Bias and balance on screen
Survey shows strong bias in news broadcasts at Clarín’s Canal 13 and Vila’s América
Argentina’s First Survey of Free-to-Air TV Channels, conducted by the Audience Ombudsman’s Office, shows that Telefe’s news programmes are the most balanced in terms of congressional representation onscreen. América and Channel 13, on the other hand, feature the largest disproportion in terms of air time granted in their news programmes to lawmakers from the opposition or the government’s party.
Furthermore, there’s a special mention for Public Television, as the state-owned channel boasts the highest number of legislative sources to whom they grant the largest slots of air time in their news programmes, without trying to conceal their ongoing efforts to focus more on government-related sources.
These conclusions arise from the bimonthly survey of the news programmes of Argentina’s five free-to-air television channels (both publicly and privately owned) which were monitored for a week throughout February, April, June, August, October and December of 2013 by the Audience Ombudsman’s Office.
The survey included a total of 13,029 news broadcast from Monday to Friday in several news programmes, including Mauro 360º / Buenos Días América, América Noticias 1st and 2nd edition (América); Visión 7 morning, noon, primetime and Resumen (Canal 7); Telenueve in the morning, 1st, 2nd and 3rd edition (Canal 9); Baires directo, Telefe noticias 1st and 2nd edition and Diario de medianoche (Telefe); Arriba argentinos, Noticiero Trece, Telenoche and Síntesis (El Trece).
In other words, they monitored all the news programmes of the free-to-air television channels throughout 2013.
Their findings focus on the number of news stories and anchors, headlines, air time, main, secondary and tertiary topics, location and geographic reach, and news sources.
A detail of this survey which is worth mentioning is that it was conducted in a year that included parliamentary elections and PASO primaries.
The survey shows that Congress sources were scant in news programmes last year: out of the slot of 13,029 news stories analyzed by the Audience Ombudsman’s Office, no less than 13,592 sources were used, but only 517 of those (3.8 percent) were stemming from the country’s legislative branch.
Public Television ranked first with 33.1 percent of the total of legislative sources, with Canal 9 coming in second (20.1 percent), followed by Canal 13 (18.2 percent), Telefe (18 percent) and América (10.6 percent).
In addition to being the free-to-air channel that used the most legislative sources, state-owned Canal 7 was also the channel that granted Congress-related sources the most air time.
When assessing the attention given to each congressional block in news programmes, the survey indicates that the system keeps a certain balance between the opposition and the governing parties: from the total pool of legislative sources who were consulted in news programmes last year, 255 were linked to the opposition (49.3 percent) and 251, to the governing party (48.6 percent).
These figures point to a rather unexpected equilibrium of political pluralism onscreen in terms of sharing the media visibility.
However, the issue of political pluralism doesn’t muster a wide-enough consensus as regards the parameter that should be used to measure it.
As for the differences in the balance of legislative sources employed by news programmes, Telefe takes the gold with the highest level of equitability — 54.8 percent of opposition congressional sources and 45.2 percent of government lawmaker sources.
Public Television came in second (57.3 percent for the government and 39.8 percent for the opposition), while the widest gap in source representation was found at América, with 67.3 percent of sources coming from the opposition and 30.9 percent from government lawmakers, followed closely by Canal 13, with 67 percent of congressional sources coming from opposition parties and 30 percent from the Victory Front and their allies.