YPC Weekly Newsletter

2009


YPC RELEASED PRELIMINARY REPORT ON MONITORING THE COVERAGE OF ELECTIONS TO YEREVAN COUNCIL OF ELDERLY BY TV CHANNELS

On June 1 at “Urbat” club Yerevan Press Club presented the preliminary report
on monitoring the coverage of elections to Yerevan Council of Elderly of May
31, 2009, by TV channels. The monitoring was implemented by Yerevan Press Club,
with the financial support of Open Society Institute, from April 16 till May
29, 2009. The research was administered in two stages: first stage
– April 16 – May 1, 2009 (ahead of the pre-election promotion); second
stage
– May 2-29, 2009 (period of pre-election promotion).

The monitoring covered 7 TV channels: 3 national ones
– First Channel of the Public Television of Armenia, “ALM”, Second Armenian
TV Channel; 4 channels of Yerevan – “ArmNews”, “Yerkir Media”, “Kentron”,
“Shant”.

The monitoring object was all programs, aired at the evening
prime time of the abovementioned TV channels, containing references to six parties
and one party bloc/their leaders/representatives, running in the elections of
Yerevan Council of Elderly; as well as the airtime, allocated for pre-election
promotion of parties/bloc.

During the period of April 16 – May 3, 2009 programs, aired by 7 broadcast
media from 18.00 till 24.00, were studied. From May
4 the monitoring time was shifted to an hour earlier – from 17.00
till 24.00
. This was due to the time of demonstration of the pre-election
promotion materials of the parties/bloc. In particular, on the First Channel
of the Public Television of Armenia, in accordance with the RA Central Electoral
Commission Resolution of May 2, 2009, the pre-election promotion of parties/bloc
was broadcast starting from 17.15. Notably, the programs that started but did
not end before 18.00, or before 17.00 from May 4, were not studied. The programs
that started but did not end till 24.00 were studied in full, until their end
(for details on the monitoring methodology, see below).

THE COVERAGE BY THE TV CHANNELS STUDIED both ahead of (April 16-May 1, 2009)
and during (May 2-29, 2009) the official pre-election promotion, if one judges
by the proportion of neutral and connotational references, was characterized
by relative impartiality. Thus, during the pre-election promotion 95.8% of all
references to parties/bloc, running in elections, were neutral. In this regard
the elections to Yerevan Council of Elderly were quite different from the presidential
elections of 2008, when the dissemination of negative information about one
of the candidates on the national and Yerevan broadcast media was unmatched
in scale for national and Yerevan broadcast media. At the same time, the present
election campaign, too, reflected the main problematic trends in broadcast media
of Armenia.

In terms of the nature of coverage the 7 political forces, running in elections,
can be conventionally classed into four categories. The monitoring group classed
with the first category the Popular Party, which received greatest
attention both during the sixteen days (April 16 – May 1, 2009), directly preceding
the pre-election promotion (44,481.6 sec.), and during the four weeks (May 2-29,
2009) of the pre-election promotion itself (112,144.1 sec.). The main distinctive
feature in the coverage of the Popular Party was the fact that the lion share
of the airtime it received (94.7% before the pre-election promotion and 89.1%
during the pre-election promotion) came from “ALM” TV channel, owned by the
leader of Popular Party Tigran Karapetian. Tigran Karapetian himself (heading
the electoral list of the party) got 98% of all airtime, allocated to his party
at both stages of the research.

The second category includes four parties, making up until
recently the ruling coalition: “Prosperous Armenia” (82,291 sec. on all 7 TV
channels on May 2-29), “Dashnaktsutiun” (66,987.8 sec.), Republican Party of
Armenia (58,126.2 sec.),”Orinats Yerkir” (57,113.6 sec.). In terms of aggregate
volume of coverage, these four parties immediately follow the Popular Party,
yet the attention to them was distributed much more evenly among all channels
studied than it was in the case of Popular Party.

