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Public TV under scrutiny

Public television Executive Director Martín Bonavetti poses in front of multiple TV screens in his office.
By Lorenzo Miquel
Herald Staff
Executive Director Martín Bonavetti discusses with the Herald the horizons ahead

Channel 7 is recognized by its high-end fictions, cultural programming cinema... and for hosting only one political TV show, blatantly Kirchnerite. Their news shows have been revitalized, though they still can’t escape a certain one-sided outlook of the Argentine TV channels.

The Public TV has just signed a rigorous audit to be performed jointly by UNESCO and UBA’s Social Sciences Faculty. UNESCO’s official document on quality evaluation for Public Channels clearly states that “cultural diversity is affirmed when there is a diversity of voices, angles and points of view in the programming, that serves as a reflection of social life.” And though Channel 7 has taken huge strides regarding quality programming, it is only logical to think that there is always room for improvement.

Martín Bonavetti — Channel 7’s Executive Director — sat down with the Herald to discuss what has been done and the horizons that lay ahead.

What kind of responsibilities will the Public TV face regarding UNESCO’s objectives?

We signed a “letter of intent” in which we’ve established working guidelines over a public media system for content evaluation; a baseline which serves the purpose of discussing content quality and institutional performance over objective data. As a channel director, I make lots of daily decisions that ensure a high social responsibility; involving budgets and administrating technical/operative resources (...) Having external parameters that allow upgrading those decision levels is something that adds to a future horizon. That’s the key (...) I’m very proud to have pushed forward a media observatory during my administration and the fact that this isn’t spurred by partisan political intentions.

How will this media observatory work with the proper “auditing distance”?

We’ve proposed the Buenos Aires University’s Social Sciences Faculty for the task, they will develop a monitoring/investigation team with their own funding — we’re not involved there. This team will work alongside UNESCO in the design of those indicators that will be used during the first stage of the process. The observatory also has institutional autonomy. The reality is that audience measuring methods are complex as far as institutional authority goes. We’re happy because Unesco’s and UBA’s seal will bring legitimacy to their outlook, because they will present objective data created by an autonomous institution. In Argentina, talking about polls is dubious, talking about indexes is dubious, everything is dubious (...) If the Public TV wants to build legitimacy it needs to become an example. And to be that example, the Public TV will have to go through self-criticism processes.

How are you planning to combine quality goals and ratings, if you find the latter relevant?

I think all of this comes from the need of being evaluated by something else than ratings. Ratings can be measured by one company or another; I think that television needs other parameters, if there aren’t, we are stuck in a model that the Public TV wishes to surpass, because it’s in its own nature to surpass it. That being said, I can’t tell you that my administration avoids thinking about ratings, we need other indicators, but ratings are an element that needs to be considered, because our content is intended to have a massive reach.

Both Unesco guidelines and Broadcasting Media Law ruled on 2010 give plurality a central role. Why isn’t there any other political TV show than 6,7,8?

I believe 6,7,8 is plural because it represents a space that’s inexistent in the rest of the TV spectre. There is no media analysis programme, it could have never existed due to the fear that any journalist has to be able to question the media’s corporate politics. As long as there’s a presence that questions said politics I think that speaks about a concept of plurality. We are not talking about having parliamentary representation within the programme; the discussion has more to do with a context (...) These are the times we’re living in. Our goal is to vie for hegemony the media sphere. Vying for that doesn’t mean entering to the arena without a political discourse.

But there is also uneven criticism. For example, if 6,7,8 questions Massa’s remarks regarding what would he do if he finds his son smoking marijuana the same treatment would be expected for Randazzo’s equally controversial comments on graffiti.

There has been different instances (...) There’s another important thing that can’t be thought about in television terms. TV screens build identification over the most important emergent of a certain period. There’s a tinellization of screens as well as a sixseveneightization. Trends flood everything. Evidently, discussing Public TV as part of a trend because there’s a clear political intention. In that sense I accept the challenge, we’re talking about working with parameters that allow us to build new and more legitimate horizons.

After the Supreme Court’s ruling, are you conceiving programming that will host other types of journalistic options?

We have a programming grid in which we comply with the obligations of a varied-content-orientated channel. The screen quotas proposed by the Media Law are achieved. That’s regarding format, let’s discuss in terms of more qualitative concepts such as diversity, plurality, etc. There’re certain extents in which that discussion is being worked on the day-by-day. There’s also something difficult that (with Unesco’s evaluations) will improve greatly: in Argentina, content generation has been done always from Buenos Aires, with a national pretension. That federal representation has failed and is obsolete. It needs to be rethought. We can work on that line based on an observatory that will allow us to externally comprehend that what we’re trying to represent is not being represented. So, what’s the federal representation that a national screen needs to have? That is a complex question that needs a precise content analysis.

@lorenzomiquel
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