The first of its kind implemented in the region, the study was undertaken by researchers at the School of Communication Sciences of the Universidad de Buenos Aires (UBA) based on the standards established by UNESCO.
Diego de Charras and Natalia Romé*/Argentina/October 2016
In May 2014, senior management at Television Pública Argentina together with United Nations representatives agreed to develop quality indicators for the overall assessment of the station. The School of Communication Sciences at the Faculty of Social Sciences of Universidad de Buenos Aires (UBA) was chosen to undertake the analysis, as well as to adapt documents produced by UNESCO for this area, along with available quality indicators, to the particular circumstances of Argentina. As a result, a Guide to Quality Indicators for Argentinean Public TV was produced, which was then reviewed by an ad hoc committee formed by experts from various countries: Dr. Gabriel Kaplún, (Universidad de la República, Uruguay); Dr. Manuel Chaparro Escudero, (Universidad de Málaga, Spain); Dr. Isabel Ramos (FLACSO, Ecuador); Dr. Mónica Petracci, (Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina), and Dr. Omar Rincón (Universidad de los Andes, Colombia).
The implementation of the system of indicators carried out during 2015 with the support of UNDP provides an overview organized around 11 areas disaggregated into 65 indicators and 233 empirical variables that cover different aspects of the station’s operations and production. The surveyed areas provide information on: transparency and participation; cultural diversity; geographic coverage and available platforms; the public and democratic perception of journalism; independence; financial sources; audiences; language experimentation and innovation; technical standards; human resources; and protection of audiovisual heritage. The last two areas were incorporated exclusively for the study due to their absence in the available documents.
The study provides, and for the first time, an overview of the overall operations of the station, with empirical evidence gathered through rigorous and replicable procedures.
On the 10 December 2015, Argentina’s government changed and with it the officials who run the public media, bringing into play other forms of administration criteria that need to be assessed in due course. The results presented by the research team are for the 2015 period, prior to the changeover in public authorities.
Characteristics of the study
Theoretically, the study incorporates the main arguments developed within a strong national and regional tradition of media studies, in which emphasis is placed on considering communication as a right of citizens as a whole. In terms of methodology, it serves a dual challenge: on the one hand, the theoretical critique of preconceptions and assumptions that are socially present and which through the force of repetition, acquire credibility and tend to represent genuine epistemological obstacles. On the other, the proper interpretation of theoretical formulations in effective empirical research instruments, avoiding abstract standards in which the confrontation with the complexity of specific realities often means they are not very productive.
Survey techniques incorporated various modes, selected according to the characteristics of the processes that needed to be analyzed, with priority placed on comparability, quantification and operational replicability. Information was processed in indices, the values of which range on a scale of 5/5 points, and for each one of the 65 indicators. The results obtained for each area and in general, form a geometric graph that illustrates in each diagonal one of the quality indicators, in accordance with the methodological parameters suggested by UNESCO.
Quality indicators of the station in 2015
In general terms, of the 65 indicators surveyed using 233 empirical variables, the study placed very high values on 20 indicators, high values on 28, medium values on 10 and low values on 7 indicators. Of the total, 5 areas offer homogeneous and relatively high values, 2 provide heterogeneous values but that relatively exceed the average values, and 4 provide strong oscillations between their values, indicating low levels of stabilization of the quality of the media in these areas.
In the first group, high levels of geographic coverage and platform development were recorded. High quality technical standards were also observed, the result of a technological upgrade that made the station the first channel in the country to invest in HD equipment and the first broadcaster to incorporate 4K image capture devices. It was also noted that the station performed well in terms of experimentation and language innovation, along with transmedia and multimedia developments; policies focused on interaction with audiences and the protection of audiovisual heritage.
Of the remaining 6 areas, 2 show a disparity of values between their indicators, but that generally exceed the mean criteria for quality. Indicators for independence (formal premises, practical mechanisms, funding sources and conditions for journalistic work) range between high and medium values.
Finally, 4 areas present significant swings in their scale of values, combining some indicators of optimal compliance with others of low performance.
The assessment of transparency indicators provides an overview that fluctuates in the rating scale as follows: of the 13 indicators in this area, 10 indicated high and very high values, 2 indicated average values, and 1 a low value.
Cultural diversity recorded three high-level indicators, three at mid-level and one at low level. Initiatives were registered to promote respect for diversity and compliance with the requirement that stations provide 3 hours of children’s programming. Mean values were recorded in terms of respect for gender identity and sexual orientation (1.6% of negative references), and a low level in terms of diversity of opinions in addressing issues of political interest (only 20% fulfilled the “double view point” and 35% exceeded the single source). The survey of the informative work of the station, according to a public and democratic concept of journalism, recorded average levels of federalization of the news agenda and the substantial visibility of issues related to vulnerable sectors. A low level of diversity of views for news of a political nature was also recorded: there was a predominantly informative approach in the treatment of news (85.19%), but with an unequal share in terms of different voices (61.6% the ruling party, 13.8% social organizations, 12.2% the dominant political minority, and 11.7% the remaining political minorities). The thoroughness of journalistic work (objectivity and verifiability of the data provided, background information, use of sources) provided a mean value: a dominance in the identification of sources (58.9% of the news includes institutional and/or documentary content, 47.2% personal and 13.6% self-referential content). Furthermore, 44.7% of the news has no assigned values, high values for contextualization (98.1%), narrative base (86.6%) and appropriate framing (98.5%).
Finally, in relation to the development policies for the organizational culture and human resource management, high levels were recorded in relation to training policies, with the participation of trade unions and adherence to legislation. However, the survey revealed average levels regarding working conditions.
* Professors at UBA. Coordinators of the research team “Implementation of a system of quality indicators for public broadcasters for the assessment of Televisión Pública Argentina – 2015″