The following is a memorandum from the business manager of a television station.
"Over the past year, our late-night news program has devoted increased time to national news and less time to weather and local news. During this period, most of the complaints received from viewers were concerned with our station's coverage of weather and local news. In addition, local businesses that used to advertise during our late-night news program have canceled their advertising contracts with us. Therefore, in order to attract more viewers to our news programs and to avoid losing any further advertising revenues, we should expand our coverage of weather and local news on all our news programs."
Write a response in which you examine the stated and/or unstated assumptions of the argument. Be sure to explain how the argument depends on these assumptions and what the implications are for the argument if the assumptions prove unwarranted.
The business manager proposes that all their programs devote more time to weather and local news in order to attract more viewers and to avoid losing advertising revenues. The proposal is a response to complaints received about weather and local news coverage, and to the cancelation of several advertising contracts after the station’s late-night news program decreased its coverage on weather and local news. However, several crucial assumptions behind the manager’s reasoning make it susceptible to potential counterarguments.
First, it is rash to imply that the late-night program’s reduced coverage on local and weather news is not a welcome decision among the viewers. Underlying the implication are the essential assumptions that the complaints represent the general opinions of the audience and that these complaints were just about the shortened length of the coverage, not about other aspects of the weather and local news. However, perhaps before last year’s coverage adjustment, there used to be higher rate of viewer discontent; in contrast, the complaints mentioned in the article were few and given by just a couple of insistent audience members whose opinions could hardly reflected a much larger range of satisfied viewers. Also, even if complaints do reflect the popular opinion, it is not known what specifically about the local and weather news coverage they were dissatisfied with. Maybe the length of time was not what they were worried about; instead, they were just displeased with the news anchor’s informal outfit, with the biased presentation of stories, or with the frequently incorrect weather predictions. Also, they could be unhappy about the coverage of weather and local at other viewing hours instead of the late-night slot. Therefore, the manager needs to look into the amount of feedback and its specific contents before she conjures up a recommendation.
In addition, to show that an increased coverage of weather and local news would prevent further loss of advertising revenues, the author must first prove that the station was losing advertising revenues, and that it was due to the reduced coverage of weather and local news. Unfortunately, both statements were assumed rather than proven. True, some contracts were canceled, but more new contracts might have been secured at the same time. Every new policy a TV station implements might end up repelling certain businesses while pleasing others. The manager shouldn’t just cite the ones hostile to the shift while ignoring others that were more receptive. Also, assuming that advertising revenues had shrunk, overall is not necessarily attributable to the reduced coverage. A survey among local businesses might show that those which canceled contracts were not displeased with the coverage change, but simply not able to afford a higher charge for commercial slots. Or, the businesses may have disliked the political stance the station recently took towards an election. They might have been displeased with the quality, rather than the quantity of the local and weather news, or with the quality of national and international news. In fact, it is unknown whether the canceled commercials were initially broadcasted during late-night local and weather news, because if not, the author’s explanation may simply not be relevant.
Now, granted that the reduction of the late-night local and weather news was a terrible decision that hurt both the audience and advertising revenues, the manager might reasonably decide to increase the time devoted to weather and local news during the late-night slots. However, she cannot hastily assume that the decision would equally apply to other, non-late-night slots. First of all, it is unclear whether day-time viewers share the same interests with late-night viewers. It is possible that the zest for local and weather information is only typical among late-night TV viewers. Second, it is also unclear how much coverage has been devoted to local and weather news in other, non-late-night slots. Perhaps the day-time and prime-time news programs have already sufficiently addressed local events and weather, and the audience is actually looking for information from the entire country and beyond. Thus, a survey of viewer preferences for other time slot would be helpful for a general proposal.
Overall, the manager’s argument suffers from too many unwarranted assumptions. She has yet to convince the readers whether the reduced late-night coverage on weather and local news has indeed generated a significant amount of viewer discontent, whether that reduction was the cause of canceled commercial contracts, or whether the situation of late-night coverage can represent other time slots. Without these statements being fully justified, her recommendation remains unpersuasive.