them with a very limited understanding of topics surrounding national and global politics, economics and ethics.


Thomas Patterson in his journal Doing Well and Doing Good says, “news is increasingly based on what will interest an audience, rather than what the audience needs to know”. This is exactly how commercial TV news is programmed. Commercial TV stations rely heavily on ratings, as higher ratings lead to higher revenues. News programs on most commercial channels are aired during prime time viewing hours, and use entertainment-based news and other sensationalised stories in an attempt to draw in more viewers.


“The old paradigm was that we were part of the public service of broadcasting, the new paradigm is that we’re part of the profit making machinery. Being a newsperson used to be a calling. Now it’s a business.”


Robin W Marsh is a masked crusader who can be found making unnecessary noise and beating the heads of thugs like drums in an attempt to bring justice to music, and silence the voices in his head.


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