Phone-ins and talk shows are very popular radio and TV programme formats, which allow the audience to engage with the programme in different ways — from voting for contestants in a show, to taking part in a competition. These types of programmes provide the viewer or listener with an opportunity to be heard, to participate and sometimes to create content. However, these programmes have in the past been abused, leading to a large number of complaints sent to the Complaints Commission of the Media Council. Many of the complaints are about live morning radio talk shows that deal mainly with sex and relationships in flippant and irresponsible ways.
During election seasons, open- ing up the airwaves irresponsibly without professional oversight can be dangerous. A Kenyan radio show host is to face full trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague.
Unlike newspaper copy, which is checked by a succession of editors and, objectionable content removed before it goes to press, live radio and TV pose a real challenge. Live broad- casts cannot be checked in this way. Presenters, therefore, in the absence of an editor or programme producer, must become their own editors and must be acutely aware of the sort of content that should not be aired or should be challenged. This includes hate speech, ethnic baiting, lies
and propaganda, crude and vulgar language, incitement to violence, and unverified information.
GUIDELINES TO PRESENTERS AND PRODUCERS OF PHONE- INS AND TALK SHOWS
- Journalistic principles must apply to the programme.
- The presenter must under- stand the basic rudiments of journalism.
- The presenter must be familiar with and abide by the Election Reporting Guidelines and relevant legal requirements.
- The presenter or editor must be alert and prepared to challenge or cut off caller who breaches the guidelines or the law, especially on hate speech.
- Callers should not come on-air and expect to comment on a given topic unchallenged.
- Presenters should prepare for the unexpected, such as a caller who comes on air and smears or libels someone. The caller should be challenged or stopped.
- Treat your viewers, listeners and callers with respect, honesty and fairness.
- Respect the privacy of callers and safeguard their personal information.
- Install and use time-delay technology or other mechanism to filter out offensive content or calls prior to broadcast.
Excerpt from ‘Guidelines for Election Coverage’