On March 20 at Urbat Club YPC presented the Interim Report (March 1-10, 2012) on Monitoring Armenian Broadcast Media ahead of Elections to RA National Assembly. The monitoring of Armenian broadcast media coverage of elections to RA National Assembly in 2012 is implemented by Yerevan Press Club. The support to this research is provided by OSCE Office in Yerevan in frames of the “Empowering Armenian Civil Society to Monitor Electoral Processes” project, financed by the European Union. The monitoring is conducted within two stages: the first stage covers the period of March 1-31, 2012 (ahead of pre-election promotion); the second stage covers the period of April 8 – May 4, 2012 (pre-election promotion).
Current phase of the monitoring, which has started since March 1, 2012, includes the period preceding the official pre-election promotion. Yerevan Press Club is planning to present interim reports once in every ten days.
THE MONITORING included 6 national TV channels – First Channel of the Public Television of Armenia (H1), “Armenia”, “Yerkir Media”, “Kentron”, Second Armenian TV Channel (H2), “Shant”; two Yerevan TV channels – “Shoghakat” (this channel was chosen because it is a part of Public TV and Radio Company and as such has a special mission) and “ArmNews” (which is the only broadcaster in Armenia which has a specific license of a news channel); as well as Public Radio of Armenia. Main editions of news programs and main current affairs/discussion programs broadcast at the evening airtime (18.00-01.00) of the above-mentioned TV and radio channels were studied.
The object of the monitoring were pieces, which included references to those 13 political parties and movements, which either have expressed their intention to participate in the upcoming parliamentary elections, or currently hold an active position in the political life of the country. Connotations of the references to this parties/movements as well as the airtime allocated to them by the monitored media were also recorded. (See the monitoring methodology in YPC Interim Report, Chapter “General Information on Monitoring”.)
THROUGHOUT THE FIRST TEN DAYS of March 2012, compared to the results of the preliminary monitoring conducted by YPC in November-December 2011, a tendency towards more balanced distribution of attention, paid by the majority of broadcasters studied to various political forces, and towards reduction of the share of connotational references was observed. The media interest regarding political developments in the run-up to the elections became more active, though there were also certain exceptions in this regard (which will be presented further).
WITHIN THE PERIOD covered by this interim report the largest amount of attention to internal political life was given by “Kentron” TV channel, both in terms of the frequency of references to parties and of the volume of airtime allocated to them (hereafter for the quantitative results of the monitoring see the YPC Interim Report tables). In terms of airtime volume, allocated to political forces, “Kentron” was followed by Second Armenian TV Channel, which significantly increased its coverage of pre-electoral processes, as compared with the last months of 2011, and by “Yerkir Media”. In terms of the frequency of references “Kentron” was immediately followed by Public Radio of Armenia.
“Shoghakat” throughout the period of study remained loyal to its profile – a TV channel of spiritual and cultural orientation. There were no references to political parties/movements within its programs studied.
Based on the news and discussion programs of the remaining 8 broadcasters, “Shant” TV channel demonstrated the least interest to pre-election processes. In terms of both frequency and volume of references to political forces this channel was less active than it had been since November 16 to December 15, 2011, when YPC carried out preliminary monitoring. Holding a license of the same type (general profile), in its programs of the same nature “Shant” gave 15 times less airtime to political forces than “Kentron”, and 11 times less than Second Armenian TV Channel and “Yerkir Media”. According to the programs studied, “ArmNews” and PTA First Channel were relatively passive in their coverage of political parties/movements, with the coverage of First Channel remaining on approximately the same level as in November-December 2011.
IN TERMS OF THE CUMULATIVE INDICATORS of all 9 channels studied, compared to the period of preliminary monitoring, in the first ten days of March the interest towards political forces grew approximately twice. The largest amount of media attention was allocated to five parliamentary parties – Republican Party of Armenia (RPA), Armenian Revolutionary Federation “Dashnaktsutiun”, “Bargavach Hayastan”/“Prosperous Armenia”, “Zharangutiun”/“Heritage”, “Orinats Yerkir”, as well as the Armenian National Congress (ANC). The latter, though it lagged behind “the parliamentary five” in terms of volume of coverage, was ahead of one of the parliamentary parties – “Orinats Yerkir” in terms of frequency of references. Nevertheless, compared to the last months of 2011, at this stage the advantage of RPA was not so obvious. Beside “the big six”, quite extensive coverage was received by the “Free Democrats” and United Labour Party. At the same time, the coverage of the “Free Democrats” was almost completely focused on the perspective of forming an electoral bloc with the “Heritage” party, and absolutely all references to United Labour Party concerned its merger with “Prosperous Armenia”. A relatively large airtime volume was allocated to the Democratic Party of Armenia, however, in fact the party received all of its airtime because the DPA leader Aram Sargsyan was a guest of the “Urvagits” program of “Kentron” TV channel.
