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Coronavirus on Mexican television: what has been the role of the media and how it has affected the health responsibility of the population

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A couple watches the news during the coronavirus health crisis (Photo: Cuartoscuro)

For almost a year the SARS-CoV-2, better known as coronavirus (COVID-19), is an issue that began to occupy the attention of media all over the world. It was not for less, this new highly contagious disease became a pandemic that has caused near one million 440 thousand deaths to date, according to the Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, United States.

Thanks to the notes, interviews, reports and documentariesToday, much of the planet knows how and where this virus could have arisen, the symptoms and complications it causes, the health measures that considerably reduce its contagion and even the vaccines that hope to end social distancing. However, during the first months the publications that came out were with very limited information; after all, no one knew what scenario we were facing.

In Mexico, since the first case of contagion was registered, on March 16, the news coverage passed from uncertainty against what would happen both in the lifestyle of the population and in the effects on the productive sectors when questioning to the strategy followed by health authorities to fight the pandemic.

In this sense, it is important to reflect on the role of the media in Mexico about the pandemic, especially the television, since historically the “small screen” has been the medium most consulted in the country. Especially during this covidianeidad, which has turned the domestic space into a classroom, office, gym, games room and sometimes much more.

The media were classified by the health authorities as one of the essential activities (Photo: EFE)
The media were classified by the health authorities as one of the essential activities (Photo: EFE)

According to the Dra. Claudia Benassini, research professor at the La salle university, from Mexico City, the television public and private in the country is fulfilling its ineffable function of entertaining, but has lost a unique opportunity to return to the path of community service, with a view to recovering your credibility and its presence as a medium in society.

In an interview with Infobae Mexico, the academic from the Faculty of Architecture and Communication, assures that the absence of a clear strategy that really contributes to alleviate citizen confusion with respect to COVID-19, since almost all the media are falling into the same “journalistic” vices.

It is not enough to stand with a camera and microphone in hand outside the Metro stations or in restaurants and shopping centers to ask people why they do not wear face masks or why they walk in the street like nothing. It is a mediocre and evasive strategy that seeks to comply with giving the note without going to the background of the matter

To Benassini is not sufficient that every day the new figures of infections, deaths and hospitalized by coronavirus, but to carry out more in-depth research on “why people are not taking the disease seriously, how to coexist in public spaces without risking health”, as the foreign written press.

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In addition to informing and entertaining, one of the functions of the media is to guide viewers (Photo: Pixabay)
In addition to informing and entertaining, one of the functions of the media is to guide viewers (Photo: Pixabay)

If the media lose interest in the subject, so do the viewers (…) There are foreign media, from Spain, the US, South America, that are trying to do better coverage (in Mexico)

However, the specialist acknowledges that it is an issue that the owners and directors of the media should address, as she also considers that the reporters many times they are not trained to cover an epidemic and run the risk of getting infected when going out to make these notes that qualifies as common place.

When questioning her about the case of TV Azteca of the businessman Ricardo Salinas Pliego, who during the health crisis has prioritized economic reactivation over contingency, to the extent of asking viewers to “don’t believe what Dr. Hugo Lopez-Gatell”, Undersecretary of Prevention and Health Promotion of the Government of Mexico, as well as encouraging Mexicans to lose your fear of the virus and go to workr, which has unleashed countless critics by users and specialists in social networks.

In this regard, Benassini points out that it is not only a business issue, but also corporate responsibility.

It is clear that the priority for Salinas Pliego is its business. We see the case of his stores and his school (Humanitree) that has refused to close despite the restrictions, in order to increase its profits. But there is something called corporate responsibility and that is why not everyone has chosen his path

Ricardo Salinas Pliego, president of Grupo Salinas, to which TV Azteca belongs (Photo: Cuartoscuro)
Ricardo Salinas Pliego, president of Grupo Salinas, to which TV Azteca belongs (Photo: Cuartoscuro)

In spite of the disinformation published by said medium, the researcher indicated that has not necessarily lost credibility of the people, but on the contrary, he has known how to exploit the disqualifications.

I would not be so sure, with these challenges to authority, many times they translate into an increase in the audience. This saying that “do not believe Lopez Gatell and then invite him. Alatorre does not have the same rating as Televisa or other channels, but it has an audience that is loyal to it (…) And vice versa, when the president (Andrés Manuel) Lopez Obrador said that the Reforma newspaper was a pasquin, that did not translate into a drop in sales. They knew how to exploit the disqualification

Therefore, Benassini maintains that public and private television in Mexico you are not assuming your share of responsibility on the delicate situation in the country, which ranks as the eleventh with the highest number of infections and the fourth with the most deaths by SARS-CoV-2.

Although health authorities have fallen into obvious contradictions throughout the health crisis, such as whether or not you should wear a mask, or whether health personnel are collapsed or ready, the media are not helping people to become aware of that we are in a problem that is overtaking us

An employee holds up a sign that says "Alto" to organize people walking in the center of Mexico City as part of measures to slow the spread of the COVID-19 disease.  November 13, 2020. REUTERS / Edgard Garrido
An employee holds up a sign that reads “Stop” to organize people walking in downtown Mexico City as part of measures to slow the spread of the COVID-19 disease. November 13, 2020. REUTERS / Edgard Garrido

Given this scenario, the teacher recommends that readers of the written and digital press, as well as viewers and listeners, always verify the information they are receiving with other sources.

Also, to not believing what is published on social networks and have responsibility when sharing something

Ask yourself before sharing: is it real? worth it?

*It is November 21 is celebrated on World Television Day, date established by the United Nations Assembly in 1996 with the aim of promoting culture and peace throughout the planet.

The date coincides with the celebration of the First World Forum on that communication medium that revolutionized the world, since it connected it and through images it was possible to know what was happening in other continents.

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