YPC Weekly Newsletter

2007


THE INTERIM REPORT OF MONITORING THE MEDIA COVERAGE OF PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS

On April 20 at “Urbat” club “TEAM” Research Center and the Yerevan Press Club
presented the interim report (April 8-15, 2007) on monitoring the media coverage
of parliamentary elections in 2007. The study was administered by “TEAM” Research
Center with the financial support of the Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation-Armenia,
and the resource and methodology support of the Yerevan Press Club. Assistance
to its implementation was provided by Internews Armenia and “Asparez” Journalist’s
Club of Gyumri.

The monitoring object are 18 broadcast and print media of Armenia, namely,
their coverage of the pre-election promotion campaign waged by the 25 parties/bloc,
taking part in elections to the RA National Assembly (for more detailed information
about the study see below).

The interim report (April 8-15, 2007) presented to the journalistic community
notes that it is too early to make strong conclusions, basing on the results
of the first week of the pre-election promotion campaign, regarding the attention
of the radio and TV channels to the parties running for elections to the RA
National Assembly. Only the summarized findings of the monitoring of April 8
– May 10 would give sufficient ground to speak about whether the broadcast media
comply with the legislative and professional norms, and whether their activity
is up to international standards.

The results of print media monitoring must not be considered as a ground for
assessing their activities by the same parameters as broadcast media. The RA
legislation and the main international documents, regarding the coverage of
elections, do not stipulate any restrictions for the print media, and the inclusion
of the latter ones in the media studies was prompted solely by the interest
to the existing trends in the sphere.

The overall picture at 13 TV channels that were targeted by the monitoring
did change in a certain way as compared to the period that preceded the pre-election
promotion. In particular, unlike February-March, during the period of April
8-15 the Popular Party conceded its leading position in terms of the aggregate
(on all the channels studied) coverage volume (12,921 sec.), with four parties
going ahead of it: the Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) – 62,669 sec., “Dashnaktsutiun”
party – 40,778 sec., “Prosperous Armenia” – 27,294 sec. and “Orinats Yerkir”
– 19,097 sec. Even on “ALM” TV channel, where the Popular Party was dominating
in February-March in terms of attention received, the findings of the first
week of the pre-election promotional campaign show it as the second after the
Republican Party of Armenia, both in terms of airtime and the number of references.
This is due, primarily, to the provision of the RA Electoral Code, prohibiting
the candidates to host TV and radio programs during promotional campaign: as
a consequence, the leader of the Popular Party Tigran Karapetian had much fewer
appearances on the air of the TV channel that he owns and where he hosts numerous
programs. At the same time, “ALM” remained the TV channel that has the vast
majority of the airtime taken by the Popular Party – 85% of the aggregate figure.

At all 10 national/Yerevan TV channels studied, with the exception of two (“Kentron”
and “Yerkir-Media”), the leader in terms of airtime allocated is the Republican
Party of Armenia. It is also ahead of all the others both in terms of airtime
and in terms of the number of references. The advantage of the RPA was formed
to a large extent due to the newscasts, giving much attention to various events
with the involvement of the party leader and the new Prime Minister Serzh Sargsian.
(It should be stressed here that while administering monitoring in February-March
this year, Yerevan Press Club did not record the appearances of the party leaders
as relating to their parties in the cases, when their party affiliation was
not stressed and they appeared in the line of their non-partisan work, profession,
etc. However, since April 8 the methodology of counting the references and measuring
the coverage volume changed, and the media appearance of politicians, holding
the top three lines in the electoral party lists, are viewed in all cases as
attention to the specific party. This change was due, firstly, to a general
unwritten norm – people running in election must reduce their public activity
as officials during the pre-election campaign, and secondly, because in a run-up
for election political leaders are associated in the audience’s mind with the
parties they head, regardless of whether their party affiliation is stressed.)
The trend of particular attention to the Republican Party of Armenia in news
programs is especially evident on “ArmNews” that has almost no programs other
than newscasts, and where the RPA received 41 references and 3,536 sec. versus
the 3 references and 171 sec. of “Dashnaktsutiun”, ranked as the second most
covered.

