On May 3 Yerevan Press Club released the Interim Report (April 18-27, 2012) on monitoring of Armenian broadcast media coverage of elections to RA National Assembly in 2012. Assistance to the YPC 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 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 stage of the monitoring includes the period of the pre-election promotion: April 8 – May 4, 2012. Data from the second ten days of this stage (April 18- 27) is summed up in the current report.
THE MONITORING includes 7 national TV channels – First Channel of the Public Television of Armenia (h1), “Shoghakat” (which is also a part of Public TV and Radio Company), “Armenia”, “Yerkir Media”, “Kentron”, Second Armenian TV Channel (h2), “Shant”; 1 Yerevan TV channel – “ArmNews” (the only broadcaster in Armenia which has a specific license of a news channel); as well as Public Radio of Armenia. The study included all programs aired at 18.00-01.00 on the above-mentioned TV and radio channels, with the exception of political (i.e. pre-election promotion materials), commercial and social advertisement.
Object of monitoring consisted of TV/radio pieces that included references to 9 parties and party bloc, registered by the RA Central Electoral Commission (CEC) for participation in the parliamentary elections by proportional electoral system. The airtime, allocated to these parties/bloc, frequency and connotations of references to them by the monitored media were recorded. (See the monitoring methodology in YPC Interim Report, Chapter “General Information on Monitoring”.)
ON THE WHOLE, during the second ten-day period of pre-election promotion the broadcast media studied provided equal conditions for political forces in order to present their programs and views to the electorate. In that respect, Armenian broadcasters demonstrate indisputable progress compared to the previous national elections. At the same time, quantitative data of the monitoring suggests that certain channels are not making the necessary effort for complying with the principle of balanced coverage of the election campaign.
One of the circumstances preventing the broadcasters from fulfilling their most important mission, i.e. assisting the citizens in making an informed and conscious choice, remains the electoral behavior of the politicians. The latter ones, as it has been done before, do not always inform the media about their pre-election campaign events, sometimes refrain from taking part in political debates and other discussion programs. Certain confusion remains with regard to events that directly represent a part of the electoral campaign, and those ones, in which the leaders of political forces appear not as party leaders, but in their official capacity – as high rank state officials.
THE HIGHEST DEGREE OF INTEREST to political forces, running in the elections, during the second ten days of the pre-election promotion, as in the first ten days, was displayed by “ArmNews” (hereafter for the quantitative results of the monitoring see the YPC Interim Report tables). Moreover, on this TV channel, as well as on Public Radio, the airtime allocated to parties/bloc was distributed in a more balanced way than on other channels. Besides, “ArmNews” had the lowest share of connotation references: 0.8% of the total number of the references on this channel.
As during the previous ten-day period, the closest to “ArmNews” in terms of attention to political forces were “Kentron” and “Yerkir Media”. On “Kentron” the volume of “pre-election airtime” was to some extent larger than on “Yerkir Media”, while “Yerkir Media” was somewhat ahead with regard to frequency of references to parties/bloc (in terms of this indicator “Kentron” was also behind Public Radio). However, in terms of balanced attention, the picture on these two TV channels is different compared to “ArmNews”. On “Kentron” “Prosperous Armenia” party received more than one third of the total airtime allocated to all 9 political forces, running in the elections. On “Yerkir Media” the gap between the leader who received the most airtime, Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutyun, and the other parties, was not so large.
The same broadcasters also had the highest share of connotation references: 7.5% on “Yerkir Media” and 7.3% on “Kentron”. Moreover, on “Kentron” 23 out of 24 positive references were received by “Prosperous Armenia”. On “Yerkir Media” all 25 positive references were distributed among two parties: ARF-Dashnaktsutyun (12 positive and no negative references) and “Prosperous Armenia” (13 positive and two negative references). At the same time, the balance of positive and negative references to the Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) was 0 and 9 on “Kentron”, and 0 and 6 on “Yerkir Media”.
By the way, for the first time, during all phases of the monitoring of Armenian broadcast media coverage of elections to RA National Assembly in 2012, RPA has an overall negative balance in terms of the aggregate number of connotation references on all studied channels: 14 positive against 30 negative references. And in general, the share of connotation references during the second ten-day period of the pre-election promotion (4.1% of the aggregate number of references on all studied channels) rose not only compared to the first ten days (3.1%) but also compared to March 2012 (3.8%). This was conditioned both by a rise in mutual value judgments by various political forces, as well as by different approaches of the broadcasters to the coverage of pre-election campaign events. In the case of some parties the journalists were taking blitz-interviews from participants of these events, thus giving the whole story a positive character, in other case such interviews were not practiced. In some cases the stories were characterized by upbeat mood and enthusiastic rhetoric (often coming from the authors of the piece), in other cases a neutral attitude was maintained, and in some cases one could detect a hint of irony. And though this does not always represent a sufficient basis for recording connotation references, the absence of a common approach of broadcasters to the coverage of pre-election campaign events of all political forces leads to a certain lack of balance.
DURING THE SECOND TEN DAYS OF PRE-ELECTION PROMOTION, as during the previous ten-day period, a quite intensive coverage of events, not connected to the electoral campaign, was recorded. The first and the third numbers of the RPA electoral list, RA President Serzh Sargsyan and RA Prime-Minister Tigran Sargsyan, were taking part in these events. The coverage of their non-party activities still continues to increase the airtime received by RPA on various channels by 20-30% on average. Thus, on the average, the non-party activities of these two high rank officials of Armenia are daily receiving 2-3 minutes of the evening airtime on each channel. This volume could have been considered acceptable, if these activities represented public events that could not have been delayed. However, in the majority of cases, these events could have been easily planned outside of the period of the pre-election promotion, or could have been covered in less volume. Especially, since there exists an unwritten rule: to ensure outmost equal conditions for holding pre-election promotion, leaders of the state, who take part in the election campaign, should reduce their public appearances, which are unconnected to the campaign, rather than increase their frequency.
As a result of excessive attention to above-mentioned events, the coverage of events not connected directly to the elections, in which the RA President or Prime-Minister were participating, comprised 52% of the total airtime allocated to RPA on Public Radio and 42.6% – on “Shant” TV channel. It is noteworthy that during the first ten-day period of pre-election promotion Public Radio displayed almost the same level of attention to non-party activities of the Republicans’ leaders (49.2%). Because of the above-mentioned stories, Republicans received a significant advantage on all studied channels compared to all other parties in terms of frequency of references. As for the airtime, allocated to non-party activities of political forces’ leaders, a similar situation was observed on “Kentron”, with regard to Gagik Tsarukyan, the first number of “Prosperous Armenia” electoral list and President of the National Olympic Committee of Armenia. On the studied evening airtime of “Kentron” the activities of Gagik Tsarukyan, as the Head of the NOC, received more attention, than was the whole airtime allocated to some parties on certain channels.
During the second ten days of pre-election promotion PTA First Channel, “Armenia”, Second Armenian TV Channel did not stand out in any specific way, which would require a special commentary. Another of the 9 studied broadcasters, “Shoghakat”, as during the previous stages of the monitoring, remained loyal to its profile – a TV channel of spiritual and cultural orientation. There were only 12 references to political parties/bloc within its programs included in the monitoring. Accordingly, the analysis and comparisons made within the current report do not refer to this broadcaster.
MORE DETAILED ANALYSIS of the quantitative data of the monitoring will be presented in the final report, which will be published after May 6, 2012.
The full YPC Interim Report (April 18-27, 2012), as well as reports for previous stages of monitoring are available here.