YPC Weekly Newsletter

2008


YPC PRESENTED THE FINDINGS OF THE MONITORING THE BROADCAST MEDIA COVERAGE OF THE SECOND DECADE OF RA PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN

On February 14 at “Urbat” club Yerevan Press Club presented the findings of
monitoring the broadcast media coverage of the second 10 days (January 31 –
February 9, 2008) of the official RA presidential election campaign. As it has
been reported, the monitoring of 8 broadcast media is implemented by Yerevan
Press Club with the assistance of Open Society Institute and covers the whole
period of pre-election promotion, from January 21 till February 17, 2008. (The
interim report for the first ten days of the campaign – January 21-30 – can
be seen in YPC Weekly Newsletter of February
1-7, 2008
.)

THIS INTERIM REPORT includes the period of January 31 – February
9, 2008
. As compared to the previous ten days (January 21-30,
2008), during this study period the volume of editorial coverage of the election
campaign has somewhat increased. This, however, occurred due to the coverage
of the RA presidency candidates, distinctly enjoying the greatest media attention:
these are the RA First President Levon Ter-Petrosian, the RA Prime Minister,
candidate of the Republican Party of Armenia Serge Sargsian, candidate of “Orinats
Yerkir” party Artur Baghdasarian, candidate of Popular Party Tigran Karapetian,
candidate of “Dashnaktsutiun” party Vahan Hovhannesian, candidate of “National
Unity” party Artashes Geghamian and the candidate of National Democratic Union
Vazgen Manukian. Self-nominated Arman Melikian and the candidate of “National
Accord” party Aram Harutiunian are somewhat behind the leading seven. It should
be noted, however, that Tigran Karapetian, following the tradition, received
most of his coverage on “ALM” TV channel that he owns, and if he had received
as much attention on “his own” air, as he did in average on seven other channels
studied, he would have been rated the 8th, between Arman Melikian and Aram Harutiunian.

The gap between the candidates who received the most and the least aggregate
(on all 8 media studied) coverage have somewhat increased, too: 37,016 sec.
for Levon Ter-Petrosian and 8,725 sec. for Aram Harutiunian (the proportion
here is more than 4 to 1, while during the previous decade the proportion between
the most and the least covered candidates made less than 2.5 to 1).

The RA First President received most of the coverage on 8 channels studied
during the 10 days presented in this report. He is followed by Serge Sargsian
– 32,786 sec. (of these 9,451 sec. were the coverage of his activities as a
Prime Minister). If the coverage of the official activities is excluded from
the total airtime allocated to the candidates, in terms of aggregate airtime
Serge Sargsian would fall behind three more candidates – Artur Baghdasarian
(29,963 sec.), Tigran Karapetian (25,706 sec.) and Vahan Hovhannesian (25,601
sec.).

AT THE SAME TIME Levon Ter-Petrosian remains the undisputed leader in terms
of connotational references (146), or, more specifically, in terms of negative
references (143 versus 3 positive ones). The connotation references to Serge
Sargsian are frequent, too (83 positive and 24 negative). These two candidates,
similarly to all the previous monitoring stages (the monitoring of 8 broadcast
media was administered also ahead of the election campaign, in October-December
2007), received polarized coverage. Of the remaining candidates the positive
balance of connotational references is observed for Tigran Karapetian (8-0)
and Vahan Hovhannesian (14-0), the negative one – for Artur Baghdasarian (11
positive and 16 negative) and Vazgen Manukian (4-8), neutral or almost neutral
– for Artashes Geghamian (3-4), Arman Melikian (0-1) and Aram Harutiunian (0-0).
At the same time all the positive references to Tigran Karapetian were recorded
by the monitoring group on the air of “ALM”, and 11 out of 14 positive references
of Vahan Hovhannesian – on the air of “Yerkir-Media”. In other words, a positive
balance is held only by the candidates of “party of power” and/or owning (enjoying
support) one of the leading TV companies. This circumstance signifies that the
problem of unequal conditions in the editorial coverage of election campaigns
remains quite urgent in Armenia.

TO A GREATER EXTENT the existing polarity of coverage of the two candidates
(Serge Sargsian and Levon Ter-Petrosian) was displayed on “Kenton” TV channel.
Sargsian here was mentioned 19 times in a positive and never in a negative context,
and Ter-Petrosian, respectively, 0 and 44 times. 9 of the positive references
to the Prime Minister and 30 of the negative references to the First President
were made in “What Newspapers Write About” TV program. The picture of this press
review practically repeated that of the previous 10 days. As it is noted in
numerous researches of the Armenian media market, most print media in Armenia
have open and diverse (often radical) political stance. In particular, in the
course of the current election campaign the newspaper stances diverge dramatically,
primarily as concerns the candidacies of the Prime Minister and the First President.
The indicator of references to Sargsian and Ter-Petrosian, as quoted above,
proves that when addressing the press coverage of these two politicians, the
authors of “What Newspaper Write About” program display extreme bias.