Parties classed in the first and second categories are united by the fact they
had positive balance of connotationally colored references during the pre-election
promotion. Besides, they – but for “Orinats Yerkir” – received particular attention
from a certain TV channel. The special relations of Popular Party and “ALM”
TV channel were noted above, yet, even though to a lesser degree, three more
parties had apparent information preferences. “Prosperous Armenia” was the obvious
leader on the air of “Kentron” (the coverage it received during the pre-election
promotion was twice as much as that of “Dashnaktsutiun” party, the second one
in terms of attention on this channel). “Kentron” also gave 12 out of 19 positive
references to the “Prosperous Armenia”. “Dashnaktsutiun” was unrivaled on “Yerkir
Media”, having received during the pre-election promotion half of the coverage
that this channel gave to all 7 political forces. All 3 positive references
to “Dashnaktsutiun” were given to “Yerkir Media”. Republican Party of Armenia
on the Second Armenian TV Channel and “ArmNews” during the pre-election promotion
was not only the leader in terms of coverage, but also had an explicitly positive
balance of connotational references on their air: 12 positive ones versus no
negative on the Second Armenian TV Channel, 9 positive versus no negative on
“ArmNews”. The superiority of Republican Party of Armenia on “Shant” TV channel
was less obvious: here the Republicans were slightly ahead of “Prosperous Armenia”
in terms of airtime, receiving 4 connotational references (all being positive).
All in all, the balance of connotational (positive-negative) references to the
Republican Party on the 7 TV channels studied makes 39-9.

The third category includes Armenian National Congress bloc
that is somewhat behind the quartet of the second category, but is also the
only of the 7 political forces, running in elections, to have a negative balance
of connotation references (0 positive versus 4 negative ones) during the pre-election
promotion. Unlike 4 out of 5 parties, classed with the first and the second
categories, the Armenian National Congress has not received explicit attention
on any of the TV channels: while it was the leader during the pre-election promotion
in terms of coverage on the First Channel of Public Television of Armenia, the
gap between it and its rivals was insignificant.

Finally, the fourth category included the Labor Socialist
Party of Armenia, which was an explicit outsider in terms of the interest received
from TV channels during the pre-election promotion – both overall, and on 6
of the 7 studied. It received the least coverage and was referred to much more
seldom than its rivals. The Labor Socialist Party of Armenia was also the only
that received no connotation reference.

AS TO THE FIRST FIGURES ON ELECTORAL LISTS of the parties/bloc, running in
elections to the Yerevan Council of Elderly (in fact, the candidates for the
Mayor’s office), the greatest coverage, as noted above, was given to the leader
of Popular Party Tigran Karapetian. The aggregate airtime allocated to him during
the pre-election promotion on 7 TV channels studied more than five times exceeds
the relevant figure for Heghine Bisharian (number one on “Orinats Yerkir” list)
and Gagik Beglarian (number one on Republican Party of Armenia list), who were
the second and the third in terms of coverage. Notably, the politicians who
headed the lists of “Prosperous Armenia” and “Dashnaktsutiun”, i.e., the parties
who were the second and the third in terms of aggregate coverage, found themselves
the fourth and the fifth in the “ranking of the first figures”. To a certain
extent this could be explained by the fact that the election campaign of “Prosperous
Armenia” made an emphasis on the reputation of the party leader Gagik Tsarukian,
while number one on the municipal list, Harutiun Kushkian, was in the shade
of the latter. In the case of “Dashnaktsutiun”, the main factor apparently was
the traditional prioritization of collegiate principle, rather than a personality.
The leader of the Armenian National Congress Levon Ter-Petrosian during the
pre-election promotion was the last in terms of aggregate airtime he personally
received, falling even behind the leader of Labor Socialist Party of Armenia
Movses Shakhverdian. This was the direct consequence of the fact that Ter-Petrosian,
unlike the other first figures on electoral lists, refused to be interviewed
and to take part in discussion programs.

THIS PRE-ELECTION CAMPAIGN was most intensively covered by “ALM” TV channels.
The aggregate airtime this channel gave to 7 parties/bloc was more than twice
as much as that given by the other two most active TV channels, “Yerkir Media”
and “Kentron”. Notably, 62.1% of all airtime, allocated by “ALM” to 7 parties/bloc,
was given to Popular Party. Another significant feature is the fact that all
three TV channels that made up the trio of leaders in terms of attention to
elections had distinct political preferences, as mentioned above. This can be
interpreted to the effect that the wish of TV channels to contribute to the
victory of a certain political force is a more powerful factor, stimulating
their interest in elections, than their mission to inform the public about important
political campaigns.

DURING THE PRE-ELECTION PROMOTION the most balanced coverage of elections was
that on the air of the First Channel of the Public Television of Armenia. The
time, allocated to parties/bloc in the editorial coverage, was distributed relatively
evenly: Armenian National Congress (greatest volume) received 4,639.9 sec.,
while the Labor Socialist Party of Armenia (least volume) had 2,392.7 sec. In
terms of frequency of reference the first here was the Republican Party of Armenia
(67), the last – the Labor Socialist Party of Armenia (15). 97.4% of references
of parties/bloc on the PTA First Channel were neutral.

