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.
Full YPC Interim Report (March 1-10, 2012).
The video on YPC Interim Report’s presentation, made by “A1+” TV company on March 20, 2012, watch here
On March 22 the “Yerkri Demky” (“Face of the Country”) cycle of pre-election debates went on the evening air of “Yerkir Media” TV company. The cycle is produced by Yerevan Press Club under “Alternative Resources in Media” project, supported by USAID.
The guests of talk show host YPC President Boris Navasardian were Jasmina Ghevondian, Board member of Democratic Party of Armenia, and Armen Arakelian, Board member of “Free Democrats” party. The participants discussed the issues of healthcare system, the inclusion of civil society members in parties’/blocs’ electoral lists, the foreign policy preferences of DPA and “Free Democrats”, their possible membering of parliamentary coalitions in case of being elected to RA National Assembly (ballot will take place on May 6, 2012).
The next “Face of the Country” will be aired on “Yerkir Media” on Thursday, March 29 at 18.15 (rerun - on Monday, April 2 at 16.15).
Watch the “Face of the Country” of March 22, 2012 here
In the evening of March 15 another talk show of “Press Club+” cycle went live on “Hrazdan” TV company. The theme of the program was the coverage of electoral processes in new media. The “Press Club+” is produced by Yerevan Press Club in cooperation with regional TV companies under “Alternative Resources in Media” project, supported by USAID. Upcoming parliamentary elections were also discussed at the meeting with journalistic community, NGO and political party representatives, held on the same day in Hrazdan.
Watch “Press Club+” of March 15, 2012 here
On March 20 another program of “E-Club” weekly cycle went on the online broadcast of “A1+” TV company (www.a1plus.am). The “E-Club” is produced by Yerevan Press Club in cooperation with “A1+” TV under “Alternative Resources in Media” project, supported by USAID.
The program was devoted to Internet resources about space. Particularly, the programs of Google Sky, Microsoft Worldwide Telescope, NASA website (www.nasa.gov) were presented. One of the plots told about the portable digital planetarium, opened in Yerevan. The news bloc of “E-Club” informed that while Apple head Steve Wozniak with his wife is in line at a store to buy an iPad3, hackers have already found a way to jailbreak it. The ratings of online sources and headlines of last week were presented by astrologist Alina Dertsian. The web sources’ top list was headed by the http://nashavselenaya.blogspot.com, while the most popular topic was the protest actions to hinder cutting down of trees and construction at the Mashtots Avenue park of Yerevan.
The next “E-Club” will be aired on “A1+” on Tuesday, March 27 at 15.50 (rerun - on Thursday, March 29 at 18.20).
The amendments’ package to RA Law “On Television and Radio” was submitted to circulation at RA National Assembly. As it has been reported, the draft law “On Introducing Amendments and Supplements to RA Law ‘On Television and Radio’” was developed by the working group on reforming the broadcast legislation, regulating the process of switching from analogue to digital broadcast in Armenia, formed by the RA Human Rights Defender in 2010. On May 31, 2011 the document was submitted to the parliament, and the working group stopped its activities. On June 15, 2011 the heads of the three media NGO-members of the group, Nouneh Sarkissian, Managing Director of Internews, YPC President Boris Navasardian and Arzuman Harutiunian, President of Audio-Visual Reporters Association, released a statement. The latter noted that the version of the draft, presented to the parliament, is imperfect, and the shutdown of the WG activities is premature: “The draft contains a number of important clauses that were not properly addressed and still require a thorough discussion and analysis. Suggestions and recommendations provided by the experts, including the feedback from the Council of Europe and OSCE, were not considered in full and completely. Such a situation questions the initial key objective of our activities, which is to contribute to the adoption of a perfectly worked out law by the RA National Assembly.” The statement authors emphasized that they will continue their activities over the improvement of the draft and they would submit it to the RA National Assembly in a separate package. In this regard, the heads of the three media NGOs addressed to the RA NA Standing Committee on Science, Education, Culture, Youth and Sport requesting to postpone any possible discussion on the draft. On November 4, 2011 the revised amendments to the Broadcast Law were presented to the Standing Committee, where on December 15, 2011 the draft was discussed (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, December 9-15, 2011).
Yerevan Press Club will soon comment on the draft law submitted into circulation.