The First Channel of the Public Television of Armenia, similarly to the previous
ten days, displayed the balance required by law only in distribution of the
airtime, but not in the nature of candidate coverage (this concerns again Serge
Sargsian and Levon Ter-Petrosian). During the 20 days of pre-election promotion
studied the Prime Minister was referred to in positive context 32 times and
in negative context – 3 times. The First President has 27 negative references
and none – positive. The contrast on Public Radio of Armenia is a little milder:
here Sargsian’s balance of connotational references for 20 days is 14-0, while
that of Ter-Petrosian is 0-16. In October-December 2007 the Public Radio was,
on the contrary, more unbalanced. The special approach to the coverage of these
two politicians on the Public Radio stands out also against the fact that the
remaining candidates throughout the 20 days of pre-election promotion were mentioned
solely in neutral context. On the First Channel of the Public Television, too,
seven other candidates received few connotational references: throughout the
ten days (January 31 – February 9, 2008) only 3% of the total number of their
references had connotational coloring. For Ter-Petrosian this figure made 28%,
and for Sargsian – 18.8%. The figures quoted show that the journalists of the
Public TV and Radio Company have the skills of impartial reporting, but do not
always use them.

Similarly to the previous monitoring stages, this trend of coverage of Serge
Sargsian and Levon Ter-Petrosian that has probably become the main specialty
of the current election campaign, was displayed in the work of all broadcast
media studied, except for “Yerkir Media”, during the past ten days, too. On
this TV channel both the Prime Minister and the First President have a negative
balance of connotational references for the 10 days.

During the pre-election promotion another similarity in the news policy of
the seven TV channels studied has been recorded: they all air reports about
the pre-election events of Serge Sargsian one day after they had been held,
while the rallies of the other candidates are covered, as a rule, on the same
day. In this case, too, the coverage of the election campaign by “Yerkir Media”
TV channel is somewhat out of the trend: here the events of Sargsian appear
on the air quite irregularly, but are still broadcast the next day. Hence, the
monitoring group is induced to reiterate its hypothesis about a coordinated
(or directed) policy of covering election campaigns in Armenia by most of the
leading broadcast media.

The Public Radio of Armenia (35,178 sec.) and “Kentron” (30,981 sec.), similarly
to the preceding decade, paid the most attention to the election-related subjects.
These are followed by “ALM” (30,276 sec.), “Yerkir Media” (26,802 sec.) and
the Second Armenian TV Channel (26,581 sec.). The least attention to the elections
was paid by “Shant” (21,310 sec.) and “Armenia” (20,113 sec.) TV channels.

SIMILARLY TO THE PREVIOUS TEN DAYS, the involvement of presidency candidates
(and the representatives of their election headquarters) in the discussion programs
of the media studied remained low. Despite the heat of the pre-election promotion,
on eight channels during the ten days candidates or their representatives took
part in such programs only 28 times, less than on January 21-30, 2008 (36 times).
Here it should be noted that the monitoring group did not take into account
the interviews of the candidates on the air of Public Radio as these were broadcast
before 17.00, i.e., the time when the editorial coverage was not studied. As
it follows from discussions of this issue with media representatives, the reason
for this is not so much the reluctance of broadcasters to invite the candidates,
but rather the unreadiness of some politicians to engage in public dialogue.

The rarest participants of “guest in studio” programs were Serge Sargsian (2
times in 20 days after the launch of the pre-election promotion) and Levon Ter-Petrosian
(3 times) – or, rather, in all these cases, these were not they themselves,
but their representatives. The greatest openness during the same period was
displayed by Tigran Karapetian (11 programs, 5 of them being on “ALM” TV channel),
Vahan Hovhannesian and Vazgen Manukian (9 each), Arman Melikian, Artur Baghdasarian
and Artashes Geghamian (8 each), Aram Harutiunian (6). Similarly to the previous
stages of monitoring, the broadcast media were little interested in the opinion
of those Armenian NGOs, who observe various aspects of electoral process.

AS CONCERNS the pre-election promotional materials (political advertising),
the monitoring gives no ground to speak about any obstruction for them on the
channels studied. All candidates use the free air they are entitled to the First
Channel of the Public Television. By the results of the 20 days studied, the
leader for the aggregate (on all 8 channels) volume of promotional materials
is Vahan Hovhannesian (30,052 paid and free seconds), followed by Artur Baghdasarian
(18,129 sec.) and Levon Ter-Petrosian (18,075 sec.). Serge Sargsian was only
the fourth by this indicator (16,011 sec.). Three of the candidates listed (except
Artur Baghdasarian) reduced the number of promotional materials during January
31 – February 9 as compared to the previous ten days (January 21-30).

The paid air of the First Channel of the Public Television was the most attractive
for the candidates during the second decade, too. It is followed by “Armenia”,
“ALM”, “Shant”, Second Armenian TV Channel, “Yerkir Media”, “Kentron”. The least
attractive of all was the air of the Public Radio.

GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT THE STUDY

The monitoring covers 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 company – Public
Radio of Armenia.

The monitoring subject are all programs of 8 broadcast
media, aired at 17.00-24.00. This is due to the time
of broadcasting the pre-election promotional materials of the RA presidency
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.

The monitoring object were nine 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.

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 RA
presidency candidates, 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 the analysis of the enforced
RA legislation on elections, on media and the normative acts, regulating the
coverage of election campaigns, study of the remarks of the candidates and their
headquarters regarding the media activities, the appeals to CEC, courts and
other appropriate bodies regarding the media activity issues at election time.
Public statements of journalists and politicians about election coverage are
traced, interviews are held on this subject. These components of a qualitative
research allow gaining more insight into the processes, to understand the trends
and adequately assess the quantitative findings of the monitoring. 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.