On November 26, in Yerevan, at Henaran Club YPC presented the interim report (October 1 – November 20, 2012) on monitoring of Armenian broadcast media coverage of RA presidential elections in 2013.
THE MONITORING of Armenian broadcast media coverage of RA presidential elections in 2013 is implemented by Yerevan Press Club. Assistance to this research is provided by OSCE Office in Yerevan within the framework of the project "Support to Two Electoral Cycles in Armenia", financed by the European Union. The monitoring is conducted within two stages: the first stage covers the period of October 1 – December 15, 2012 (ahead of pre-election promotion); the second stage will cover the period of the official election campaign.
THE RESEARCH included 6 national TV channels – the First Channel of the Public Television of Armenia (H1), “Armenia”, “Yerkir Media”, “Kentron”, Second Armenian TV Channel (H2), “Shant”; one Yerevan TV channel – “ArmNews” (the only broadcaster in Armenia that has a specific license of a news channel), as well as Public Radio of Armenia and "ArmRadio FM 107" radio channel. As compared to the media coverage monitoring of 2012 parliamentary elections, a change took place in the list – “Shoghakat” TV channel was excluded. Even though it is a part of the Public TV and Radio Company and as such has a special mission, the previous monitoring of parliamentary elections has shown that it remains loyal to its profile – a TV channel of spiritual and cultural orientation – and does not cover the electoral campaign in any way. Instead of “Shoghakat”, "ArmRadio", the only 24-hours talk radio channel in the country, which pays priority attention to social and political processes, was included in the list of the media studied.
On the first stage of the monitoring of the presidential elections coverage, on the above-mentioned TV and radio channels all programmes of the evening airtime were studied (from 18:00 to 01:00), excluding political, commercial and social advertising. In the news/news and comment programmes all the cases of appearances of representatives of executive power or political parties were recorded; in discussion programmes (“guest in the studio” format) all guests were recorded, and in all programmes references to potential presidential candidates were recorded (including the attitude to these candidates in the context of their possible advancement).
Monitoring of the Armenian broadcast media coverage of political parties and potential presidential candidates during the period preceding the official election campaign is conditioned by the fact that usually the unofficial election campaign starts much sooner in Armenia than the one-month period of official election campaign preceding the voting day. The behaviour of the media during this period, especially the TV channels, which have the widest audience, to a large extent, defines the preferences of the electorate. Nevertheless, the activities of the media during the months, preceding the start of the official election campaign, are not regulated by the electoral legislation in any way, and only to a small extent receive attention of the international observers. Such researches allow to understand better the role of Armenian TV and radio channels in the political processes and to explore the issues that exist in the regulation of the activities of the broadcast media.
At the same time, the development of the pre-election situation in Armenia this time has its own specific features, given the ambiguity surrounding the main actors of the upcoming campaign. “Prosperous Armenia” party, which was the main contender of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia in the parliamentary elections of 2012, until recently has not made any public statement as to whether it would support the candidacy of the incumbent president or would put forward its own candidate, and in the latter case, who that candidate would be. This ambiguity influenced the pre-electoral behaviour of other political forces and potential presidential candidates, who also delayed their decisions nominating or endorsing any candidates. As a consequence, in October-November, the role of the media in preparing the citizens of Armenia for the elections was quite limited, which, in turn, does not allow the YPC monitoring team to make conclusions about the dominant trends of the coverage of the 2013 presidential campaign.
In the current interim report, the outcomes of the monitoring of the period from October 1 to November 20, 2012 are summed up.
THE LARGEST AMOUNT OF ATTENTION to internal political life within the given period was given by “Kentron”, “ArmNews”, “Yerkir Media” TV channels and Public Radio of Armenia (hereafter for the quantitative results of the monitoring see the YPC Interim Report tables). The least amount of attention was given by “Shant” and “Armenia” TV channels. The ambiguity of the pre-election “disposition” lead to the fact that in the most news/news and comment programmes of the media studied, representatives of various branches of the RA executive power appeared more often than representatives of political parties. “Kentron” and “Yerkir Media” were the exceptions, which can certify to the priority that the topic of elections and political competition have for these channels, compared to other spheres of the country’s life. However, starting from the second ten days period of November, i.e. closer to the elections, the same can be said about “ArmNews”, Second Armenian TV Channel and the Public Radio of Armenia. Meanwhile, the First Channel of PTA, “Armenia”, “Shant” and, to a lesser extent, "ArmRadio" still have not moved to the “pre-election mode”.
