Pro-government candidates’ promotion “routinely”
The week before local elections, almost all the oblast subsidiaries of NTVCU embraced by monitoring produced the items devoted to the coming declaration of will of their compatriots. Most of the news informed of the course of the election campaign, revealed the infringements of electoral laws etc. However, as experts reckon, the information was not sufficient: there was too little attention paid to the specific character of this year voting, i.e. how a common man could cope with the bulletins of a new format. Therefore, the educational role, which was in particular put on the public broadcasters, was not performed satisfactory by the channels.
Instead, the broadcasters were directly or indirectly giving voice to political parties and their candidates for self-promotion. For example, Chernivtsi TV company twice promoted “Vidrodzhennia” and “Svoboda”; Dnipropetrovsk TV company reported the results of a strange social survey, announcing Oleksandr Vilkul as a leader of the mayor race; Volyn TV company broadcasted the promotional theses of the leaders of “Svoboda” and “Narodnyi Kontrol,” and the people’s deputies of “Samopomich,” thus helping political heavyweights to promote their teammates to local councils.
However, the most cunning jeansa of the monitoring period was that of the ruling party, in favour of the “latently” promoted candidates of Petro Poroshenko’s Bloc “Solidarity.” At least six out of ten OSTVRCs broadcasted the items in this or that way mentioning the officials nominated from the PPB. They opened the overhauled hospital departments and kindergartens, restored churches, post offices, and new foundries. By whimsical coincidence, all of these events took place just before the elections.
The channels’ “sympathy” for particular officials taking part in the elections is overwhelming. For example, Serhiy Ryzhenko, the chief medical officer of the Dnipropetrovsk regional hospital and the PPB nominee for Dnipropetrovsk regional council, somehow or other appeared in the news of regional television eight (!) times during five days of the last week of the election campaign!
And, of course, ineradicable jeansa in favour of the government with the slogan “she works” borrowed from Tymoshenko. It is also complemented by irrelevant items on the actions of the chief officials. Another problem is unreasonably high attention to the national officials. For example, Poltava TV company produced as many as three items devoted to the head of the Ministry of Justice visiting the region in the same news release.
In the meantime, the total amount of the news featuring sponsorship was rather different on different channels: from the absolute absence of jeansa in the news of the Sumy OSTVRC to one third of the items in Vinnytsia and Dnipropetrovsk fixed by monitors. The weighted average of the 10 TV channels was 17.6%, which thus has grown since the previous monitoring period.
It is enjoyable to note that the weighted integrated average of the adherence to information journalism standards has grown to 4.22 out of 6 possible and against 4.09 at the beginning of October. Two channels, Sumy and Kharkiv OSTVRC, have mounted the barrier of 5 points. The lowest quality of news, according to the experts, was demonstrated by the journalists of Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizhia OSTVRCs.
Just as before, the most frequently violated standards were the balance of thoughts, separating facts from comments, and the completeness of information.
According to the monitors, the amount of items featuring sponsorship on the air of the channel made up 35%, or 18 out of 51 news pieces analyzed. The rate of the adherence to information journalism standards makes up 3.94 points out of 6 possible.
The experts fix the essential growth of socially important items on local problems; still, the priority is given to “parquet” events. Besides, several materials favouring particular politicians have been fixed. Twelve (!) of them picture PPB nominees to city and regional councils as well as the acting mayor of Vinnytsia Serhiy Morgunov, a candidate from the party “Vinnytsia European Strategy” standing for mayor’s position.
It goes without saying that not all the items picturing the nominee officials can be treated as political jeansa. The experts paid attention to the materials, in which the officials’ comments were more like pre-election slogans rather than being informative.
DNIPROPETROVSK, “Dnipropetrovskyi Derzhavnyi”
The amount of conventional jeansa on the air of the channel has “stuck” at the level of 30% of the content: 14 out of 46 items analyzed by the experts have caused their criticism; 12 of them feature political sponsorship. The rate of the adherence to journalism standards in the news has fallen from 3.4 to 3.38 points out of 6 possible.
The election process was directly reported in eight items. The news pieces were about a candidate being beaten; exploitation of the elections for levy; voting in medical institutions; forecasts on the course of the elections; psychological impact of the pre-election agitation; measures taken to provide the order at the polling stations; violation of the election laws.
