This post originally appeared on Mail & Guardian’s Thought Leader group blog.
Everyone’s favourite whipping boy, the SABC, has done it again. Unspoken commands from the outside have barged in and, at the last minute, dictated an editorial policy. Either both the Metro FM show’s producer and host neglected to acquaint themselves with the said policy, or the policy did not exist until five minutes before the show was to go on air. In any case, unlike his 16th century forebear, this whipping boy is being publicly flayed for his own misdeed, not the prince’s. Yet strangely the prince, commercial news media, appears the most pious throughout the debacle, when he, too, commits an as egregious an offence.
On Wednesday City Press editor Ferial Haffajee tweeted: “Are the news values of public broadcasting different to commercial news values? If so, how?”
The short answer is no. There should be little difference. Values in public and commercial news should flow from the mission underlying why news is gathered and disseminated in the first place, which is to provide citizens with timely and accurate information to allow them to make informed decisions on the issues of the day. The more intricate and precise answer is that, as with the SABC, voices from the outside also intrude into commercial news rooms and affect decisions on the quality and nature of information provided to the public. Often the decisions swayed by these outside voices results in a compromise of commercial news values. Continue reading