Appendix 1: The Gate Keeper Theory and 'Objectivity'

Whether it is conscious or not, whether it is deliberate or not, much of the relationship between the MAVM and the public can be seen as the one-way flow of power from the former to the latter. And as the maintenance of that power. At present, the MAVM have absolutely no interest in changing this power-balance, or in any notion of sharing with the public.

How does the fear of power-sharing by professionals manifest itself? How is repression of alternatives exercised? - mainly by a rigorous "selection" of what will and will not reach the screen. Elsewhere I have written about 4 basic techniques for eliminating the work of alternative filmmakers, and for preventing critical debate from reaching the public. Needless to say, these techniques are not (yet) officially taught in film or TV training schools, nor do they appear on the curriculum in TV organizations. What does appear is the 'gatekeeper theory'.

In effect, this theory implies that it is the role of all responsible TV workers to maintain guardianship vis-à-vis which material reaches the public, and which does not. In other words, to build a 'gate' or filter process strictly controlling the traffic of news, subjects, ideas, and information. This process of 'gate-keeping' is maintained at the editorial phase, not only by senior news editors, but by controllers at every level of TV programming.

A contemporary aim of this closely guarded process (which is never discussed with the public) is to ensure that most market-forces-oriented material will be allowed through the gate - indeed will be vigorously promoted - while all, or most, material attempting to challenge this direction in society will be blocked. The ramifications of this manipulation of information are broad and deep - they relate not only to the ideology of globalization, but to the basic maintenance of power for its own sake.

The gatekeeper theory applies not only to subject matter, but to language-form as well; the MAVM have clearly decided that slower paced language-forms and more complex narrative structures are dangerous. The MAVM have grasped that slower-paced narrative structures allow space and time for the audience to enter the material, and to reflect, even to query what they are seeing. And that they are therefore a threat.

In 1993, Mexican media tycoon Emilio Azcarraga Milmo, who publicly supported the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), and who referred to himself as a "soldier of the president", openly stated that a television company's responsibility is to "entertain the poor and distract them from their sad reality and their difficult future." Referring with gratitude to the tranquilizing effect of Azcarraga's soap-operas, a ruling member of the PRI stated: "It's better to use tear-jerkers than tear-gas."

Most MAVM professionals would strenuously deny that they bear contempt for the public, but many equally admit that they have been trained "to make our programmes suitable for the lowest common denominator". As there is so little self-critical debate amongst MAVM professionals in private, let alone in public, this paradox is never questioned.

For example, the British Broadcasting Corporation - along with probably every other state TV service on the planet - would deny that its programming is biased, and would equally vigorously claim that its programming is varied and democratic. Yet it refuses to debate its continued reliance on the Monoform - not only with regard to the way that this severely limits the types of programmes allowed through its 'gate', but also in reference to the social, cultural and political effects of this language-form on its audiences. In addition, the BBC bias on the question of globalization is painfully obvious - as, for example, regular listening to the BBC World Service Radio will reveal.



                        © Peter Watkins 2006                    next