On March 16 National Commission on Television and Radio (NCTR) released the methodology on monitoring the ensuring by Armenian TV and radio companies of equal conditions for candidates and parties/blocs running in the election to RA National Assembly by majoritarian or proportional systems. The NCTR monitoring is implemented in compliance with RA Electoral Code. Results of the monitoring and NCTR conclusions are to be published and presented to the Central Electoral Commission on the 10th and 20th days of pre-election promotion (e.g. on April 17 and 27, 2012), as well as two days before of the announcement of the official ballot results (before May 11, 2012).
The methodology particularly envisages a scanning of the TV and radio programs, study of information provided by broadcasters, received from candidates/parties (blocs), state bodies, public and international organizations, as well as analysis of media pieces on electoral legislation violations by broadcasters.
During the monitoring of paid and free airtime, allocated to candidates/parties (blocs) for pre-election promotion, NCTR will asses: the invariability of tariffs, announced by broadcasters for political advertising, throughout the whole official campaign; broadcasters’ compliance with the non-discrimination principle while allocating air and time for broadcasting promotional materials of candidates/parties (blocs); lawfulness of justifications for airtime denial of broadcasting promotional materials.
NCTR will also track the broadcasters’ compliance with other legislative provisions:
- the ban imposed on employees of TV and radio companies, registered as MP candidates, to cover the electoral campaign or host any program;
- the obligation of unbiased and factual reporting on promotional events, as well as the requirement to respect the principles of equality and non-discrimination towards all candidates/parties (blocs) at all news and current affair programs;
- during the pre-election promotion, while reporting on the activities of candidates’, who hold political, discretionary, civil offices, respect the provisions of Article 22 of RA Electoral Code that oblige these candidates not to use the office to their advantage;
- providing equal conditions for airtime allotment to all candidates/parties (blocs);
- ensuring journalistic impartiality at programs hosting candidates/parties (blocs), or their representatives;
- the presence of promotional elements (reference to candidates/parties (blocs), their activities, pre-election platforms, calls on voting “for” or “against”, etc.), as well as demonstration of parties’ slogans and symbols at programs not covering the elections (films, video clips, audio tapes, commercial advertising, etc.);
- the compliance with legislative requirements while publishing/releasing survey results on candidates/parties(blocs) ratings, including with the ban on releasing exit poll results before the closure of electoral precincts;
- the prohibition of broadcasting promotional materials on the ballot day and the day preceding it;
The full version of NCTR monitoring methodology is available in Armenian at www.tvradio.am.
On March 15 at the session of RA Central Electoral Commission the Journalists’ Accreditation Procedure at the CEC (approved on January 31, 2012) was amended. As it has been reported, on March 7 five journalistic organizations, including YPC, released a statement calling CEC to revise some provisions of the Procedure. Particularly, the media community was concerned with the two reasons for denying or terminating accreditation, prescribed in Articles 9 and 11 of the Procedure: if a journalist “has disseminated untrue information about the activities of the electoral commissions (official figures)” or “was condemned for premeditated crime and his/her convictions are not expired or expunged” (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, March 2-8, 2012).
At the March 15 session CEC held the above-mentioned provisions invalid. As the CEC informed YPC, at the moment the new text of the Procedure is sent to RA Ministry of Justice for official registration. At the same time, CEC noted that none of the journalists was denied accreditation.
On March 21 RA National Assembly approved the final package of the draft laws “On Legal Regime of State of Emergency”, “On Introducing Supplements to RA Code of Administrative Offences”, and “On Introducing A Supplement to ‘RA NA Regulations’”. As it has been reported, the package, passed in first hearing on March 1, specifically the draft “On Legal Regime of State of Emergency” set as a measure of state of emergency “the restriction of freedom of expression, particularly, a ban on some publications, programs in media” (P.12, Art.7). The RA Code of Administrative Offences was suggested to supplement with a new Article 182.2. Point 8 of this Article imposed a fine in the amount of the 500-fold to 800-fold of a minimum wage for issuing a banned publication/program during state of emergency (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, March 2-8, 2012).
YPC will return to the approved amendments after their official publication.
On March 16 Yerevan Press Club received the response of National Commission on Television and Radio to its query of March 5 on provision of information about two legal cases in which NCTR is involved.
