In poor taste

The proposal by conservative party secretary Evangelos Meimarakis to ban viewer ratings on newscasts sparked protests, yet at the same time brought attention to a serious issue. Tailoring news bulletins to the needs of the political elite is obviously unacceptable, but is not the only concern. Modern-age TV democracy tends to turn issues into cheap spectacle, causing an addiction to bad taste and petty politicking. In going for ever-higher ratings from AGB (the firm that compiles them), TV channels, with their powerful effect on public behavior and opinion, have only managed to debase civic life. Ruthless and unprincipled competition is driving standards ever lower. The despair of every stranger is considered newsworthy – the sole criterion being the ability of a story to stir viewers’ curiosity and emotions. News bulletins have for the most part degenerated into a sentimental cocktail made up of the most bizarre and heartbreaking incidents of the day. Sure, there are exceptions but most of it is rubbish, often dressed up as serious information. Meimarakis’s proposal, which was actually rejected by the government spokesman, could only be considered as a move of last resort. Detractors claim that news bulletins cannot be walled off from competition and popular ratings. However, news is not a market commodity like any other. Nor can its quality depend on mainstream taste. On top of this, the credibility of the ratings themselves is questionable. It is unacceptable that one company has a monopoly over ratings. AGB ratings are not just a yardstick the commercial market; they actually affect television programs per se. Reporting and aesthetics have deteriorated to meet demand as depicted in ratings. But it is far from certain AGB can faithfully reflect popular will. The image belongs to the most backward social strata that are most often chosen to host the AGB rating boxes.