YPC Weekly Newsletter

2008


YPC PRESENTED THE FINDINGS OF MONITORING THE BROADCAST MEDIA COVERAGE OF THE FIRST 10 DAYS OF THE RA PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN

On February 5 at “Urbat” club Yerevan Press Club presented the findings of
monitoring the broadcast media coverage of the first 10 days (January 21-30,
2008) of the official RA presidential election campaign. As it has been reported,
the pre-election monitoring of 8 leading broadcast media was implemented by
Yerevan Press Club and “TEAM” Research Center with the assistance of Open Society
Institute Assistance Foundation Armenia in October-December 2007 (see reports
for December, November and October in the YPC Weekly Newsletter, January
18-24, 2008
, December 7-13,
2007
and November 16-22,
2007
, respectively).

The present research is implemented by Yerevan Press Club with the assistance
of Open Society Institute and covers the pre-election promotion period – from
January 21 – February 17, 2008. The interruption of December 21, 2007 – January
20, 2008 was due to New Year and Christmas holidays when the programming policy
of most media is focused at entertaining programs and the monitoring would hence
not yield a typical picture of political debate coverage. The choice of study
resumption date is due to the kick-off of the pre-election campaign, when the
RA legislation spells out particular requirements for broadcasters to provide
equal conditions to all candidates in terms of campaign coverage.

The monitoring covers the same 8 broadcast media: 4 national TV companies
– First Channel of the Public Television of Armenia, “ALM”, “Armenia”,
Second Armenian TV Channel; 3 TV companies of Yerevan – “Yerkir Media”,
“Kentron”, “Shant”; 1 national radio companies – Public Radio of Armenia.
Yet the list of politicians, who are the object of monitoring,
is confined to the 9 RA presidency candidates. At the same time if a representative
of an election headquarters/a proxy of the candidate appears in the piece, and
this status is specified, the reference/connotation and the airtime are recorded
as pertaining to this candidate.

The air monitoring hours have somewhat changed, too: since January 21 all the
programs of 8 broadcast media, aired at 17.00-24.00 are monitored. This is due
to the time of broadcasting the pre-election promotional materials of the candidates
on the TV channels. In particular, on the First Channel of the Public Television
of Armenia, in accordance with the decision of the RA CEC of January 21, 2008,
the pre-election promotion of the candidates is broadcast starting from 17.15.
In the case of Public Radio of Armenia the airtime, allocated for pre-election
promotion, is studied from 13.30, because, in accordance with the same decision
of the CEC, it is at that time that PRA begins broadcasting the pre-election
promotion of the candidates. As to the editorial coverage of PRA, it was studied,
similarly to the other channels, at 17.00-24.00. The programs that started but
did not end before 17.00 are not studied. The programs that started but did
not end till 24.00 are studied in full, until their end.

In other respects the monitoring methodology did not change significantly in
January as compared to October-December 2007 (see below).

THE PRESENT INTERIM REPORT includes the period of January 21-30,
2008
. On these days the attention of broadcasters to RA presidency
candidates was distributed far more equally than during the previous stage of
monitoring (October-December, 2007). The aggregate time allocated by all 8 channels
studied to the candidate, supported by the ruling collation, turned out comparable
to the coverage of other candidates. Prime Minister of Serge Sargsian received
29,442 sec., while the leader of “National Accord” party Aram Harutiunian who
received the least attention was given 12,720 sec. In terms of the number of
references, the huge gap between the politicians at focus recorded in October-December
was not observed during the first 10 days of the official campaign, either:
Serge Sargsian appeared in 425 materials, while Arman Melikian, referred to
least of all – in 133.

Moreover, if the coverage of the Prime Minister in his official capacity is
deduced from his total airtime, in terms of attention received from all TV channels,
he will fall behind the candidate of “Dashnaktsutiun” party Vahan
Hovhannesian and will have only a slightly better figure than the candidate
of Popular Party Tigran Karapetian.

On the First Channel of the Public Television of Armenia, the Public Radio
of Armenia and the Second Armenian TV Channel the leader in terms of total airtime,
allocated by these broadcasters to presidential candidates, was Serge Sargsian;
on other three channels, “Armenia”, “Shant” and “Yerkir Media” – Vahan Hovhannesian.
On “Kentron” biggest attention was paid to RA First President Levon Ter-Petrosian
(but this attention was mostly negative, as will be shown below). On “ALM” the
leader, at a traditionally big distance from the other politicians at focus,
is the owner of the TV channel Tigran Karapetian: the volume of his coverage
more than 1.5 times exceeded the time allocated by “ALM” to all other presidency
candidates. The dominance of the leader of Popular Party on “ALM” is preserved
even though he, in accordance with the RA Electoral Code, stopped hosting author
and discussion programs since January 21. At the same time, the candidate status
allowed Tigran Karapetian to appear on the air of other channels much more frequently
than before – for the first time throughout the monitoring his coverage on other
seven channels exceeded the time he received on the air of “ALM”.

