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Televiewers’ views on the TV news

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AT a recent TV and film forum, many of the points raised by the student audience involved TV newscasting as it is currently being practiced. Here are some of the reactions, complaints and suggestions raised at that event, and we trust that our newscasters take them “constructively.”

Quite a number of viewers pointed out that the true function and value of a newscast is to report the news as quickly as possible. They understand why it has to be “highlighted” for the visual medium of television to make it more interesting and “viewable”—but not to the point where the form and style compromises the objectivity of what’s being reported on.

They also caution newscasters to know their place: They are reporters, not “stars,” and shouldn’t dress up and look as such. While some of them may look and sound good, that’s not what they’re there for, and certainly not what viewers are looking for.

Functions

Above all, viewers don’t like it when newscasters “comment” on the news, either by ad-libbing their opinions, or by raising their eyebrows, etc. Reacting, interpreting and analyzing are the viewers’ functions, not the reporters’.

In terms of news coverage, viewers generally want more foreign news, especially students who want to understand a world they describe as having become so complex that it’s difficult to make sense of it. Thus, while they want objective reporting, they also want more analysis of the news and its repercussions on their lives.

Facts

Trouble is, who will do the perceptive and insightful analyzing? Many on-cam news reporters are more interested in flair, flash and bombast than in what the news means to individuals and the nation as a whole. Clearly, TV news outfits will have to develop more such analysts, to make sure that their views on the news are merited by the facts on hand.

On the positive side, some viewers said local newscasts shouldn’t be patterned after their American or European counterparts, because the Filipino psyche is different—it’s more colorful, contentious, “personalistic” and “louder” than the west’s “blander” version thereof.

So, to local viewers, news items about crimes and accidents are OK, even if they go through pretty much the same territory from day to day. They also don’t mind “show biz” news and even gossip as is currently being dispensed on newscasts, because it keeps them “up to date” when they’re talking with friends.

From these and other notes, we get the impression that the local viewer values objectivity in news reportage, but isn’t averse to greater “entertainment” value in the way that the news is presented on local TV.

That sounds, at least potentially, like a contradiction in terms, so care has to be taken that form does not upstage or overwhelm fact and substance. Even the most gung-ho and ga-ga viewers wouldn’t want that.


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