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Lasha Kavtaradze

Shock Therapy

19.07.2012 14:31

Sometimes I think people’s misfortune is the only happiness to some of the journalists. Unless otherwise I can find no explanation to the passion they demonstrate when covering murders, attempts of suicide, car accidents, and thousands of incidents our leading media outlets fill up their programming with, at the expanse of viewers’ interest.  

I had scarcely started writing the post when Rustavi 2 and Palitra TV knocked down their viewers with the TV stories about the suspect of killing of a 27-year-old actor Giorgi Pochkhua. The country’s most highly rated television obtained “the exclusive of the century” and aired live the mobile footage featuring a young couple few seconds prior to their death as a result of rope jumping. Palitra TV too ‘smelled’ a huge number of viewers and uploaded the footage aired by Rustavi 2 on its website. The only thing this footage could have caused was viewers’ suppression and shock. And they did it well. 

When evaluating journalistic product, different criteria are applied, as a rule. But in the given case no criteria makes sense.

Why was Rustavi 2 to air in its news program the footage featuring the death of a young couple? Wouldn’t have we believed without the footage that they died? Did the footage prove anybody’s guilt or innocence? Did we see anything historical or valuable in the given footage?

No, there is the only answer – Rustavi2 decided to shock us, they way Imedi did through its simulated Kronika news program (we cannot compare the scale though). Palitra TV did not turn out to be less dishonest than Rustavi 2. The feeling of collegiality would not prevent me from calling the aforementioned media outlets dishonest for their actions. Trying to make right of evil is evil anyway, I think. And Rustavi2 and Palitra TV’s behavior was nothing else but evil.

On July 17 Rustavi2 produced a TV story about the killing of Giorgi Pochkhua. Through the close up featuring the mother of the suspect the channel once again, rather successfully, managed to stun the viewers. The moment the lady sitting in front of the camera with her teary eyes and trembling voice appeared in the Rustavi 2 news program Kurieri, Channel 9 immediately decided to send a camera crew in order to keep pace with its competitor television in hunting for exclusives. Of course, how would they do without showing us a tearful lady and without offering viewers something moving?! Emotions are sold well. It does not matter if you harm people with that. It does not matter if you bring a mourning mother to deeper grief. Ultimately Channel 9 showed an excited journalist telling us, with a strained face, the way the “murderer’s mother” physically abused him and damaged the TV company-owned technical equipments. The excusive has been done, the channel is pleased.

Of course, one can always justify this kind of low quality journalism with viewers’ keen interest. But making a better observation over the aforementioned cases we will find out that through the given stories no viewers’ interest was killed since there had been no such interest requiring the footage featuring the death of a young couple, and the screaming of their shocked friends and the tears of the mother in grief. This interest was made up by those very media outlets. It was also possible to produce an interesting TV story without those shocking pieces.

Let alone everything, how long can one manipulate through “demand-delivery” banal and primitive dichotomy. Under the circumstances it is very easy to criticize “the society” with passion for sensations. The viewers, concurrently being internet users, have passion for pornography (the rating of any porno site can prove that), then why are not we airing high quality porno stories in news stories? After all, the justification, according to which viewers’ “demand” is made by “suppliers’” has been long outdated. Or we haven’t heard of the theory of media influence yet?

In any normal country with healthy media environment and civil society the TV companies would be hailed with complaints following the TV stories of the kind. Viewers would be calling the TV company telling the editorial office they are violating not only professional but basic human ethics. Great Britain would be enough to cite as an example. On December 6, 2011 Channel 5 received 2,200 complaints for Matthew Wright's unethical joke. BBC was lodged over 760 complaints for airing the comments by one of the respondents Jason Gardiner. Thousands and tens of thousands complaints are lodged to the leading broadcasters such as BBC, CNN and others. After that televisions have got to think whether they inflict harm to viewers or respondents through their stories and programs. They know very well that in case of ignoring the complaints they are going to get more of them and less of viewers.

But in our case everything looks different. Those, responsible for responding to the similar cases, don’t care about ignoring ethical and professional norms. Let alone the response by the society. As of mentioned above the easiest way out is to say the problem is within the society. But in fact this problem too, from journalists’ individual responsibility and education to freedom of media environment, is the complex of all problems.

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