IN FACT, the main problem of coverage of the current election campaign is not
so much in the distribution of attention between the politicians, but rather
in the big number of connotational references and the polarly opposite nature
of coverage for two candidates, Serge Sargsian and Levon Ter-Petrosian. Out
of 99 connotational references (on all 8 channels) of the Prime Minister 93
were positive and only 6 were negative, while the First President had 72 negative
references and no positive.

Bias was present in the coverage of two public channels studied, too. On the
First Channel of PTA the balance of connotational references of Serge Sargsian
is 22 versus 0, respectively, while than of Levon Ter-Petrosian is 0 versus
11; on Public Radio this figure makes 7-0 and 0-6, respectively. The biggest
number of positive references to the Prime Minister is made in reports on his
election campaign.

Overall, the leaders in terms of positive coverage of Sargsian are the PTA
First Channel and “Kentron” (that has balance of 24-3). “Kentron” was most prominent
in the negative coverage of Ter-Petrosian, too (0-29). It should be noted, however,
that 23 negative references to the First President were made by “What Newspapers
Write About” program, reviewing the print press (quite partial, too, because,
as numerous researches show, the newspaper market in Armenia is much more diverse
and pluralistic than TV and radio air, i.e., a very targeted selection had to
be made to get this number of negative references). The other 6 negative references
to Ter-Petrosian on the air of “Kentron” were made by other politicians.

In general all the main trends of the period studied – a more equal attention
distribution for all candidates than that in October-December, polarized treatment
of Serge Sargsian and Levon Ter-Petrosian and the relative impartiality towards
all the remaining seven candidates – characterized the activities of seven broadcast
media studied (while all these trends are displayed by “ALM” TV channel too,
it retains its traditional specifics, as noted above). This gives ground to
recall the hypothesis, defined at the previous stage of the monitoring, about
the coordinated strategy of covering the current election campaign. This hypothesis
makes an exception for only one TV channel studied, “Yerkir Media”, where Serge
Sargsian does not have a positive balance of connotational references (2-2),
and the most positively covered is the candidate of “Dashnaktsutiun” Vahan Hovhannesian
(7 positive and no negative reference). However, the other trends noted, the
more equal distribution of attention between the candidates and the openly negative
balance of covering Levon Ter-Petrosian, are characteristic for this channel,
too.

It is of course necessary to note here that in quantitative terms the polarity
of coverage of two candidates (Serge Sargsian and Levon Ter-Petrosian) in January
was not as apparent as in October-December. If, as noted in previous reports,
the share of negative references to Ter-Petrosian at the previous stage of the
monitoring reached an unprecedented level of 50% of the total number of references,
throughout the 10 days of January this figure comes to 26%. It is also important
to note that the coverage of Ter-Petrosian in negative context consists mostly
of public critical remarks to his address made by other candidates. In particular,
the channels studied paid significant attention to the negative statements about
the First President made by the candidate of “National Unity” party Artashes
Geghamian.

THE MOST BALANCED (by two criteria – the distribution of airtime and the proportion
of connotational references) was the coverage of this stage of election campaign
on the Public Radio. Here, as well as on the Second Armenian TV Channel 7 of
9 candidates were covered solely in neutral context. The example of these media
proves that out of the supposedly coordinated (or directed) policy, dealing,
in this case, with Serge Sargsian and Levon Ter-Petrosian, the Armenian broadcasters
are quite able to cover election campaigns in accordance with international
standards.

Besides the two channels mentioned, a relatively balanced coverage was recorded
on “Armenia” and “Shant” TV channels. The latter, though, having given during
the 10 days studied comparable attention to 8 candidates (from 3,287 to 1,539
sec.), left only Tigran Karapetian out of focus (7 sec.).

Unlike the previous monitoring stage it would be wrong to range the media studied
by the activeness of political process coverage, as these indicators were quite
“dense”. It can only be said that Public Radio (35,694 sec.) and “Kentron” TV
channel (30,039 sec.) have gone somewhat ahead, as compared to the 24,335 sec.
of the total airtime, allocated to all candidates by “Yerkir Media” that was
ranked the third along this dimension.

THE INVOLVEMENT of the presidential candidates (and the official representatives
of their election headquarters) in discussion programs of media studied remains
not that frequent. Despite the official launch of the pre-election promotion,
on 8 channels in 10 days candidates or their representatives took part in such
programs 36 times (it should be noted here that the monitoring group did not
take into account the interviews of candidates to the Public Radio, as they
were broadcast before 17.00 – i.e., the time when the editorial coverage was
not studied). The reason here, most probably, is not so much the reluctance
of TV and radio companies to invite candidates, but rather the unreadiness of
some politicians to engage in public dialogue. The rarest participants of “guest
in studio” programs were Serge Sargsian and Levon Ter-Petrosian – two times
for each, both times it was the level of their representatives – who prefer
a monologue form of communicating with the voters. The most open on this stage
of study were Tigran Karapetian (6 programs, including 2 on “ALM” TV channel),
Vahan Hovhannesian, Vazgen Manukian and Arman Melikian (5 each). They are followed
by Artur Baghdasarian and Aram Harutiunian (4 each), Artashes Geghamian (3).
Similarly to the previous monitoring stage, the broadcast media were little
interested in the opinion of the Armenian NGOs that observed the various aspects
of the electoral process. In any case, their representatives never appeared
as guests on the discussion programs studied. This may also be a component of
a coordinated (or directed) policy.