Republican Party was the undisputed leader in terms of media attention on PTA First Channel, “ArmNews” and “Armenia”, and had a more moderate advantage on Second Armenian TV Channel, Public Radio and “Shant”. On the above-mentioned channels no party had a clear second place.
On a given channel, the biggest gap between the leading party and all others was recorded on “Yerkir Media”, where ARF “Dashnaktsutiun” received almost 6 times more airtime than RPA, which had the second place. The gap between “Dashnaktsutiun” and all other parties was even larger. Smaller, but still significant gap between the leading party and all other parties was recorded on “Kentron”, where the leader was “Prosperous Armenia”. In terms of frequency of references here, as on “Yerkir Media”, the Republican Party was the second, but in terms of airtime volume the RPA was preceded by Democratic Party of Armenia (as a result of the previously mentioned participation of its leader in “Urvagits”), “Heritage” and United Labour Party (because of interest to its merger with “Prosperous Armenia”).
The most balanced attention to political forces within the studied period was demonstrated by Public Radio of Armenia and Second Armenia TV Channel. At the same time, it is necessary to take into account that according to the indicators, which describe the media interest towards certain political forces, ten days is not an enough time period for making far-reaching conclusions.
AS MENTIONED in the beginning of the report, during the first ten days of March there was a positive tendency of reduction of the amount of connotational references to parties/movements, which are potential participants of the electoral process: 7.2% of the cumulative amount of references on all channels monitored against the 9.6% recorded during the preliminary monitoring (November 16 – December 15, 2011). At the same time, the number of positive references was four times higher than the number of negative ones: this might have been a cause for optimism, however out of 30 positive references, recorded in all programs studied, 29 were addressed to the two largest parties of the ruling coalition – RPA and “Prosperous Armenia”, while 6 out of 8 negative references were addressed to opposition ANC.
In comparison with preliminary monitoring results, “Shant” progressed from the highest indicator of connotations (28.3%) among all channels studied toward the lowest (no connotational references at all). Had this channel demonstrated a higher and more balanced (in terms of volume and frequency) interest towards political parties in the first ten days of March, it would have been possible to speak about a case of exemplary coverage.
The highest share of connotational references was recorded on “Kentron” (12%): 8 out of 10 positive references on that channel were addressed to “Prosperous Armenia”. According to this indicator, the places on the scale between “Shant” and “Kentron” were distributed in the following way: Public Radio (3.5%), Second Armenian TV Channel (4.4%), “Yerkir Media” (5.5%), “ArmNews” (7%), “Armenia” (8.2%), PTA First Channel (11.1%). At the same time, all connotational references – exclusively positive – on the last three channels (4 on “ArmNews”, 6 on “Armenia” and 5 on First Channel) were addressed to Republican Party. In most cases these were statements by other political forces about their support of RPA for the upcoming elections, as well as praise addressed to the party in the context of the RPA congress, which took place on March 10. No party received more than one connotational reference in the studied programs of “Yerkir Media” and Public Radio. Meanwhile, in case of “Yerkir Media”, “Dashnaktsutiun” only once received a positive reference. This suggests that on this channel bias towards “Dashnaktsutiun” is reflected mostly in terms of the volume of coverage, but not in terms of evaluations.
THE FIRST TEN DAYS of March 2012 were also different in positive sense from the period of preliminary monitoring of November 16 – December 15, 2011 in one more respect: this time the monitors did not record on any of the studied channels pieces that could be classified as hidden political promotion. The reduction of the share of connotational references can be explained by this factor as well.
The video on YPC Interim Report’s presentation, made by “A1+” TV company on March 20, 2012, watch here