One of the suits was lodged by NCTR against the founder of “ArpaInform” regional TV company, “ArpaInform” LLC (Vayots Dzor). On December 22, 2011 NCTR had filed the RA Administrative Court of Vedi demanding to cancel the broadcast license granted to “ArpaInform” LLC on January 10, 2011, since the company has not been broadcasting throughout six months. The suit was submitted to consideration on January 9, 2012 and was secured on February 6. YPC demanded NCTR to inform whether the ruling was contested. The NCTR letter noted that as of March 12 (date of response) “RA Administrative Court of Appeal has not notified NCTR about any appeal”.
It should be noted that one of the points of Article 48 of RA Law “On Television and Radio” binds NCTR to publish the full list of frequencies “upon necessity, but at least once a year” and announce competitions for free frequencies. Thus, once the court ruling on canceling the broadcast license of “ArpaInform” enters into force, a competition for regional TV channels of general profile in Vayots Dzor region must be announced.
The second suit was lodged versus NCTR by 14 students of Law Faculty of Yerevan State University. The matter of the suit became the results of monitoring some Armenian TV channels, implemented by the students in 2011. The study had revealed violations of advertising legislation, particularly by “Armenia” TV channel. The plaintiffs demanded to uphold the inaction of NCTR as unlawful, oblige it to make an official warning to the “Armenia” founder, “Armenia TV” CJSC, as well as prohibit the broadcasting of unfair advertising. The suit was taken into consideration by RA Administrative Court on May 18, 2011, hearings started on July 12, 2011. The ruling had to be released on February 15, 2012, however YPC did not manage to get an official information about it. In the request to NCTR, YPC demanded to provide information on the substance of the ruling. As the NCTR response stressed, as of March 12 “the Commission has not been duly notified about the ruling rendered by RA Administrative Court”. NCTR also noted that the issue of filing an appeal will be considered after receiving the court ruling. Meanwhile, reportedly the suit has been secured.
On March 20 Gavar court of general jurisdiction of Gegharquniq region partially secured the suit of Gegharquniq Governor Nver Poghosian versus “Zhoghovurd” founder, “Editorial Office of ‘Zhoghovurd’ Daily” LLC, and newspaper correspondent Anna Torosian. As it has been reported, Nver Poghosian had contested the article “The Governor Took a Bribe”, published in “Zhoghovurd” on October 7, 2011. The plaintiff demanded to refute the information that discredited his honor and dignity, as well as to compensate 2,5 mln AMD (over $ 6,500): 2 mln - as a moral damage compensation, and 500,000 - court costs. The hearings on the case started on November 17, 2011. On November 28, 2011 founder of “Zhoghovurd” lodged a counter-suit on the protection of honor, dignity and business reputation, demanding the Governor to apologize and compensate the moral loss with 1 luma, the smallest Armenian currency (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, November 25 - December 1, 2011).
At the March 20 session court revoked the counter-suit and partially secured Nver Poghosian’s suit. The court obliged “Zhoghovurd” to publish a refutation, abridging the amount of financial claims to 200,000 AMD (by 100,000 from each - the moral loss and court expenses).
On March 15 court of general jurisdiction of Kentron and Nork-Marash administrative districts of Yerevan revoked the suit of Freedom of Information Center versus universal credit company “Small and Medium Investments” CJSC (“SMB Investments”). As it has been reported, on December 23, 2011 FOI Center went to law, when the “SMB Investments” denied providing full information on legal and physical entities that received loans from state funds, alleging a commercial secret. The plaintiff demanded to bind the respondent with providing the requested information fully and imposing a fine on the head of “SMB Investments” in the amount of 50,000 AMD (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, March 2-8, 2012).
FOI Center announced about its intention to appeal the court ruling.
On March 16 another issue of the online newsletter of “Alternative Resources in Media” project was released. The program is jointly implemented by Internews Network (USA), Eurasia Partnership Foundation, Yerevan Press Club and Internews Media Support public organization with the assistance of USAID. Launched in 2010, the four-year project aims at enhancing and improving access to pluralistic and unbiased information in Armenia through traditional and alternative media using new information technologies.
The sixth issue of the newsletter introduces to the activities administered within the “Alternative Resources in Media” project.
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Editor of YPC Newsletter - Elina POGHOSBEKIAN