In terms of airtime allocated to all parties/bloc during the pre-election promotion
the most balanced, after the PTA First Channel was the Second Armenian TV Channel.
These two are followed by “ArmNews”, “Shant”, “Kentron”, “Yerkir Media”, “ALM”.

In terms of frequency of reference to parties/bloc during the pre-election
promotion the most balanced, after the PTA First Channel, was “Shant”. These
two are followed by the Second Armenian TV Channel, “ArmNews”, “ALM”, “Kentron”,
“Yerkir Media”.

Finally, in terms of the third dimension of balance, the share of neutral references
to the parties/bloc during pre-election promotion, “Yerkir Media” TV channel
(99%) surpassed even the PTA First Channel (97.4%). The third in this ranking
is “Shant” (97.3%), followed by “ArmNews” and “Kentron” (96.3% each), Second
Armenian TV Channel (96%), “ALM” (90.6%). 9 out of 10 connotation references,
recorded on the air of “ArmNews”, and 12 out of 13 on the air of Second Armenian
TV Channel were received by Republican Party of Armenia and they all are positive.
In other words, but for the particular liking these broadcasters have to Republicans,
their performance along this dimension of balance would look much better, too.

In this regard it is important to note that ahead of elections and during the
pre-election promotion, all negative references to parties/bloc, their representatives
were made not by the TV journalists themselves, but were contained in the opinions
voiced by discussion program/newscast participants. Meanwhile, the positive
references in some cases were made by journalists.

THE BALANCED COVERAGE OF ELECTIONS to a large extent can be estimated also
by the list of guests in discussion programs of the TV channels researched.
The most even representation during the pre-election promotion was ensured by
the PTA First Channel (representatives of all political forces, running in elections,
were invited 1-2 times) and Second Armenian TV Channel (2-3 times). At the same
time, the greatest number of guests took part in the discussion programs of
“Yerkir Media”, owing to this even the least invited party, the Labor Socialist
Party of Armenia, took part in 5 programs of the TV channel. 4 political forces
were not invited (or did not want to take part) in the discussion programs of
“ArmNews”, 2 – on “ALM”, “Kentron” and “Shant” TV channels, each.

The most frequent participants in discussion programs of all 7 TV channels
studied were representatives of “Dashnaktsutiun” (30 times), the least frequent
were those of Armenian National Congress (17) and Labor Socialist Party of Armenia
(9).

ALL POLITICAL FORCES used the free political advertising on PTA First Channel
in full. At the same time, paid advertising volume on the same TV was used by
four out of seven parties/bloc. Republican Party of Armenia, “Orinats Yerkir”,
“Prosperous Armenia” and Armenian National Congress were the closest to using
up the limit of paid advertising on the First Channel, stipulated by the resolution
of the RA Central Election Commission of May 2, 2009. The Labor Socialist party
of Armenia had no intention to spend money on paid air, whether of private or
public broadcaster.

Five out of seven political forces, running in elections, placed their pre-election
promotion materials on the air of “ALM”, four – on “Yerkir Media”, “Kentron”
and “Shant” each, three – on Second Armenian TV Channel and “ArmNews” each.
In terms of paid advertising airtime used, the leader was “Yerkir Media”, followed
by PTA First Channel, “Kentron”, “Shant”, Second Armenian TV Channel, “ALM”
and “ArmNews”. Yet it should be kept in mind that more than half of promotional
pieces on the air of “Yerkir Media” was placed by one party, “Dashnaktsutiun”.

Most paid advertising on 7 TV channels studied was used by “Prosperous Armenia”
party. The second here was the Republican Party of Armenia, the third – “Orinats
Yerkir”. All three of these parties, included in the ruling coalition, accounted
for more than three quarters of all paid political advertising aired by the
channels studied during the pre-election promotion. The fourth party, “Dashnaktsutiun”,
used paid air only on one TV channel, “Yerkir Media”. The same is true for Popular
Party that placed its paid promotion only on the air of “ALM”. Armenian National
Congress placed such materials on the air of First Channel and three out of
six private channels studied.

The data above show that the paid airtime for pre-election promotion was only
fully used by pro-governmental forces. This once again brings forth the long-debated
issue of the unduly excessive tariffs for political advertising that do not
contribute to ensuring equal opportunities for pre-election campaigns.

