Media Matters: Bilingual bias

Translating election euphoria in real time is no small feat.

November 6, 2008 20:10
3 minute read.
Media Matters: Bilingual bias

radio mc 88 generic image. (photo credit: )

Whatever criticism one may have about the local coverage of the American presidential election, credit must be given where it's due. You've really got to hand it to the anchors and reporters of Channels 1, 2 and 10, as well as to the talk-show hosts on Israel and Army Radio, for their Wednesday morning broadcasts. Being live on the air promptly at 6 a.m. - after waking up at the crack of dawn for this purpose - to spend the next several hours involved in endless, virtually flawless simultaneous translation is no small feat. Their counterparts across the ocean had merely to turn their cameras and microphones on, and let their viewers and listeners watch and hear the events that have been touted as the "making of history." Members of our media, however, weren't able to rest, even for a split second, talking over the concession and victory speeches of defeated Republican candidate John McCain and new hallowed leader Barack Obama. And, as if that weren't difficult enough, they had to break away to update reports of the barrage of Kassam and mortar fire in the South, precipitated by the IDF operation to thwart terrorists planning to kidnap soldiers through tunnels dug from Gaza. AND WHILE in praise mode, let me put in a good word for Tuesday evening's Mabat. It seemed to be the only show attempting to uphold some standard of journalistic professionalism, by raising questions other than whether Americans would really be able to "shed their racism" and put a black in the White House - as though the only possible reason the polls might be wrong about The One's sure-fire win would be the candidate's color. Such has been the blah-blah over our airwaves for the better part of the week, without a single suggestion on the part of the prejudiced pundits that maybe the hue many Americans don't like is red. You know, the color of socialism they associate with the Dems - even the fair-skinned ones. Dudu Witztum at least challenged the experts - and correspondents reporting from the field. He actually asked former consul in Miami Shai Bazak about Obama's "change, change, change" mantra. Bazak replied that it was campaign language (refreshing to hear this particular truism used in relation to this particular politician). And he went on to say, "George Bush handed Obama his victory on a silver platter" - indicating that displeasure with the incumbent is also a factor. And Oren Nahari even called Obama "Teflon" for managing to enlist massive media support, and thereby avoid having any of his failures or mistakes focused on. This was a point stressed Thursday morning, as well, by Ma'ariv's Ben-Dor Yemini, on Keren Neubach's Seder Yom program. "While the public is taking its cue from the media in acting as though the messiah has arrived, it is ignoring how problematic this choice of a president is, in many respects." Another reason our often pooh-poohed state-run channel deserves a pat on the back is its lack of commercials. There's nothing more annoying to news junkies glued to the tube during the "making of history" than being interrupted by ads. Unfortunately, none of the above helped Channel 1 on Tuesday evening. Its ratings not only didn't rise, they fell. But then, what can it expect, when it had competition from Channel 2, with Yonit Levy practically jumping for joy among the ecstatic throngs throwing themselves at Obama's feet, as though he were Elvis reincarnated, and Channel 10's Nitzan Horovitz unabashedly announcing from Washington that he - like his press peers the world over - had abandoned objectivity for the sake of celebration? Truth be told, though, this is not the reason that Channel 1 barely managed to scrape together a 5.8 percent rating, while Channel 2 garnered a whopping 29.7%. Nor is it due, as one might imagine, to programming related, say, to the 13th anniversary of the Rabin assassination - which kind of got lost below the more immediate issues. It is due, rather, to the eviction from Big Brother of Vanessa, a contestant on the station's popular-to-the-point-of-pathetic reality show I wrote about last week in this column. It's tough to decide which is worse: uncritical enthusiasm for the new US president on the part of the media in general, or apathy on the part of a particular public toward an election that could prove as fateful for us as our own upcoming one - however you translate "Iranian nuclear threat" and "Palestinian proxies" into Hebrew.

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