Columns, Opinion

Debates avail no positive social change in Haitian journalism

By Bobb Rousseau, Diaspora Matters Columnist

Throughout their broadcasts described as debates or conference-debates, presenters and guests constantly argue among themselves to impose their personal opinions on the public who, after these broadcasts, do not retain anything about the subject that was supposed or should have been discussed or analyzed. The more noise a show produces, the more listeners and more sponsors they garner because there is nothing more exciting than chinwags, gossips, and dirt.

In short, in Haiti, the quality, the format, and the impact literacy of the shows are not factors in their continued broadcasting. Hence, the closed-question that am I answering for you “Do these talk shows that self-described as debates or conferences-debates deliver as what they claim to be? 


Haiti Radio news
“A Haitian Family listening to a Programme on ENDK.” Photo by Internews Europe via Creative Commons.

“Debate and conference are both subject to pre-established rules and formal organization,” said Paul Valéry. The Latin etymology of the word debate is battuere, which means discussing with several people, each presenting his or her arguments, while that of the word conference is conferencia, which means a lecture or a presentation of ideas on a subject considered important. They are both presentations where experts educate and brief the public on a given topic. One can then wonder if the radio shows in Haiti are organized according to previously established principles, if they perform up to their character or if they inform the public that they purport to inform.

There is a multitude of talk radio broadcasts claiming to be debates or conference-debates in their description. Their presenter calls them so because they plan to have guests speak on the same topics at the same time or individually. Usually, the most popular ones are those where two or more speakers talk on each other, do not listen to each other, and disrespect each other until they prove themselves more influential and more connoisseurs than each other does. Ironically, throughout the show, other guests who are not on the initial guest list come from nowhere and initial guests will simply just leave the show because they have nothing else or more to say once the topic just changed.

At the end of these shows, the proud presenter says, “We had a good debate today.”

The conference is the meeting of several people to talk about a subject of common interest. In a conference, a speaker lectures an audience on innovative facts. At the end of the presentation, attendees are invited to ask questions to obtain more information on the topic.

The debate is a formal exchange of arguments through which one party tries to prove the contrary to the other party. There is a winner at the end of the debate because it is public, timed, and judged. Opposing parties, pros, cons, arguments, and counter-arguments are identified a priori. The public does not participate in a debate; it only plays the role of the audience and from the start, it knows which group is for or against.

In practice, in the shows in question, it is always the presenter or a group of people who presents a topic, and sometimes several topics in the same show, and then allow the audience to ask questions. Quite often, they end in quarrels putting the presenter back to back with his or her guests or a guest struggling with other guests.

To have many more listeners, presenters know which guests to have on their panel or what topics to cover. However, since these shows do not have any rules or a formal organization, it is a misuse of the terms conference, debate, and conference-debate to describe them.

A conference-debate would have required that one guest be a speaker, that the other guests be divided into two groups; one group will be for and the other will be against, that every intervention be timed and the public not invited to call to ask questions or to convey their views of the situation in question. Note also that the presenter, playing the role of moderator or judge, under no pretext, should intervene and his only mission would be only to facilitate the debate and to declare a winner at the end of the program.

Tell me; when was the day you heard a debate or a conference-debate talk show or a talk show that was nothing more than a scene of nothing or a no bottom hole? Have you ever assisted these talk shows when individuals who were not on the guestlist suddenly appear from nowhere?

Taking into account the informal organization of the broadcasts, I strongly affirm that those talk shows that describe themselves as debates or conferences-debates are rather various gibberish rounds of nonsense arguments, boloney controversies, and garbage polemics that are not catalysts for any positive social change in Haitian broadcasting.

Bobb Rousseau

Bobb Rousseau

Bobb Rousseau holds a Ph.D. in Administration and Public Policy with specializations in Public Law and Managing Local Government. Dr. Rousseau firmly believes that the Haitian diaspora in the United States is at a prime stage to build an attractive political force that can shift U.S. immigration, diplomacy, and humanitarian aid to Haiti and to advance the Haitian agenda around the world.
Bobb Rousseau
Oct. 19, 2020

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