YPC Weekly Newsletter

2007


YEREVAN PRESS CLUB PRESENTED THE FINDINGS OF SEVEN TV CHANNEL MONITORING

On April 10 at “Urbat” club Yerevan Press Club presented the findings of the
monitoring of seven Armenian TV channels to the journalistic community. The
research was administered ahead of the official promotion campaign for elections
to the RA National Assembly. The study lasted for two months (February-March
2007) under YPC project “Promoting Media Pluralism in Election Year”, supported
by the OSI Network Media Program. The report published below presents the findings
of the second month (for the February results please see YPC Weekly Newsletter
of March 2-8, 2007).

This monitoring report covers the period of March 1-31, 2007. The monitoring
object were 7 TV channels: the First Channel of the Public Television of Armenia,
“ALM”, “Armenia”, “Kentron”, Second Armenian TV Channel, “Shant” (Yerevan),
“Yerkir-Media”, that is, their daily air from 18.00 to 24.00. The programs that
started, but did not end before 18.00 were not studied. The programs that started
but did not end before 24.00 were studied completely.

Monitors recorded the references and airtime allocated to 28 political parties/bloc
that nominated their candidates for running in elections by proportionate representation
system within the timeframes defined (till March 3). The party/bloc “accounts”
also received the portion of references and the airtime 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). In the
cases when representatives of parties/bloc appeared in the line of their non-partisan
work, profession, etc., and their party affiliation was not stressed, the references
and airtime were not recorded.

The airtime, allocated to parties/bloc for promotional videos/announcements/materials
about their activities, was recorded separately.

The guests invited to interview, “guest in studio” programs throughout March
were also listed separately.

Since the RA legislation does not precisely regulate the political promotion
and the editorial coverage of the party activities outside the official promotional
campaign (for the elections to the RA National Assembly in 2007- since April
8 till May 10), the monitoring at this stage does not aim to reveal the law
infringements. The findings presented mostly answer the following questions:
1) how comprehensive the information provided to the TV audience about the political
spectrum and the activities of parties ahead of elections is; 2) whether equal
opportunities are ensured for all parties to present their political views and
platforms.

Similarly to February, “Kentron” and “Yerkir-Media” TV channels were the most
active in March in covering the pre-election political situation; they gave
the most airtime to different parties and were most frequently interviewing
politicians. Comparable interest to politicians was recorded for “ALM” TV channel,
but here the relevant airtime volume is formed, mostly, through attention to
one political force, the Popular Party, or rather, its leader, the TV channel
owner Tigran Karapetian (the Popular Party received three fourths of the whole
airtime, allocated by “ALM” to parties/bloc monitored). The least interest towards
politics of all the TV channels studied, as in February, was displayed by “Armenia”:
the March 2007 on the evening air of “Armenia” not a single program of “guest
in studio” genre was broadcast, and the majority of parties received less attention
on this TV channel than any other channel studied.

In terms of aggregate airtime on 7 TV channels the leader in March remained
the Popular Party (76,549 sec.), and again the advantage over the other parties
was gained through “ALM” TV channel. 97.3% of this aggregate airtime of the
Popular Party is the share of “ALM”. Apart from the airtime specified, the Popular
Party used 19,098 sec. on “ALM” for announcements. In a similar manner, but
in much smaller volumes (210 sec.), the air of “Kentron” was used by “Prosperous
Armenia” party.

On four of the seven TV channels (the PTA First Channel, the Second Armenian
TV Channel, “Armenia” and “Shant”) the leading positions in terms of airtime
was taken by the Republican Party of Armenia (RPA). On the remaining three channels,
the greatest attention of “ALM”, as noted above, was gained by the Popular Party,
of “Kentron” – “Prosperous Armenia” party, of “Yerkir-Media” – “Dashnaktsutiun”
party. By the aggregate for seven channels the Republican Party of Armenia comes
the second in terms of airtime (56,008 sec.), at the same time in terms of a
number of references it is the undisputed leader – 265 references versus 201
of “Dashnaktsutiun” party that seconded. This to a certain extent is due to
the reporting of the decease of the RA Prime Minister Andranik Margarian on
March 25, 2007, and the media focus at his personality, the party he headed
and the morning ceremonies, in which the RPA and its representatives naturally
took the most active part.

Besides the Popular Party and the Republican Party of Armenia, on seven TV
channels studied in terms of attention received “Prosperous Armenia” (45,120
sec.) and “Dashnaktsutiun” party (31,496 sec.) are on the top of the list. Unlike
the Popular Party, the aggregate time of RPA, “Prosperous Armenia” and “Dashnaktsutiun”
was made of more equally distributed coverage on individual TV channels. Following
these four, comes the big group of opposition parties, the greatest coverage
among which was given to People’s Party of Armenia (15,511 sec.).

The difference of “ALM” from other TV channels was stressed not only by the
figures for the Popular Party but also the second place of the Youth Party (7,386
sec.) – almost 98% of the aggregate airtime and 60% of all TV pieces about which
belonged to “ALM”. The dominating share of airtime allocated by one particular
TV channel is also recorded for Marxist Party on the PTA First Channel (94%
of aggregate airtime), but this is due to the participation of the leader of
this party David Hakobian in “Two Stars” entertaining TV show.

The paid air of the TV companies in March was used by the United Labor Party
(16,000 sec.) on “ALM” and “Dashink” party (14,593 sec.) on “Yerkir-Media”.
The United Labor Party, thus, turned out to be the only party that consistently,
month in and month out, resorted to this open form of political promotion in
media. In case of “Dashink” this was a one-time initiative – the film demonstration
on the party leader Samvel Babayan. The other parties/bloc that have appropriate
financial and political opportunities apparently preferred to use concealed
methods of using TV air to advance their interests before the pre-election promotion.

The analysis of the situation in broadcast media over the past years and the
monitoring of TV channels in February-March 2007 allow speaking about some tendencies
that are to a certain degree a product of a coordinated policy in the sphere.
These are, in particular: 1) The reduction of volumes of political and public
information on most of the TV channels, also the public ones. The exception
here is constituted only by those attached to a specific political force; 2)
Restricted access to TV air for political promotion. This is manifest, in particular,
in the high prices defined for political advertising – in a number of cases
surpassing the tariffs for commercial advertising. This trend is especially
adverse for the opposition parties, since the pro-government ones have alternative
opportunities for using TV air; 3) The most productive factor, ensuring political
plurality at the leading Armenian TV channels, is the observation of the media
activities by international organizations. In this regard the few months preceding
the start of the pre-election promotion can be subdivided into three periods.
The first, starting from the second half of 2006, is characterized by activation
of a number of pro-government parties and by the dosed attention paid by TV
companies to the opposition. The second period, since February 2007, when media
coverage monitoring was launched in Armenia, more balanced distribution of attention
between the pro-government and opposition forces occurred. At the same time
on leading TV channels the reference to certain opposition parties was strictly
limited. At the third stage, starting from the last decade of March, all political
parties, running in elections, started to receive the attention of the TV channels
to this or that extent, except “Christian People Renaissance” (this is most
probably due not to a special attitude towards the party, but to other circumstances).
This more balanced coverage, as compared to February 2007, may be due to the
commencement of the long-term OSCE/ODIHR election observation mission in Armenia.