Tuesday, January 19, 2016

OPINION. After its Andrew Barnes anchor misstep eNCA just damaged its credibility further - not by removing him but being opaque about what actions it took afterwards.

Everybody makes mistakes but eNCA (DStv 403) as a TV news channel just made another unnecessary and avoidable mistake by refusing to be transparent about another mistake - a bad decision for a product where credibility and viewer trust is paramount.

Two weeks after eNCA's (DStv 403) NewsDay anchor Andrew Barnes (who I personally think is excellent at his job) got caught up in an unfortunate on-air incident the midday anchor of the Sabido-run TV news channel on DStv will be back on air on Wednesday.

The problem and further damage to eNCA's credibility is the channel's flat-out refusal to say what specific punishment was handed out to Andrew Barnes.

It now places eNCA on the same level as Infinity Media's ANN7 (DStv 405). ANN7 also wants to stay silent about its own multiple disciplinary hearings and the specific outcomes - although it is news, with the result that the lack of being open damages its standing and credibility as a news brand.

All eNCA wants to say - feels to say - is that Andrew Barnes was "sanctioned".

eNCA says "the nature of the sanction remains a matter between eNCA and Andrew Barnes."

That's funny, hollow and completely fake since the original transgression was between Andrew Barnes and the viewers.

Andrew Barnes' perceived on-air error was a public one. Yet eNCA wants to hide the specifics of what specifically happened to the anchor from this "public".

That damages the implied transactional and unspoken relational concord between eNCA and its viewer.

It is what is called a trust deficit: When your in the news and the perceived truth business, but you want to be secretive and obtuse yourself, it doesn't align with your brand and the values that you supposedly say you stand and are for.

eNCA wants the DStv viewer to trust it, to trust its brand, to trust what the person who is on eNCA is saying - in this case anchor Andrew Barnes.

Andrew Barnes made what was perceived by some viewers and eNCA management to be a mistake. Disciplinary action followed. But now eNCA doesn't want to be as open, transparent, upfront and honest with the exact viewer that eNCA admitted it it failed.

That sadly dents eNCA's credibility.

Let's say a car manufacturer is exposed as having a defective part or discovers a problem.

The car manufacturer admits it and says corrective steps will be taken. There are recalls, there's communication as to what exactly is wrong, went wrong, why - and then - what exactly is being done and has been done.

Imagine the car manufacturer just remains silent and just says "the broken part has been fixed. The nature of the sanction remains a matter between the car manufacturer and the part supplier".

Now the car manufacturer wants people to trust it that, yes, the parts and cars are fixed.

It would be ridiculous. People simply won't trust that it really has been fixed without any specifics as to what exactly happened.

Yet that is precisely what eNCA is now doing.

eNCA wants DStv subscribers to continue to trust it in blind faith after a mistake but isn't willing to be open to those consumers of its news service as to how it specifically responded and reacted and what specific steps it took to "fix" or address the mistake that happened.

eNCA just want to say there was a "sanction". Well, well done, eNCA, that dent you see is the one you caused yourself to your car with the paint that's not called metallic red but credibility.

While Andrew Barnes as anchor is one of the public faces of eNCA and part of the image of eNCA, the TV news channel wants to be "private" when it should be open and forthcoming about a failure.

It damages the trust people can have in the eNCA brand and makes it difficult for people watching eNCA to have trust in its news product if you can't make, for yourself, any reasonable assessment as to how eNCA responded in terms of what action was taken.

It's disingenuous that eNCA reports, and wants to report on news like the insider details of other disciplinary hearings, or meetings or discussions but then slams shut when the spotlight is turned on itself.

In the process eNCA undermines its own credibility by not taking its viewers into its confidence.

I don't think its necessary for eNCA to give the whole truth - but the mere basics about exactly how its anchor Andrew Barnes was "sanctioned" would have engendered a feeling in viewers and stakeholders of eNCA being really open and trustworthy.

Unfortunately eNCA chose not to and its interesting that the news channel that is in the news business doesn't appear to understand this or have sensitivity to this aspect.

You can't be discretionary public the one moment, and then elect to suddenly be discretionary private the next when it suits you - especially not when you're in the media - or even when you are the media.

The subtext eNCA is communicating (by not communicating) is that it won't be open about the specifics of its errors - even when asked - like what happened to an anchor who made a mistake. Yet eNCA wants you to trust it in whatever else it reports as news.

Yes. eNCA damaged its reputation of fairness. It was a mistake.

But now eNCA damaged its credibility in a preventable mistake by not being as open as it should be about its first mistake.