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17.12.2009

Pre-election flurry of paid “news” coverage

   

The closer the elections, the more Ukrainian television channels feed their viewers with political advertising masking as ordinary news. According to the results of a study, the record-breakers for “jeansa” or news coverage for money are the TV channels Inter and ICTV.

  Media experts note that before the elections politicians spend a fair whack of money on creating a positive image of themselves in the press. The civic organizations “Y-Media” found more than a hundred dubious features, presumably commissioned for a fee, on central TV channels in the first week of December.  While Inter and ICTV were, as mentioned, the worst offenders, TV Channel 5 was found to be clean of commissioned material.

  The crisis is raging, yet politicians have oodles of money ..

  The press keeps up with television in terms of amounts of concealed advertising. Media researcher Otar Dovzhenko mentions, for example, that presidential candidate Serhiy Tihiko has managed to get an interview or article into virtually all printed publications. The most flagrant, he says, was the journal Men’s Health which placed outside advertising “with a naked Tihiko” all over Ukraine.

  Although concealed advertising in the media is prohibited, nobody forces journalists to adhere to the law, Otar Dovzhenko points out. TV channels and newspapers during the pre-election stage virtually live off paid news reports. Journalists are not ashamed of their venality, he adds. “It’s absolutely open and totally cynical. Journalists consider that they also have to live,  there’s a crisis out there, yet politicians have oodles of money so why shouldn’t they get their bit?

  Otar believes that any coverage by journalists of the election campaign can be viewed as commissioned. “It isn’t the function of news to cover campaigning. Any reports on campaign trips, any statements, promises which appear in information programmes are, as a rule, commissioned.” Or, he adds, evidence that journalists do not understand their role.

  There is no formal proof that a journalist has breached the principles of his or her profession, since everything is done unofficially. However it’s pretty easy for specialists to recognize “jeansa” with their lack of balance, presentation of only one party’s side in conflict, and unchallenged value judgments, Otar Dovzhenko explains.

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