Five political forces were in the centre of attention of Armenian broadcasters: Republican Party of Armenia (RPA), “Bargavach Hayastan” (“Prosperous Armenia”) party, Armenian National Congress (ANC), Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutyun (ARF-Dashnaktsutyun) and “Zharangutiun” (“Heritage”) party. The sixth political force, represented in the Armenian parliament, “Orinats Yerkir” party, received substantially less attention than the leading five parties did. Various degrees of attention to parliamentary parties can be explained by the level of expectation of interesting developments in the electoral behaviour of the parties.
The distribution of attention towards the above-mentioned five parties can be described as mostly balanced. At the same time, as during the parliamentary campaign of 2012, two TV channels, “Kentron” and “Yerkir Media”, had clear “favourites”, “Prosperous Armenia” and ARF-Dashnaktsutyun, respectively. However, taking into account the activity of these channels in covering political life in general, it cannot be said that the excessive attention given to these parties was at the expense of the other players of Armenia’s political scene.
ALTOGETHER THROUGHOUT THE PERIOD OF THE MONITORING 33 politicians were mentioned in the capacity of potential presidential candidates. Most often, 387 times, it was the RA President Serzh Sargsian. Taking into account that he is the only politician, whose nomination has been announced with complete certainty, the leadership of the acting president, according to this criterion, can be considered natural. Among his potential competitors, the most often mentioned ones were “Heritage” leader Raffi Hovannisian (196 times), the First RA President Levon Ter-Petrosian (180), “Prosperous Armenia” leader Gagik Tsarukian (165), former Minister of Foreign Affairs Vardan Oskanian (131) and the Second RA President Robert Kocharian (86).
At the same time in October, as potential competitors of Serzh Sargsian, Vardan Oskanian and Gagik Tsarukian were mentioned more often. According to their cumulative result in October, these two “Prosperous Armenia” representatives were mentioned even more often than the incumbent president was. Candidacy of Vardan Oskanian most often was mentioned in the context of the criminal proceedings initiated against him. As this case stopped being an urgent topic for the media, the ex-minister was mentioned less frequently as a potential candidate: only 14 times during the first 20 days of November.
In November, Levon Ter-Petrosian and Raffi Hovannisian surpassed Gagik Tsarukian and Vardan Oskanian in terms of references as potential candidates. Moreover, within the whole period studied, as regards his nomination, the leader of “Heritage” had a positive balance of references, which was relatively similar to the incumbent president: 28 supportive references (or 14.3% of the total number of references to Raffi Hovannisian) against one negative (0.5%), while in case of the incumbent president the figures are 58 against 3 (15% and 0.8%), respectively. In case of Raffi Hovannisian, many supportive statements came in the context of the conflict with the partners in the parliamentary faction, the “Free Democrats” party, including the supportive statements of its leader Khachatur Kokobelian, which were repeated more than once. Serzh Sargsian received support in the statements of representatives of RPA, “Orinats Yerkir” and other supporters, calling him the most worthy candidate and expressing certainty with regard to the acting president’s victory. The absence of public support to the RA First President Levon Ter-Petrosian was mentioned in the media reports about the results of sociological surveys: the ANC leader received 9 references in a negative context, more than all other of the five potential candidates altogether.
THE STUDY OF THE LIST OF PARTICIPANTS of the discussion programmes, “guest in the studio” format, allows making a preliminary conclusion that the pre-election discussions have so far not become a priority for the majority of the media studied. In those cases when they actually refer to the presidential elections, they try to provide opportunities for expressing various positions. However, the stress is made on the forecast of the political situation development and circumstantial conflicts, rather than on urgent issues and content of the upcoming campaign. Probably, the only exception is provided by “Yerkir Media” and "ArmRadio", which time after time raise issues that the public expects to be solved by the future head of state.