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25.08.2010

TV: More and more subjects avoided, less and less balance

   

Telekritika’s weekly monitoring of television news is increasingly difficult to report as the number of topics simply ignored by the majority of television channels increases. 

Statistics for July showed a worsening in the situation as against June, although the basic trends remained the same, except that ICTV is increasingly showing more material arousing suspicions that it has been commissioned, whereas “1 + 1” is showing less.  The latter channel’s journalists were the first to issue a statement of protest back in May over censorship on their channel.

The two with a consistently high number of potentially commissioned news items are Inter, owned by the media magnate and Head of the Security Service [SBU], Valery Khoroshkovsky, and the State-owned First National TV Channel [UTV-1].

Table 1: The number of items of a socio-political nature which showed signs of having been commissioned (censorship)

Channel

July

June

ICTV

99

78

Inter

96

91

National TV – UTV1

83

83

«1+1»

60

76

Channel 5

41

35

Novy Kanal

29

25

“Ukraina”

26

21

STB

17

15

Telekritika notes that the three “leaders” as regards commissioned material – ICTV, Inter and the State-owned UTV1, extremely often cover events linked with the actions of those in power, with very similar features and identical violations of standards. This could indicate that the actions of the channels at the commissioning of representatives of bodies of power are coordinated. This would be confirmed by the fact that these same channels are usually silent on the same topics or aspects of them.

The channels are continuing two basic lines, the same as reported earlier: positive information about those in power, and negative about any opposition.  “Opposition” is understood very loosely as any protests by members of the public even when not linked to political organizations, critical comments from experts or NGOs.  In July the first line – positive coverage of those in power – dominated.

Table 2: The number of commissioned (censored) pieces of material

Channel

Positive or neutral material about those in power without balance of views

Negative material about the opposition without balance of views

Inter

91

9

ICTV

90

8

National TV – UTV1

78

9

«1+1»

57

7

Channel 5

41

3

Novy Kanal

28

1

STB

25

3

Channel 5

15

2

NB The total amount does not necessarily tally with the figures in Table 1 since some material can follow both lines at the same time.

Table 3:  The types of infringements committed to carry out a political commission

Channel

Infringement of balance of opinions

Infringement of standards regarding full information

Failure to separate fact and opinion

Infringements of standards of accuracy

Infringements of standards of exactness

Inter

98

96

24

9

7

ICTV

96

95

20

9

5

National TV – UTV1

83

81

20

7

4

«1+1»

65

60

16

7

2

Channel 5

40

39

5

3

1

“Ukraina”

27

27

3

1

1

Novy Kanal

28

28

9

4

2

STB

16

16

1

1

1

The trends have not changed. The commissioners’ aims are achieved mainly by infringing balance of opinion, with opponents of the regime seldom given a chance to speak, and experts even less often; by not providing comprehensive information with important details, vital background, avoided. Other infringements are not used so intensively. 

A considerable role continues to be plaid by avoidance of issues or their components (the position and arguments of particular sides, expert assessments, specific facts and background) where their publication could be inconvenient for the authorities.

[the section on business-linked commissioned materials and relevant table are omitted here]

Table 5: The number of topics, views, facts or backgrounds avoided

Channel

July

June

National TV – UTV1

253

170

Inter

248

171

ICTV

228

169

Novy Kanal

227

162

STB

211

159

“Ukraina”

211

153

«1+1»

207

141

Channel 5

182

127

The number of items avoided increased significantly in July on most channels, mainly in the coverage of the two key themes of the month – the visit by Patriarch Kyril of Moscow (the Head of the Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate) and the rise in the price of gas for the population.  With regard to the Patriarch’s visit, the position of the Kyiv Patriarchate was hushed up, while with respect to the second theme there was a lack of necessary expert opinions and important background, such as the promises given by the authorities to not increase communal tariffs.

Conclusions

The main trends remained the same, with the number of items avoided continuing to rise.

As during the previous month there was a large number of “protocol items” about meetings, press conferences, various utterances by the President, members of his Administration, the Cabinet of Ministers and the ruling coalition. On contentious issues, the opposition seldom gets a chance to put their point of view, and not on all channels. The opposition’s views can be heard, although not always, on STB, Channel 5 and “Ukraina”; more rarely on “1 + 1” and Novy Kanal.  The position of opponents of the regime is almost entirely avoided on First National TV, Inter and ICTV.

It should be noted that most channels hush up information about numerous protests by different groups of the population against the actions of the authorities, both central and local.

Table 6: The number of protest actions; bans on such protests as well as the action of the police in blocking them and detaining their participants, which received no coverage

Inter

47

National TV – UTV1

43

ICTV

41

Novy Kanal

38

«1+1»

35

STB

34

Channel 5

31

“Ukraina”

29

Particular attention should be paid to avoidance by most channels of any facts linked with encroachments on freedom of speech. In a democratic society the press cannot be silent about such cases. It is not just a matter of solidarity, but of a fundamental value of democracy since without freedom of speech society is misinformed. From all the channels only Channel 5 attempts to cover it, with occasional mention also from STB and Novy Kanal.  The others totally ignore the issue.

Table 7:  The number of times channels said nothing on issues linked with infringements of freedom of speech.

National TV – UTV1

25

Inter

25

ICTV

25

«1+1»

23

«Ukraina»

23

Novy Kanal

19

STB

19

Channel 5

13

Key themes in July

1.  Coverage of the visit by the Moscow Patriarch from 20-28 July. These were largely in similar stile, reporting events and Kyril’s own views, and generally in very complimentary tone.  Most channels totally avoided any coverage of the opinions of Kyril’s opponents  (despite the latter’s extremely contentious views and the number of other churches in Ukraine – translator).

2.  Increase in gas tariffs for the population. Although some channels did interview members of the opposition, not one attempted a full study of the issue and the positions of political opponents.  Nobody, for example, checked the government’s statements that people were paying on 60-80% of “economically justified” tariffs.  First National TV, Inter and STB assiduously avoided anything which could be inconvenient for the regime, including Yanukovych’s promise that the Kharkiv accords would make it possible to not raise tariffs. Virtually nobody asked the person on the street what he or she thought.

These infringements indicate censorship of this subject by editors and channel managers.

Numerous reports about various allocations by the government of money from the reserve fund for eliminating the consequences of various natural or manmade disasters were flawed in their form. The information was presented by journalists as thought the government was being beneficent which is, of course, not the case.

 

The monitoring is carried out as part of a project of the Internews Network “U-Meida” on journalist standards. It is being carried out jointly by Telekritika and the Institute for Mass Information.

Somewhat abridged and / or supplemented, but with no change to the monitoring results, from the full report at http://www.telekritika.ua/medialiteracy/2010-08-12/54988

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