At the same time, a whole number of materials were recorded during the monitoring
that can be perceived as pre-election promotion by indirect signs, sometimes
quite eloquent, that are not, however, accompanied by an appropriate title on
the TV screen. The monitoring group is not aware of any investigation into such
issues being made by the National Commission on Television and Radio that is
to control the adherence of broadcast media with the electoral legislation.

Overall, it is necessary to note that the insufficiently distinct definitions
and omissions in the legislation, the lack of an adequate control over its implementation
remain the main factors that disallow eliminating the traditional deficiencies
in the election reporting, along with the lack of plurality in the broadcast
sphere.

GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT THE STUDY

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

– the effectiveness of legislative regulation of the broadcast media (primarily,
the public ones) activities and the level of observance of the legislation by
the TV channels during the elections;

– the level of attention of broadcast media of Armenia to the elections of
Yerevan Council of Elderly;

– how adequate the broadcast media were in informing the electorate about parties/party
bloc, running in the elections of Yerevan Council of Elderly;

– how adequate the broadcast media were in ensuring the access to air of the
candidates to Yerevan Council of Elderly to express their views and opinions.

To meet these objectives, methodologies of qualitative and quantitative monitoring
were applied. The qualitative monitoring included 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 included counting and
measuring of TV programs directly.

Monitoring Methodology

All materials of the airtime studied were subdivided into two types:
1. Editorial coverage;
2. Pre-election promotion (political advertising)
, allocated to
the parties/bloc, running in the elections of Yerevan Council of Elderly.

All the necessary data for monitoring were recorded in two tables. Table
No.1
presented the parties/bloc, running in the elections of Yerevan
Council of Elderly and the first two figures in the electoral lists of parties/bloc.
Table No.2 presented the first figures in the electoral lists.

1. The main study unit was TV piece.

2. Monitors recorded the references (in
units), their connotations/nature
(positive [+], negative [-], neutral [0]), as well as the airtime
(in seconds), allocated to 7 parties/bloc, running
in the elections of Yerevan Council of Elderly, in the editorial coverage
of the broadcast media studied. The party/bloc “accounts” also received
the portion of references (their connotations) 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). The references (their connotations), airtime dealing with
the first two numbers in the electoral lists of the parties/bloc were recorded,
regardless of the capacity these figures appeared in. In the cases with other
representatives of a party/bloc, as well as with the representatives of an election
headquarters/proxy of a party/bloc, the references (their connotations), airtime
were only recorded when their party affiliation was somehow stressed in the
TV piece.

The connotation (positive, negative) references were seen to be the ones in
the pieces that leave an undoubtedly positive or negative overall impression
on the audience about the party/bloc or its representatives. In the cases when
the connotation was not that certain, the reference is recorded as neutral.
All doubts of the monitor were interpreted towards recording a neutral reference.
Moreover, if the piece informed that any person/organization had publicly announced
its support/or lack of support to the party/bloc, the reference to this party/bloc
was recorded as positive/negative, respectively.

In each TV piece only one reference and only one connotation sign was recorded
for every party/bloc or its representatives.

Any appearance of the first two figures in the electoral list of a party/bloc
in a TV shot, which was not a part of the piece where the party/bloc was mentioned,
was also considered to be a reference. If the appearance in the shot was a part
of the piece where the party/bloc was mentioned, this did not count as an additional
reference.

The reference (its connotation), airtime, allocated to the first
figure
in the electoral list of party/bloc were recorded in Table
No.2
, as well as in the appropriate column of party/bloc in Table
No.1
.

Apart from recording the airtime, allocated to the number one in the electoral
list, the capacity in which it appears was also studied. Thus, the airtime was
differentiated and classed appropriately, according to whether it was allocated
to the first figure for the coverage of his/her:
1. Official and professional activities;
2. Activities that are not directly related to professional or official duties.

3. The monitors also recorded and measured the volume of the
materials, i.e., the airtime (in seconds),
allocated to the party/bloc for pre-election promotion
in broadcast media studied (17.00-24.00) and marked
on TV channels as “pre-election promotion”. The volume of paid and free political
advertising was measured separately. The political advertising slot that started
but did not end till 17.00 was not monitored. The political advertising slot
that started but did not end till 24.00 was studied in full, until its end.

4. The monitors recorded the participants of discussion
programs
(interviews, guest in studio, talk shows) for the TV
channels studied by a separate list, mentioning the TV channel, the title of
the program, the name(s) and position(s) of the participants invited. If the
discussion program participant was not the first or the second in the electoral
list of party/bloc, but other representative of party/bloc or its election headquarters/proxy,
and in the program this status was specified, in the list of discussion program
participants the program was recorded as featuring the party/bloc.