M E D I A W A T C H    S E R I E S
Marko Zajc, Janez Polajnar
Ours and Yours
Tanja Petrović
A long way home
Brankica Petković, Marko Prpič, Neva Nahtigal, Sandra Bašić-Hrvatin
Media Preferences and Perceptions
Mitja Velikonja
Sandra Bašić-Hrvatin, Brankica Petković
You call this a media market?
Brankica Petković, Sandra Bašić-Hrvatin, Lenart J. Kučić, Iztok Jurančič, Marko Prpič, Roman Kuhar
Media for Citizens
Mitja Velikonja
Jernej Rovšek
The Private and the Public in the Media
Sandra Bašić-Hrvatin, Lenart J. Kučić, Brankica Petković
Media Ownership
Roman Kuhar
Media Representations of Homosexuality
Dragan Petrovec
Violence in the Media
Majda Hrženjak, Ksenija H. Vidmar, Zalka Drglin, Valerija Vendramin, Jerca Legan
Making Her Up
Gojko Bervar
Freedom of Non-accountability
Sandra Bašić-Hrvatin
Serving the State or the Public
Sandra Bašić-Hrvatin, Marko Milosavljević
Media Policy in Slovenia in the 1990s
Breda Luthar, Tonči Kuzmanić, Srečo Dragoš, Mitja Velikonja, Sandra Bašić-Hrvatin, Lenart J. Kučić
The Victory of the Imaginary Left
Matevž Krivic, Simona Zatler
Freedom of the Press and Personal Rights
Karmen Erjavec, Sandra Bašić-Hrvatin, Barbara Kelbl
We About the Roma
Tonči Kuzmanić
Hate-speech in Slovenia
Darren Purcell
The Slovenian State on the Internet
Breda Luthar
The Politics of Tele-tabloids
Marjeta Doupona Horvat, Jef Verschueren, Igor Ž. Žagar
The Pragmatics of Legitimation

Breda Luthar
The Politics of Tele-tabloids

eBook (199kB, pdf)

In this essay I discuss the transformation of television journalism into popular culture, and the ideological effect of this transformation. The analysis is based on the systematic observation of Slovene television news (on TV Slovenia and POP TV), carried out for several weeks in 1998. A few years ago, the televised “daily news” in this country was still clearly distinct from other television genres in terms of iconography, rhetoric and ideology, as well as in the selection of personalities that featured in it. Today, the news and newspresenters are undeniably part of the local showbiz scene. The news as the dissemination and presentation of information has been replaced by the model of the news as styled entertainment and social event. News about politics and famous personalities at important occasions are increasingly becoming stories about chaos in society, and from the communicative point of view they have been modified into an amalgam of common-sense chat, sociability, fatalistic melodrama, visual spectacle, simulation of technological sophistication, super-professionalism, rhetorical simulation of dramatic conflict, and… information. But the central factor in the transformation of the news from a particular, realistic political discourse into a segment of local popular culture lies in the changed role of the newsreader. The newsreader has turned into a newspresenter and a trademark of the television institution. On commercial television he/she is deliberately constructed as a public figure, an honest person, a professional who can be trusted as a source of credibility, truthfulness and authenticity for the news. He/she has changed into a narrator of stories, constantly in search of the truth for the benefit of the audience. His/her telegenic image determines the veracity of the news. What is the political effect of this “chatty discourse”? The results can be summarised in the following statements:

  1. Providing information is secondary to an audience of entertainment news. The whole iconographical image of the news, the visual style, the para-social relationship of the newspresenter with the imaginary audience, and common-sense rhetorical figures define the occasion as a social occasion. There is nothing more dramatic, exciting and entertaining than human dramas in the news.
  2. The logic of argument as a mode of substantiation is rarely seen in the logic of individual news items. A problem, or event, is narrated in the manner of a moral dilemma. The main task of the news is to offer a moral judgement of the world. Who is the good guy, who is the bad guy, who has won? Such news fatalistically moralises about the world, rather than morally thematises it - just like other melodramatic genres.
  3. Events are narrated within the referential field of personal experience and common sense. The common sense is ideological, of course, but it is instituted as natural. It is founded on the presumption of fundamental, undeniable, universal truths.
  4. The circulation of the newspresenter in other media constructs him/her as a personality, who can be believed and trusted, and who can interpret the world on our behalf. Our confidence in the credibility of the news draws upon his/her charisma and honesty rather than the credibility of the argument.
  5. Entertainment news substitutes the consideration of politics with the consideration of society. News about political corruption is also narrated as a human story about “the world of licentious and spoiled politics”.
  6. This does not mean, however, that realistic “informative news” is less ideological. There is no reason whatsoever why news about society (family violence, social life of the local elite, unimportant people in exceptional situations, and so forth) as such should be politically less relevant and more trivial than news about the superior echelons of state and party politics. The private, of course, is political. In fact, these two spheres are only divided by a series of evaluations and representations, which form the basis for the production of the specific version of an event.
  7. All of the above applies to both the television institutions studied, except that the news programme on the public service television station occasionally does everything stated above, but at the same time freely change its communicative dynamics from informative journalism to tabloid journalism, together with the changing of newspresenters - which points to the unclear idea about what kind of pattern the news should use as a model.