Similarly to February-March 2007, during the first week of the pre-election
promotion campaign on “Kentron” the airtime leader (in terms of references the
RPA is the leader here too) was “Prosperous Armenia” party (9,326 sec.), and
on “Yerkir-Media” – “Dashnaktsutiun” (23,782 sec). At these two TV channels
as well as on “ALM” the greatest number of connotationally colored (positive
and negative) references to parties in editorial materials was made. On “Kentron”
this was due mostly to the constantly repeating announcement of “Special Opinion”
program, where the shots with the leaders of four parties are accompanied with
their positive characteristic, and on “Yerkir-Media” – the frequent repetition
of a song, dedicated to “Dashnaktsutiun”, and airing of documentaries of “Start
of the Big Way” cycle about the First Armenian Republic (including the important
role that “Dashnaktsutiun” party played in it). On “ALM” 8 positive references
of the Popular Party and its leader Tigran Karapetian were recorded, as well
as a five-time repetition of the song, dedicated to “Dashnaktsutiun”, during
one and the same day. The negative reference to the Popular Party of Armenia
in the story of the “Day by Day” newscast (April 13) can be considered as a
law infringement by “ALM”, since the text of the author contained assessments
of the party – whereas this is prohibited by the new clause of the electoral
legislation (Article 20 of the RA Electoral Code).

Overall, the continuation of the positive trend, noted in 2003 and consisting
in the reduction of the number of connotationally colored references on Armenian
TV air in the run-up for parliamentary elections, should be remarked. Thus,
“Armenia” TV channel does not have any connotationally colored reference (the
same is true for “Shirak” TV channel, but this one has its own specifics to
be discussed below) and only one (positive) reference was recorded on the First
Channel of the Public Television of Armenia and “ArmNews” each. The tradition
of including ironic elements in the author/presenter texts is however preserved;
these elements cannot be classed as a connotational coloring, but are still
expressing the subjective attitude and influencing the perception of information.

On the regional TV air (judging by three Gyumri TV channels monitored) due
to the small number of pieces dealing with events of national scale, even one-time
appearance of a representative of a certain party can define the picture of
the whole week. It is this circumstance that accounts for the leadership of
the National Democratic Party (1,852 sec.) on “Shirak” TV channel and “Orinats
Yerkir” party on “GALA” and “Tsayg” TV channels (6,697 and 3,023 sec., respectively).
This conclusion to the greatest extent refers to “Shirak” public channel, where
the newscasts are absent and the elections are only dealt with in “Storaket”
discussion program. During the period of April 8-15 the editorial pieces of
this TV channel mentioned only two parties. Besides, “Shirak” repeats the political
advertising blocs of the PTA First Channel – in accordance with the decision
of the RA CEC of April 8, 2007.

As the tradition goes, the most balanced distribution of the airtime between
the parties was made by the Public Radio of Armenia.

Assessing the first week of the pre-election promotion one can state that most
parties running in elections had access to air. Also, they received the free
and paid advertising time on the public channels as entitled by the law. The
only exception was “Christian People Renaissance”, but this was most probably
due to its passive campaign. This consideration is confirmed by the fact the
party did not even use the free airtime.

Judging by print media monitored, unlike the previous election campaigns, the
Armenian press mostly accentuates the coverage of the elections in general rather
than promoting certain political forces. This is implied primarily by the relatively
small number of connotational references. As to the balance in terms of attention
paid to the parties, the private “Aravot” and “Haikakan Zhamanak” dailies cover
a much broader political spectrum than the official “Hayastani Hanrapetutiun”
and “Respublika Armenia”.

THE OBJECTIVES OF THE MONITORING are to determine and define
by analyzing quantitative data:

– how free and impartial the Armenian print and broadcast media are in informing
the voters of the parties/blocs running in elections to the RA National Assembly
by proportionate representation system;

– to what extent the media legislative framework and the state structures assist
the performance by media (primarily, the public/official ones) of their mission
to ensure free, fair and transparent elections;

– how compliant the media are with the legislative provisions, regulating the
coverage of the official promotion campaign for RA National Assembly elections;

– to what extent the media ensure the compliance of Armenia with its international
commitments in terms of media coverage of elections.

