YPC Weekly Newsletter

2007


SECOND INTERIM REPORT OF MONITORING THE MEDIA COVERAGE OF PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS

On April 27 at “Urbat” club “TEAM” Research Center and the Yerevan Press Club
presented another interim report (April 16-23, 2007) on monitoring the media
coverage of parliamentary elections in 2007. The study was administered by “TEAM”
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 in YPC Weekly Newsletter, April
20-26, 2007
).

The interim report (April 16-23, 2007) presented to the journalistic community
emphasizes that at this stage of research as well, the media coverage of the
election campaign preserves the main trends mentioned in the report of April
8-15 (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, April
20-26, 2007
). Among the positive phenomena the prevalence of neutral comment
on the air of most broadcast media should be classed, cases of negative promotion
are very rare.

At the same time, the Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) keeps “augmenting”
its advantage on the TV air. The aggregate time, allocated to it on the evening
air of the 13 channels studied, made 67,394 sec. In terms of references, RPA
has nearly twice as much as “Dashnaktsutiun” party that comes the second – 613
versus 344. The advantage of RPA in most cases cannot be explained by passive
campaigning by other parties. The aggregate airtime, allocated to the “Republicans”,
is 10-30 times more than the same indicator of, say, “Heritage” party (5,325
sec.), People’s Party of Armenia (4,466 sec.), United Labour Party (3,548 sec.),
“Impeachment” bloc (3,117 sec.), “Democratic Way” (2,434 sec.), “Republic” party
(2,377 sec.), that are quite often holding pre-election events.

Particular attention to RPA on behalf of the majority of the TV channels studied
is manifest in a more regular (nearly daily) coverage of its events and the
activities of its leader, the greater duration of the stories dealing with it,
the priority in demonstration succession for the party. This to a less extent
is true for “Dashnaktsutiun” (54,462 sec.) and “Prosperous Armenia” (30,817
sec.). The Popular Party (17,844 sec.), following right after them (by aggregate
airtime at 13 TV channels), just like before, received the “lion share” of its
airtime (93%) on “ALM” TV channel, owned by the PP leader Tigran Karapetian.
The four parties named are also the undisputed leaders in terms of positive
references (33, 39, 35 and 10, respectively). A comparable number of connotational
references is held by “Orinats Yerkir” party, but in this case the references
are only negative (10). Six of these references are the stories dealing with
the publication in “Golos Armenii” newspaper on April 21, 2007 of the secretly
recorded conversation that the leader of “Orinats Yerkir” Arthur Baghdasarian
had with a British diplomat.

The parties that on the current stage of pre-election promotion have unequal
circumstances in terms of editorial coverage do not have a chance to sufficiently
compensate the lack of attention to them through advertising. The prices set
for the pre-election promotion by the leading TV channels are too high as compared
with the sizes of pre-election party funds. A significant part of the TV channels
has not announced its tariffs at all and is not providing paid air to parties.
As it has been stressed in the previous monitoring reports, this allows concluding
there is a coordinated and manageable policy, adhered to by TV companies.

This problem is particularly crucial for the regions of Armenia, where the
majority of the Yerevan TV channels, including the most politically active “Kentron”
and “Yerkir-Media”, are not broadcast, and the national PTA First Channel and
“Armenia” are not among those most actively reporting elections. Thus, the First
Channel allocated as much airtime to all parties together as “ALM” – to Popular
Party only. However, on PTA the lack of editorial coverage is compensated by
the active use of free and paid advertising time by the parties. The other national
channel noted, “Armenia”, has given three times less editorial time to parties
than the First Channel, and none of the parties used its paid air (the same
happened with another national channel, the Second Armenian TV Channel).

It should be taken into account that regional media display limited interest
to elections (mostly by proportionate representation system) and, in particular,
most of them do not provide paid airtime to parties for promotion and announcements.
When this is augmented by the problem with print press delivery to the regions,
the much lower awareness of elections among people outside Yerevan becomes obvious.

The greatest political balance in the coverage of pre-election campaign in
the period of April 16-23 among the broadcast media studied was demonstrated
by the PTA First Channel, though ironic tone can be heard in some stories about
the opposition parties.

The broadest coverage of the political spectrum has been recorded on “Yerkir-Media”,
“Kentron” TV channels and Public Radio of Armenia.

In the study period the TV and radio coverage of visits and meetings of people,
holding political, discretionary positions, civil servants and representatives
of local self-government as well as coverage of their participation in pre-election
events raise certain questions in terms of electoral legislation compliance
(in particular, Article 22 prime of the RA Electoral Code). These questions
are related, mostly, to the coverage of events with the involvement of the representatives
of the Republican Party of Armenia.

The four newspapers studied, similarly to the TV channels, show domination
of articles on Republican Party of Armenia, followed by “Prosperous Armenia”
and “Dashnaktsutiun”.