YPC Weekly Newsletter

2007


NOVEMBER REPORT ON BROADCAST MEDIA MONITORING

On December 10 at “Urbat” club “TEAM” Research Center and Yerevan Press Club
presented the interim report (November 1-30, 2007) on monitoring broadcast media
ahead of presidential elections 2008. The monitoring is implemented from October
to December, 2007 by “TEAM” Research Center with the support of Open Society
Institute Assistance Foundation-Armenia, and with expert and resource assistance
of Yerevan Press Club.

Monitoring covers prime time programs (18.00-24.00) of 8 broadcast media: 4
national TV companies
– the First Channel of the Public Television of Armenia,
“ALM”, “Armenia”, Second Armenian TV Channel; 3 TV companies in Yerevan
– “Yerkir Media”, “Kentron”, “Shant”; 1 national radio company – Public
Radio of Armenia.

The monitoring object are the politicians that have somehow announced their
intention to run in presidential elections of 2008, or politicians that were
most frequently viewed by media to be potential candidates, as well as leaders
of parties that gained over 1% of votes at parliamentary elections 2007, except
those who are disallowed by the law to run for presidency. Thus, 19 politicians
are the objects of the research.

“TEAM” Research Center and Yerevan Press Club have made the following main
conclusions:

IN NOVEMBER 2007 the picture obtained as a result of monitoring 7 TV and 1
radio channels mainly repeated that of October. A number of trends observed
have become more intense though. As compared to October, in November in the
editorial coverage the volume of materials dealing with the politicians at monitoring
focus has increased by one fourth. This circumstance is a sign that the pre-election
race gains pace.

The attention of broadcast media to two potential presidency candidates, currently
described by journalists as the two poles of electoral race, has also significantly
increased – the Prime Minister, the Chairman of Republican Party of Armenia
Serge Sargsian and the First RA President Levon Ter-Petrosian. The coverage
of the leader of “Prosperous Armenia” party Gagik Tsarukian was almost twice
as intensive in November than in October. If one takes into account also the
advertising time, allocated to Tsarukian, in November he was even ahead of Ter-Petrosian.
Yet, the advantage of the “Prosperous Armenia” leader is ensured by three TV
channels – “Kentron”, “ALM” and the Second Armenian TV Channel.

It is also important to note that the coverage of Serge Sargsian and Gagik
Tsarukian was made up of airtime, allocated to them as both acting politicians
and in the line of their professional/official duties. Meanwhile, the whole
airtime of Levon Ter-Petrosian was dealing with him purely as a politician.
Yet, the nature and the content of most pieces in both categories that involve
the leaders of the two parties of ruling coalition (Republican Party of Armenia
and “Prosperous Armenia”) form the audience’s attitude towards them as politicians.

Besides, Sargsian and Tsarukian were mentioned, as a rule, in a positive or
neutral context, while Ter-Petrosian – in negative. The negative coverage of
the First RA President by TV and radio channels in November became even more
emphasized. If in October the share of materials, where Ter-Petrosian appeared
in the negative, made up around one third of the total number of references,
in November this indicator came to about two thirds – 293 negative references
out of 499. In other words, today we observe a new phenomenon for the Armenian
air – even the neutral (to say nothing of positive) coverage of an Armenian
politician is quantitatively behind the negative (196 neutral references and
10 positive ones). The novelty of such treatment by broadcast media is primarily
in the fact it is displayed at such an early stage of pre-election collision.

The share of connotationally colored references is almost the same for Gagik
Tsarukian (70 out of 119), yet, unlike Levon Ter-Petrosian, they all are positive.
In the references to Serge Sargsian the neutral ones prevail; however, the proportion
of positive and negative (162 and 14, respectively) supports the journalistic
metaphor about the two poles of the current election campaign: the Prime Minister,
according to the preferences of Armenia broadcasters, is a “plus”, while the
First President is a “minus”…

It is particularly concerning that the “polar” coverage of the two candidates
that drew most media attention is unreservedly characteristic of the First Channel
of the Public Television of Armenia and the Public Radio of Armenia. In particular,
the Public Radio, noted by the findings of the monitoring of the coverage of
previous elections (in 2003 and 2007) to be the most balanced medium, currently
cannot be called impartial. Out of 105 references made to Levon Ter-Petrosian
on the November air of PRA 82 were negative, and none were positive, while out
of 110 references to Serge Sargsian 21 were positive and none were negative.
Interestingly, the metamorphosis in the work of Public Radio coincided in time
with the refusal of its management to broadcast the programs of the Armenia
Service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Against the background of what has been said above, the statement of a group
of prominent professors of Yerevan State University, well-known Armenian scientists,
released on December 3, 2007, looks quite natural. The academics called upon
the TV companies of the country, including the Public Television of Armenia,
“not to forget their commitment to the society and to end the policy of information
blockade of the public at large”.