To meet these objectives, methodologies of qualitative and quantitative monitoring
are applied. The qualitative monitoring includes studying legislation and other
official documents, relevant for the elections process in Armenia, conversations
with media heads, journalists, politicians, representatives of the public, as
well as the analysis of public statements, opinions voiced regarding the media
activities at election time. Quantitative monitoring includes counting and measuring
of publications/programs in media directly.

THE MONITORING OBJECT are 18 broadcast and print media of Armenia:

4 national TV companies – First Channel of the Public Television of
Armenia, “ALM”, “Armenia”, Second Armenian TV Channel;

6 TV companies of Yerevan – “AR”, “ArmNews”, “Yerkir-Media”, TV-5,
“Kentron”, “Shant”;

3 TV companies of Gyumri (Shirak region) – “Shirak” public TV channel,
“GALA”, “Tsayg” (28th UHF);

1 national radio company – Public Radio of Armenia;

4 national newspapers – the official “Hayastani Hanrapetutiun” and
“Respublika Armenia”, private “Aravot” and “Haikakan Zhamanak”.

On the TV and radio channels above all programs (including
political advertising) are studied as broadcast on their daily air from 18.00
till 24.00. The programs that start but do not end before 18.00 are not studied.
The programs that start but do not end before 24.00 are studied completely.

The only exception is “Shirak” TV channel (part of the structure of the Public
TV and Radio Company of Armenia) being monitored in its full broadcast volume,
from 16.00 till 20.00, i.e., the whole daily four-hour airtime.

Besides, since the First Channel of the Public Television of Armenia, in accordance
with the resolution of the RA CEC of April 8, 2007, airs the pre-election promotion
of parties/blocs from 17.15 till 21.00, political advertising on this channel
is monitored starting at 17.15.

The newspapers above are studied in full.

THE MONITORING METHODOLOGY:

1. The main unit of the research is the TV/radio/newspaper
piece.

2. Monitors record the references, their connotations/nature
(positive, negative, neutral), as well as the airtime/newspaper space (in sec./sq.cm),
allocated to 25 parties/bloc, running in the elections to the RA NA by a proportionate
representation system. The party/bloc “accounts” also received the portion of
references (their connotations) and the airtime/newspaper space given to the
representatives of these parties/bloc (their statements, speeches, quotations,
as well as descriptions of their activities, opinion, and comment about them
by other persons). The references, airtime/newspaper space dealing with the
leaders of the parties/bloc (the first three in the election list) are recorded
regardless of the capacity these persons appear in. In the cases with other
representatives of parties/bloc, the references, airtime/newspaper space are
only recorded when their party affiliation was somehow stressed in the piece.

Connotation (positive, negative) references are understood to be the ones,
contained in the pieces, making an unequivocally positive or negative overall
impression on the audience about the party/bloc or its leaders/representatives.
Whenever the tone is not that unequivocal, the reference is recorded as neutral.
All the doubts of the monitor are also interpreted in favor of a neutral record.

Each piece marks only one reference and only one tone of attitude to each party/bloc
(in units).

A reference is also understood to be any appearance of the leaders (the first
three of the election list) of parties/bloc in the TV shot or on a photo/other
graphic material, which is not a part of a piece. If the appearance in the shot
is a part of the piece, where this party/bloc, its leaders is mentioned, this
is not recorded as an additional reference.

3. The airtime/newspaper space (in sec./sq. cm), allocated
to the parties/bloc for pre-election promotion and distinguished in the newspapers
as advertising and marked as “political advertising” or ”pre-election promotion
program” on TV and radio channels, is measured separately. The volume of paid
and free advertising is measured separately.

4. A separate list records the cases of the TV/radio channel
monitored addressing the facts of electoral process violations in the newscasts
of the channel (from 18.00 till 24.00, for “Shirak” – 16.00-20.00).

5. The persons, invited for discussion programs during the
monitoring period (the genre of interview, “guest in studio”, “talk-show”) of
the TV, radio channels studied, are also listed separately.