Some of them included violation of journalism standards; others made up disguised agitation. Eloquent examples are the items “Dangerous politics” and “Call-up papers at the elections” of October 20. Relying upon the version of the mayoral candidate Yuri Pomazan and providing no other evidence, the first item reports that he was beaten just because of his political activities. The comment on the victim’s state is given by Serhiy Ryzhenko, the PPB “Solidarnist” nominee for the regional council (who, meanwhile, appears on the air almost every day), although the comment could be given by a surgeon who examined the victim:
“Vitaliy Lysenko, the anchorman: Dangerous politics. Since the first days, he’s been defending his land from the enemy. He survived Illovaisk, and survived after bombardments. But he was impudently attacked in peaceful Dnipropetrovsk. A mayoral candidate Yuriy Pomazan was beaten just in broad daylight. The victim was interviewed by our journalists (…).”
Same as in the two previous waves of monitoring, the experts have revealed the features of sponsorship in every fifth news piece of the channel (21%), or in 9 out of 42 analyzed items. The level of adherence to professional standards of Zaporizhia OSTVRC news has grown a bit and makes up 3.4 points out of 6 possible.
Local elections did not leave the air of the channel; the news items on this problem were predominantly about the election rights of specific categories and official messages of militia concerning the violation of election legislation. The experts note that during the monitoring period there were no materials which would directly promote the interests of any political force or candidates.
However, the closer the elections, the more news pieces featuring pro-governmental sponsorship appeared. The most frequently shown personality in these materials was the head of the regional state administration. Although he did not agitate for any party himself, he was the representative of the current power, thus shaping public opinion.
LUTSK, “Nova Volyn”
7 out of 36 news pieces of the channel analyzed by the monitors, or 19% (against 14% at the beginning of October), were featuring sponsorship. The integrated average of the adherence to professional standards of information journalism during the monitoring period has made up 3.94 points out of 6 possible.
All the materials featuring sponsorship and selected by the experts dealt with the protocol events of the power representatives or pre-election tours of the politicians. For example, these were the items “The people’s deputy Ihor Guz meets with the dwellers of Volyn,” “The leader of the All-Ukrainian Union “Svoboda” Oleg Tyahnybok comes to Lutsk on a duty visit,” “The people’s deputies hold a press conference in Lutsk,” and “The press conference of the people’s deputy Dmytro Dobrodomov.”
Moreover, the information was often selective in the items listed above. For example, in the report of October 19, the journalist was speaking about the visit of Oleh Tyahnybok and mentioned what party the politician belonged to. In the report of October 20, the journalist was speaking about the visit of the people’s deputy Dmytro Dobrodomov, and his belonging to the party “Narodnyi Kontrol” was evident from the banner behind the speaker. Meanwhile, the people’s deputies of “Samopomich” Olena Sotnyk and Ivan Miroshnychenko were not so lucky. The operator and the editor have selected such angles, from which the banner of their political party could not be seen by the audience, and the journalist did not mention the name either.
In addition, all the items on the visits have no background of the event: who are these people, why are they in Lutsk now, how many adherents of theirs stand for local council or other positions, and do the visitors know these numbers at all?
On the other hand, there was no promotion of the pro-presidential party and no items involving the representatives of local authorities, who stand for deputies’ positions.
The experts have found out that 7 out of 51 materials under analysis of the monitoring period feature sponsorship, i.e. 14% of the content. The adherence to professional standards is at the level of 4.65 points.
The week before the local elections, the OSTVRC began to adhere to the standards of information journalism more diligently. The amount of the materials featuring sponsorship fell, too. Still, the main problems are the “parquet” materials devoted to the chief officials of the state.
Same as before, the OOSTVRC does not pay much attention to the preparation for local elections (there were review items referencing official sources and election process observers) and avoids mentioning the candidates and political forces. The amount of the materials promoting Mikheil Saakashvili, the head of the Odesa regional state administration, has essentially fallen.
During the monitoring period, the experts have analyzed 47 materials broadcasted by the television and radio company “Ltava.” Six out of them, or 13%, feature political sponsorship. No materials featuring commercial sponsorship were revealed. The adherence to professional standards of information journalism makes up 4.34 points out of 6 possible.
The experts treated all the materials featuring sponsorship as political jeansa. These were the materials on the actions of the functionaries of regional state administration and officials.
The experts have not revealed any item featuring sponsorship in the news of the channel during the three out of four waves of monitoring, just as well as during the week from October 19 to October 23. The level of adherence to the standards of information journalism was 5.15 points out of 6 possible, which is permanently the best index among all the channels monitored by the experts.