An exception to the “general rule” described above is made by “Yerkir Media”
TV channel, where the proportion of positive and negative references to Levon
Ter-Petrosian and Serge Sargsian is more balanced (5-13 and 4-6, respectively),
and in both cases the neutral references are a majority. On the air of “Yerkir
Media” the biggest coverage was received by one of the two potential candidates
for presidency from “Dashnaktsutiun” party Vahan Hovhannesian (he was further
nominated by the party conference to be the presidency candidate); while the
second candidate, Armen Rustamian, was among the most covered politicians (those
that are targeted by the monitoring), taking the third place, between Levon
Ter-Petrosian and Serge Sargsian. It is also important to note here that the
significant part of the airtime of the two leaders of “Dashnaktsutiun”, and,
primarily, of Vahan Hovhannesian, is accounted for by the intensive coverage
of the conference of this party, held on November 30.

Unlike other politicians, Vahan Hovhannesian and Armen Rustamian were more
often referred to by “Yerkir Media” in positive context (13 and 11 times respectively),
and never – in the negative. This circumstance to a great extent was linked
to the coverage of peculiar “primaries” – the street survey of public choice
between the two candidates of “Dashnaktsutiun”, staged as elections and organized
by this party. The positive references towards the two politicians mostly were
heard in the interviews of the survey respondents. It is mostly due to the events
named – “Dashnaktsutiun” party conference and “primaries” – that Vahan Hovhannesian
significantly, as compared to October, improved his aggregate (the airtime of
all 8 channels) indicators in November and went up to the fourth place among
the presidency candidates monitored.

The first place in terms of aggregate airtime on TV and radio channels studied,
similarly to October, was taken by the leader of Popular Party Tigran Karapetian.
However, his leadership is ensured by one of the TV channels, “ALM”, that he
owns. Over 95% of the aggregate airtime, allocated to Karapetian, is accounted
for by “ALM”. If Tigran Karapetian received from “ALM” as much attention as
he does in average from other broadcast channels, he would be not the first,
but the thirteenth of the politicians, targeted by the monitoring, and the seventh
of the nominated presidency candidates. In the case of the leader of the Popular
Party it is also quite difficult to differentiate the programs where he appears
as a journalist (recorded in this study as appearing in the line of official/professional
duty), and those, in which he appears as a politician. In both cases on “ALM”
TV channel his views, opinions, assessments of various public and political
issues dominate.

THE PHENOMENON of Tigran Karapetian conditioned the leading position of “ALM”
as the most “politicized” (in terms of the attention paid to the political life)
of the broadcast channels studied. The TV channel devoted 75.9% of the whole
airtime, allocated to 19 politicians at focus of this monitoring, to its owner.
If “ALM” paid as much attention to Tigran Karapetian as all other channels studied
in average, the leader in terms of being “politicized” would be “Kentron”. It
is, however, noteworthy that “Kentron” has his own, even though not so obvious,
“favorite” – Gagik Tsarukian that received 1.3 times more airtime on the TV
channel than Levon Ter-Petrosian and Serge Sargsian together. Tsarukian accounts
for 44.1% of the total airtime, allocated to 19 politicians studied by “Kentron”.

On four TV channels another one of the politicians at focus – Prime Minister
Serge Sargsian – gained a high percentage: on “Armenia” – 76.9% (of the total
airtime, allocated to all 19 politicians), on “Shant” – 48.9%, the PTA First
Channel – 47.2% and the Second Armenian TV Channel – 40.8%. On these and all
other channels, but for “Yerkir Media”, the number of positive references of
the Prime Minister substantially exceeded the number of the negative ones: on
the PTA First Channel – 26 and 2, “ALM” – 17 and 2, “Armenia” – 11 and 0, the
Second Armenian TV Channel – 26 and 1, “Kentron” – 41 and 1, “Shant” – 16 and
2, the Public Radio – 21 and 0, respectively. These indicators show that these
broadcast media extremely seldom quote critical opinion, comment of opposition
politicians, other public figures regarding the presidency candidate of the
ruling coalition.

