Serious issues at ratings’ mercy

One of the biggest problems of television worldwide is that it turns every issue it addresses into cheap spectacle. In Greece, with few exceptions, the issues are brought down to a parochial level of discourse more akin to village gossip. Over the past few days, we have seen self-styled experts on the price of fruit and vegetables offering their pompous and uneducated views on Greek-Turkish relations and on Ankara’s purported manipulation of the Muslim minority in the Thrace region. What is certain is that these same «experts» will be analyzing soaring oil prices and the Iranian nuclear debate with an equally inflated air tomorrow. There would be little cause for concern if the stern anchormen and vociferous talk-show hosts stuck to more familiar territory, such as the Eurovision song contest and political gossip. However, Thrace and Greek-Turkish disputes are too serious as subjects to be reduced to the level of television «window» debates with an eye fixed on AGB ratings. The issue at hand is a complex one and the public should not be informed of it to a backdrop of music and opinionated ranting in order to please a few ratings-hungry individuals. Television journalism must live up to the issues it presents rather than dragging them down to the depths of relentless competition between rival networks. It is unacceptable that additional problems are being created in an already sensitive area for the sake of higher ratings. Nor should politics and diplomacy be held ransom to the fleeting results of viewer numbers. Unfortunately, Greek television learned little from the 1996 Imia crisis. On the upside, the stance taken by the government and the opposition is one of calm, despite all the noise. They have obviously understood that one person’s right to speak does not mean another’s obligation to listen.