Political talk shows are having an adverse effect on Egyptians, as many viewers reported frustration, depression and anxiety after watching the shows, according to a recent study.
Al-Ahram Centre for Strategic Studies surveyed 1,000 viewers on the effects of talk shows since the revolution. The study's results, published in August, revealed that 41% of viewers stopped watching the shows altogether.
Twenty-two percent of viewers reportedly experience depression and frustration when they watch the shows, and 20% suffer from anxiety, while only 12% reported being hopeful for the future after watching the shows.
The study's findings are "very logical and consistent with reality", according to Dr. Hassan Afifi, lecturer at the Faculty of Mass Communication at Cairo University.
"After the revolution, the media underwent a period of chaos and strayed from basic principles, especially talk shows, which had an adverse effect on viewers as some hosts exacerbated political tensions by inflaming the street or by presenting unverified information," he said.
Afifi said talk shows are important because they address current events, but the lack of professionalism has caused them to become instigators of internal and external crises.
"There should be a return to enforcing media covenants and discipline in media practices, given the realities that emerged with newly-acquired freedoms, including freedom of expression," he said.
Afifi suggested developing educational training courses for employees in the broadcasting sector.
Mazen Zaki, director of new media at Ibn al-Waleed Studies and Field Research Centre, said evidence of the talk shows' negative impact on viewers is seen in their relative absence on satellite channels during Ramadan.
"Viewers do not welcome any tension or depressing news during Ramadan," he said.
Zaki said talk shows, a fixture on Western channels for decades, are still relatively new to the Arab region.
"In Egypt, talk shows on satellite channels were subjected to strict controls, something that is lacking following the revolution, amid the media chaos," he said.
"The majority of hosts are former print media journalists or editors-in-chief who have no experience with broadcast media," Zaki said. "It is not entirely their fault, as it also lies with the station's management teams who are only interested in recruiting famous names as hosts to attract the largest number of viewers given the fierce competition between satellite channels."
Alaa Abed Rabbo, editor-in-chief of political programmes for the Egyptian Radio and Television Authority, said talk shows need to abide by media guidelines and be subject to regular monitoring.
He said hosts should be vetted so they do not have a negative and disheartening influence on public opinion, which relies upon media outlets for information.
Talk shows are important because they address political and social issues that impact the daily life of citizens "through logical analysis away from personal agendas, and put forward solutions and alternatives to issues of concern to the Egyptian citizen", Abed Rabbo said.
He pointed to the existence of some talk show hosts who exploit their position in a positive way by opening their door for charitable deeds, fundraising and helping the poor during crises and natural disasters.
As for the principle of granting absolute freedom to these programs, Abed Rabbo said, "Freedom does not occur by deviating from basic principles and exploiting situations that are a source of concern to citizens, but by exercising it in a meaningful way. I personally oppose placing restrictions on media in general, but I support enforcing media controls and covenants so that content does not have an adverse effect on the citizens' psyche or even put national security at risk."