Similarly to October, in November the least attention to the politicians at
focus was paid by “Armenia”, out of 8 TV channels monitored (more than 14 times
less airtime than “ALM”, and almost ten times less than “Kentron”). 88 out of
roughly 114 minutes, allocated by “Armenia” to politicians at focus, were accounted
for by Serge Sargsian, while the other 18 politicians received in average less
than 1.5 minute each.

THE 19 POLITICIANS at the focus of monitoring were generally rare participants
of “guest in studio” programs. An obvious exception here is constituted only
by Tigran Karapetian, but out of 15 discussion programs in which he took part,
14 were aired by his own “ALM” channel. Each of the remaining 18 politicians
took part, averagely, only in one program of this format in November. Yet, when
speaking about the lack of communication between the future voters with the
prominent politicians, it is necessary to note that a significant part of politicians
from both the pro-governmental and the opposition camps are closed. They quite
often avoid interviews; refuse answering the journalistic questions, raising
the subjects that are uncomfortable for them.

WHILE THE RA LEGISLATION allows political advertising in media only during
the official pre-election campaign (this time – from January 21 till February
17, 2008), in November, like in October 2007, the monitors recorded a number
of advertising materials that made a direct or indirect contribution to the
image of politicians at focus of the study. In particular, “Yerkir Media” aired
the announcements of the “primaries” noted above, that had been organized by
“Dashnaktsutiun”, where positive references were made to Vahan Hovhannesian
and Armen Rustamian. On “ALM” air announcements of the conference of the Popular
Party and the pilgrimage to Dgher church in Aragatsotn region, organized by
Tigran Karapetian, were made. “Kentron” and PTA First Channel continued the
October show of the commercial, devoted to the 130th anniversary of “Ararat”
Yerevan Brandy, Wine and Spirits Factory, in which the main character was the
owner of the enterprise Gagik Tsarukian.

The monitoring group also notes the materials aired as editorial, but having
certain sign of advertising. Thus, on November 4 on the air of “ALM” “Ten Years
of ‘Orinats Yerkir’” film was shown, dealing with the activities of “Orinats
Yerkir” party and its leader Artur Baghdasarian. Shortly before that, on October
25, being the guest of “Stance” program, Artur Baghdasarian mentioned the film,
asking the program host Tigran Karapetian to show it on its TV channel for payment,
and received Karapetian’s consent. However, during the show of the film no marking
was made to say this was paid air. On “Kentron”, “ALM” and the Second Armenian
TV Channel repeatedly showed a film about the celebration of the 130th anniversary
of “Ararat” Yerevan Brandy, Wine and Spirits Factory and the international judo
tournament in Yerevan, contributing to the formation of the positive image of
Gagik Tsarukian. On the three mentioned TV channels the same report about the
first expanded session of the Boards of Trustees of the Science Development
Foundation of the RA National Science Academy was aired. The central figure
in the report was the same Gagik Tsarukian, who appeared as science and education
sponsor. Questions arise as to the frequency of appearance of these materials
on air and their show on three TV channels simultaneously.

MONITORING METHODOLOGY:

All materials of the airtime studied are subdivided into two types:

1. Editorial coverage;
2. Paid programs and advertising/announcements (political, commercial, public
service).

1. The main study unit is TV/radio piece.

2. Monitors record and count the references
to politicians in the editorial and paid coverage of the broadcast media studied.
The number of positive, negative and neutral references
to politicians is also counted. The connotational (positive, negative) references
are seen to be the ones in the pieces that leave an undoubtedly positive or
negative overall impression of the politician on the audience. In the cases
when the connotation is not that certain, the reference is recorded as neutral.
Each TV and radio piece records only one reference and only one connotational
sign for every politician. Any appearance of the politician in the TV shot is
also considered to be a reference.

3. The monitors also record and measure the material
volume
, i.e., the airtime (in seconds),
allocated to politicians for expressing their views, opinions as well as judgments,
narration about them made by others in editorial and paid coverage of the broadcast
media studied. Apart from recording the general airtime, allocated to the politician,
the capacity in which the politician appears is also studied. Thus, the airtime
(in seconds)
is differentiated and classed appropriately, according
to whether it was allocated to the politician for the coverage of his/her:

1. Official and professional activities;
2. Activities that are not directly related to professional or official duties.

4. The monitors record the participants of discussion
programs
(interviews, guest in studio, talk shows) for the TV
and radio channels studied by a separate list, mentioning the TV and radio channel,
the title of the program, the name(s) and position(s) of the participants invited.