YPC Weekly Newsletter

2007


THIRD INTERIM REPORT ON MONITORING THE MEDIA COVERAGE OF PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS

On May 10 at “Urbat” club “TEAM” Research Center and the Yerevan Press Club
presented another interim report (April 24 – May 5, 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 parties/bloc,
taking part in elections to the RA National Assembly (for more detailed information
about the study and the previous reports see YPC Weekly Newsletter, April
20-26, 2007
and April 27 –
May 3, 2007
).

The interim report (April 24 – May 5, 2007) presented to the journalistic community
mentions that for the 12 days of survey, the audience of the Armenian media
had an opportunity of receiving information on the majority of the parties/bloc
running in the election campaign. This statement mainly refers to the Yerevan
audience, which enjoys a wide choice of TV channels, as the main source of political
information in Armenia. Out of the four TV channels allocating greatest amount
of editorial coverage to the political forces (“ALM”, Second Armenian TV Channel,
“Yerkir Media” and “Kentron”), only two (mentioned the first) have national
coverage. At the same time, 35% of the “ALM” airtime allocated to the parties
is for the only one – Popular Party, and 28% – for Republican Party of Armenia
(RPA), while 83% of the airtime of the Second Armenian TV Channel goes for four
parties – “Dashnaktsutiun”, the United Liberal National Party, Republican Party
and “Prosperous Armenia”. In other words, the political spectrum they cover
can hardly be qualified as broad.

Even the voters of the second largest Armenian city of Gyumri, with four local
TV channels, considerably cede in terms of political awareness to their Yerevan
counterparts. A less fair share is with the residents of other regions, which
have access to only 2-3 national TV channels and one local. This primarily refers
to the awareness about parties/bloc running in the elections by proportional
system, which enjoy less coverage of the local media than the majoritarian candidates.

Similarly to the periods in the previous two interim reports (April 8-15 and
April 16-23, 2007), the leaders by aggregate airtime and the frequency of appearance
in the TV materials on the 13 monitored TV channels are the Republican Party
of Armenia (97,605 sec. and 861 mentionings), “Dashnaktsutiun” (77,073 sec.
and 429 mentionings) and “Prosperous Armenia” (75,681 sec. and 361 mentionings).
A much larger attention of the TV channels to these parties during the promotion
campaign was manifest also by the indicator of the frequency of invitations
to the programs of “guest in studio” format: from April 8 to May 5 the representatives
of the Republican Party of Armenia were invited by the monitored broadcasting
TV and radio channels 60 times, “Dashnaktsutiun” – 52 and “Prosperous Armenia”
– 50. Among those lagging far behind is “Orinats Yerkir” – 24, running in the
fourth place by aggregate airtime and frequency of appearance in TV materials
– 33,746 sec. and 332 mentionings.

At the same time, in contrast to the previous periods of monitoring, there
is augmentation in the number of the connotationally colored mentionings. The
three parties leading in TV airtime manifest an obviously positive balance (RPA
– 132 positive and 14 negative; “Dashnaktsutiun” – 66 positive and 5 negative;
“Prosperous Armenia” – 110 positive and 8 negative). “Orinats Yerkir” that follows,
on the contrary, has a sharply negative balance (3 positive versus 88 negative).
Overall, from April 24 to May 5, the share of the connotationally colored mentionings
of the parties on evening airtime of the studied TV channels made 17%, while
in the previous two periods it was almost twice as less. This change allows
stating that in the period presented the TV channels more frequently afforded
expressing their attitude to the parties.

It is essential to note that from the start of the pre-election promotion campaign,
April 8, the monitors have registered any media appearance of the politicians,
holding the top three lines in the electoral party lists (even if they are presented
as fulfilling their non-partisan office or professional duties), as attention
to the specific party. It is conditioned firstly, by a general unwritten norm
– the persons running as candidates, in the period of the pre-election promotion
campaign, should restrict their public activity as officials (otherwise this
activeness may be viewed as a use of the administrative resource), and secondly,
by the circumstance that during the elections the political leaders are associated
in the audience’s mind with the parties they head, regardless of whether their
party affiliation is stressed.

This approach was primarily reflected in the indicators of the Republican Party
of Armenia. However, it was not reflected to the extent of considerably influencing
the entire picture. The portion of the monitored TV programs, which presented
the first three politicians of RPA as officials, took in various TV channels
no more than 10-30% of the registered amount of airtime. Meanwhile, the advantage
of the three parties, leading in airtime over the opposition ones, manifesting
comparable activeness in the pre-election campaign, is estimated much larger.

In particular, even on the PTA First Channel, where, alongside the Public Radio
of Armenia, the airtime is allocated among the parties in a more balanced amount,
the indicator of the RPA 100 times surpasses the indicator of the “New Times”
party (61 sec.). While, the latter can hardly be accused of passive conduct
in the election campaign. By aggregate indicator of all the TV channels, the
statement mainly refers to the two other active opposition bloc/party – “Impeachment”
(50 times less of airtime than the RPA) and “Republic” (28 times).

A somewhat different situation is with the print media. In terms of the attention
to the parties, the four monitored newspapers do not largely differ from the
TV broadcasters: among the leaders by the newspaper space and the frequency
of mentionings here are the same three parties – RPA, “Prosperous Armenia” and
“Dashnaktsutiun”, and in between them wedged the “Orinats Yerkir” party, occupying
the third place. However, by connotationally colored mentionings, in contrast
to the TV channels, the three leading parties have a negative balance in the
newspapers. This balance formed due to the private dailies “Haikakan Zhamanak”
and “Aravot”, while the official ones, “Hayastani Hanrapetutiun” and “Respublika
Armenia”, give them a positive or a neutral balance. Negative balance – here
as well the newspapers display similarity among themselves and the broadcast
media – formed also with the “Orinats Yerkir” party. However, in this case it
is conditioned by the scandal around the publication of the secret audiotape
of the conversation between the leader of this party and a British diplomat.