Even beyond its sad news coverage, Imedi TV continues to live up to its hard-won reputation as a peddler of stereotypes and bereft of ethical acumen in its lineup.
By Tornike Metreveli
That Georgian TV channel Imedi (“Hope”) is notorious for its lack of professionalism and violations of media ethic rules is no recent discovery. The television station that got away with only a creepy apology after broadcasting a fake Russian invasion report in 2010 (without alerting viewers), was recently featured in a copyright violation scandal for literally stealing a NATO high official’s interview from one Georgian magazine’s exclusive video material. A penny saved is a penny earned, especially when others do work and you just plagiarize! Sounds like Imedi’s formula of success, not to say the credo of its collegial ethic.
But the lack of media ethic is far from being Imedi’s only problem. Another, perhaps even more awkward pattern that characterizes some of its programming is their polarizing, and even discriminatory character — even Maestro TV and Rustavi 2 would be “jealous” of Imedi’s remarkable achievement in this regard. None of the other stations can claim having as vindictive, sexist, and reprobate shows as Imedi’s two “masterpieces”: 100 Degree Celsius and Women’s Logic.
Imedi’s 100 Degree Celsius, as one can guess from its web summary, aims to “heat up” debate by throwing hot topics into the show, inviting guests (who are not quite happy to meet each other) and then creating various controversial situations to rack up the ratings. All things considered, as the show’s summary says, it aims to “lead the guests to common conclusion” at the end of the show (what a happy end, sorry South American soap operas!).
Nothing terribly abnormal so far: typical tabloid-style journalism. But the moment when this talk-show becomes quite nasty (if not antagonizing) is when the host of the show comes in with oddball questions. He is the one who actually, on the last show on Friday, asked the gay man, “do you regret your life path?” Or, “don’t you think your son [which he apparently had] will be ashamed of you?” Classy.
In the same show, inviting a transsexual as a guest and then literally putting them in the corner while lobbing unethical questions is de rigueur. Perhaps for some, all of this might be from the series of “if you do not like the show, switch off the channel” (perhaps I would have done it in other cases), but knowing the public attitude in Georgia towards LGBT (around 92 percent of Georgians think that homosexuality is never acceptable, according to CRRC’s 2009 report; not to mention the LGBT community’s vulnerability to crime), I found it hard to stay neutral and withhold some critical reflection. In my mind, a talk-show of such (high) ratings could have been a bit more careful in order to avoid further antagonizing of LGBT and strengthening undue prejudices against them. The normative power of media ethics (if not human ethics) should not be sacrificed at the altar of ratings. Perhaps the temptation was too great, but the respect for human dignity should have been even greater.
And yet, if 100 Degree Celsius is a trivial, pitiful piece of yellow-journalism based on gossip and innuendo, Women’s Logic is nonetheless exceptional for its muckraking. In a nutshell, the concept of Women’s Logic revolves around several groups of men invited to the show, along with accompanying groups of sexually attractive women sitting in loungers. Questions are asked of each group of men, who then have to guess if the women will answer the question correctly or not. The questions are quite basic most of the time (basic math, geography, astronomy, etc.) and require general knowledge, but do not necessarily oblige the participating girls (most of them young models) to answer them correctly. At the end of the show, the group of men best able to guess the “women’s logic” (right/wrong answers) wins a maximum prize of 1,500 GEL. Is that the price of women’s intellect?
In this way, the show uses women as simple accessories in a man’s game at their expense. This illustrates women as physically attractive but intellectually weak human beings who are assessed by “smarter” men fit to assess their intellect. Sounds like reading the passage from Friedrich Nietzsche? Apparently not. It is a barrel of fun in Imedian taste! Wait, fun? It depends on whom you ask. Maybe it is amusing for certain individuals with a particular (if not petty) sense of humor, but not for a decent human being who considers that men and women are born equal.
Bearing in mind the patriarchal nature of Georgian society, this kind of show only strengthens retrograde stereotypes about the inferiority of women and traditional gender roles. In this way, the show promotes sexism dressed as low-brow humor. Ethical issues aside, some have even argued that this show contradicts the norms of the Code of Conduct for Broadcasters in Georgia and the Law on Broadcasting; the latter obliging the broadcaster to “refrain from publishing any material likely to incite hatred or intolerance to either gender.”
For obvious reasons this show precipitated protests among activists and some organizations. Some (most of them women) demanded the change of the show’s format or even its cancellation. One might wonder what can possibly be the fate of this show when having growing protests at its office doors, but history seems to only point to more flaccid apologies from Hope TV — perhaps if only to salvage the remnants of its conscience.
Tornike Metreveli is a first-year PhD student at Ilia State University.