During the monitoring period, the experts have analyzed 20 items of the Sumy OSTVRC in total and found no features of sponsorship. Taking into consideration that the elections were approaching, three out of twenty items were, nevertheless, devoted to the election race (if not to take to account short message one paragraph long announced by the anchorwoman in the studio).
Two out of three items devoted to elections can be characterized by the completeness of information and the adherence to standards. The items “The members of the Civic Movement “Chesno” in Sumy tell about their own pre-election research” and “They give away the bulletins in the Sumy city election committee” received 6 points each out of 6 possible.
In the meantime, the third item “Multicoloured sheets, with names, surnames, and parties on each”, which was on the air on October 22, violated the standards of information accuracy and completeness, because the journalist reported the information with a mistake: “This time, you will vainly look for a non-party candidate [in the bulletin], as all the councils are shaped by proportional system.” As is generally known, self-nominated candidates could stand for village and settlement councils.
The fourth wave of monitoring revealed an abrupt decrease of news featuring sponsorship on the TV channel “Tysa-1” – to 11%. The dynamics of adherence to journalism standards is also positive: from 4.17 points at the beginning of the month to 4.31 points the week before the elections.
As for the materials on the local elections, their amount was twice bigger than in the previous weeks of the monitoring. In particular, these were an item of October 20 on the bulletins spoilt because of the mistake in the name of “Samopomich” party; a material of October 21 on the unsuccessful attempts of the Civic Movement “Chesno” activists to find out the financial component of the pre-election campaign of probable mayors and deputies; a news piece of the same date on the lawmen’s training for elections.
Most of the materials of that kind were on the air on Friday, October 23. These were the items on the detection of propaganda materials of different candidates thrown in one of the Uzhhorod streets; new voting bulletins being delivered to Uzhhorod; investigation of the bribery of voters during these year campaign; and the action of the Civic Movement “Chesno” intended to inform the citizens of the mayoral candidates and nominees.
Apart from that, the channel has managed to reduce the amount of the materials featuring sponsorship almost threefold. In total, there were four materials criticized by the monitors, while no news piece featuring commercial sponsorship was revealed on the air of “Tysa-1” at all. The reprimands of the monitors were referred to the items picturing officials of different ranks.
During the monitoring period, the experts have analyzed 43 news items of the OTB channel. Only four of them, or 9%, featured sponsorship. Since the previous wave of the monitoring, the level of adherence to journalism standards has changed for better: from 4.45 points to 5.09 out of 6 possible.
The items under criticism were three “parquet” materials and one news piece featuring disguised propaganda.
It seems important to underline that the journalists of the Kharkiv State Television Company have almost withdrawn their attention from the election campaign during the monitoring weeks of October, when the agitation campaign was in full swing. Actually, no item on the elections, candidates’ activities or political parties was fixed in the news. On the one hand, the State TV Company was “playing safe,” but on the other hand, the journalists have not fulfilled one of their main professional functions, awareness. They did not explain it to the audience according to what law the local elections would take place; did not inform of the rights and functions of the subject and objects of the election process etc. According to the experts, it was a negative phenomenon and the withdrawal of the most important subject for the entire Ukraine.
During the monitoring period, the experts have analyzed 37 items of the OSTVRC “Bukovyna.” Nine of them feature sponsorship with the level of “jeansa” making up 24% (against 13% during the third wave). Seven of them had political component, including one pro-governmental “parquet” material; two of them had commercial component. The adherence to professional standards was at the level of 4.32 points out of 6 possible.
The experts have fixed the growth of materials featuring sponsorship during the last pre-election week. It was, in particular, a “parquet” item, exposing the head of the regional council in the news release of October 20. The material consisted only of the anchorman’s lead-in and a sync of the speaker.
The generalized monitoring of the materials featuring sponsorship (or censorship) and adherence to professional standards in the news of regional state television and radio companies of Vinnytsia, Volyn, Dnipropetrovsk, Zakarpattia, Zaporizhia, Odesa, Poltava, Sumy, Kharkiv, and Chernivtsi oblasts for October 19-23, 2015.
We remind that the results of mass media monitoring make up evaluative judgements according to the article 47-1 of the Law of Ukraine “On Information” and are not official.
Monitoring of the adherence to professional standards in the performance of OSTVRCs’ information services is conducted by NGO Telekritika within the Programme of the Council of Europe “Strengthening Information Society in Ukraine” under financial support of the European Union and the Council of Europe. Monitoring aims at raising media awareness of the Ukrainian society, stimulating media to responsibility, the adherence to journalist standards, and raising media product quality.