Nicely put. You make some excellent points here.
I recall a study that was done after the 1990-91 Gulf War that found that the more viewers watched television news, the less likely they were to understand the basics of the issues. Not surprising as Marshall McLuhan identified television way back when as a “cool” medium, meaning that you have to fill in the blanks to make sense of what you’re seeing. The late journalist Alexander Cockburn wrote of television news delivering “depthless coverage,” meaning that there is no context or history provided for an event, what I call “a thunderbolt in a clear blue sky”–it appears but you don’t know why or from where it came.
Moreover, television, like movies, plays to the emotions more than the intellect. Maybe I’m getting old, but I can’t really learn comprehensively unless I’m reading or listening to something without visual distraction. Visuals can be evocative, and I do think they have their value, but they can often overwhelm the essence of a topic.
And, as you mention, the arguing among experts (feel free to put that in quotes) does seem to be a ratings boost, but I think it does serve another purpose–to agitate viewers, to push their emotional buttons at the expense of any reasoned discourse. (Unfortunately, that tendency does also seem endemic to the online discussion forums I’ve visited over the years, but that’s another story.)