AS TO THE PRE-ELECTION PROMOTIONAL MATERIALS per se, the political advertising,
the monitoring does not give grounds to speak about any obstacles for them on
the channels studied. All candidates are using the free air that they are entitled
to on the First Channel of the Public Television. The paid airtime (on all channels
studied) as of January 30 was used by six candidates, with the exception of
Tigran Karapetian, Arman Melikian and Aram Harutiunian. Vazgen Manukian and
Artashes Geghamian placed their advertising only on the two public channels.
Four candidates paid for the air of public and private broadcasters. The leader
in terms of promotional materials is Vahan Hovhannesian (16,294 paid and free
sec.), who used all seven TV channels, but displayed no interest to Public Radio.
He is followed by Levon Ter-Petrosian (10,256 sec.), who was present on the
advertising air on all 8 channels studied, and Artur Baghdasarian (8,632 sec.),
who did not use the advertising air only on “Shant”. Serge Sargsian was only
the fourth by this indicator (8,155 sec.), who has not so far placed his advertisements
on “Kentron” and “Yerkir Media” TV channels.

The most attractive for candidates out of media studied was the paid air of
the First Channel of the Public Television, followed by “Armenia”, “Shant”,
“ALM”, “Yerkir Media”, the Second Armenian TV Channel, “Kentron”. The least
attractive was the air of Public Radio.

GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT THE STUDY

Monitoring objectives: to determine and define through analysis
of quantitative data

– the level of attention of broadcast media of Armenia to presidential elections;

– how adequate the broadcast media are in informing the electorate about politicians,
in ensuring their access to air to express views and opinions, during pre-election
promotion.

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 pre-election time. Quantitative monitoring includes counting and
measuring of programs in media directly.

Monitoring Methodology

All materials of the airtime studied are subdivided into two types:
1. Editorial coverage;
2. Pre-election promotion (political advertising), allocated to the presidency
candidate.

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

2. Monitors record and count the references
to candidates in the editorial coverage of the broadcast media studied. The
number of positive (+), negative (-) and neutral (0)
references to candidates 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 candidate on the audience. In the cases
when the connotation is not that certain, the reference is recorded as neutral.
All doubts of the monitor are interpreted towards recording a neutral reference.
Moreover, if the piece informs that any person/organization has publicly announced
its support/or lack of support to the politician nominated as a candidate for
presidency, the reference to this politician is recorded as positive/negative,
respectively.

If a representative of election headquarters/proxy of a candidate appears in
the piece, with this status being specified, the reference/connotation is recorded
as pertaining to this candidate, too.

Each TV and radio piece records only one reference and only one connotational
sign for every candidate.

Any appearance of the candidate in a TV shot, which is not a part of the piece
where the candidate is mentioned, is also considered to be a reference. If the
appearance in the shot is a part of the piece where the candidate is mentioned,
this does not count as an additional reference.

The measurement of these categories is made in units.

3. The monitors also record and measure the material volume,
i.e., the airtime (in seconds), allocated to presidential candidates for expressing
their views, opinions as well as judgments, narration about them made by others,
in editorial coverage of the broadcast media studied. If a representative of
an election headquarters/proxy of a candidate appears in the piece, with this
status being specified, the airtime he receives is also recorded for the candidate.
Apart from recording the general airtime, allocated to the candidate, the capacity
in which the candidate appears is also studied. Thus, the airtime
(in seconds)
is differentiated and classed appropriately, according
to whether it was allocated to the candidate for the coverage of his:
1. Official and professional activities;
2. Activities that are not directly related to professional or official duties.

4. The monitors also record and measure the volume
of materials
, i.e., airtime (in seconds),
allocated to the presidency candidate for pre-election promotion in broadcast
media studied (17.00-24.00, for Public Radio – since
13.30 till 24.00), marked on TV and radio channels
as “pre-election promotion”. The volume of paid and free political advertising
is measured separately. The political advertising slot that started but did
not end till 17.00 is not monitored. The political advertising slot that started
but did not end till 24.00 is studied in full, until its end. An exception is
made only for PTA First Channel and the Public Radio of Armenia, which, according
to the RA CEC decision of January 21, 2008, in case of a technical necessity
can shift the political advertising start time by 30 minutes. Hence, in such
cases the slot of political advertising on the First Channel and the Public
Radio is to be monitored respectively from 16.45 and 13.00.

5. 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.
If the discussion program participant is not the candidate himself, but representative
of his election headquarters/proxy, and in the program this status is specified,
in the list of discussion program participants the program is recorded as featuring
the candidate.

AT THE MEETING WITH JOURNALISTS at “Urbat” club three new publications of Yerevan
Press Club were presented, too: “Karabagh Problem and Armenian-Turkish
Relations in the Pre-Election Rhetoric of Armenian Political Figures”, “Media
and Elections” and “Media Self-Regulation: First Steps in Armenia” (see
YPC Weekly Newsletter, January
3-10, 2008
). All the three books are placed on YPC web site: www.ypc.am