Rights issues on the periphery of Ukraine’s television news
The enforcement structures dominate the news which can demonstrate the country’s slipping into authoritarianism.
At the end of 2010 and first part of 2011 there was virtually no discussion on the television news of the issue of freedom of speech, the functioning of the media and work of journalists, human rights or the work of civic organizations. There were also very few features concerning increase in prices and inflation, bribe-taking and corrupt (each being around 2%). This can be seen in the results of research carried out by the Academy of Ukrainian Press with scholars from the Academy of Sciences Institute of Sociology. The study was made on the basis of content analysis of the main Ukrainian television channels in December 2010; February and April 2011 as part of a U-Media Project.
The Head of the Academy of Ukrainian Press, Valeriy Ivanov points out that the main channels follow the same strategy in prime time news as in other programmes. People’s attention is distracted from political events to entertainment.
In April only 24% of the reports on news programmes concerned political events in Ukraine (against 14% in February and 22% in December). Over the last 5 years only in October 2006 was this percentage the same as in December and never as low as in February. There is most political news on STB (32%) and the least on 1 + 1 (18%) where there is half as little; in February even three times less.
Another point of interest is the domination in the news of the enforcement structures (16% in April; 23% in February; 19% in December). This is greater even than attention on the President. Attention to political parties made up only 13% (2% in February). Analysts believe that this can demonstrate that the country is totally slipping into authoritarianism. In a democracy it is normal to have heightened attention to the activities of political parties since it is they who after the elections determine the strategies and stresses towards the development of the country. For authoritarian regimes there is typically heightened attention to the enforcement agencies which can expert pressure and use repression, as well as little attention to political parties which do not in essence change anything.
The study showed a significant imbalance in coverage of political figures. 76% of all mentions pertain to members of the government and ruling coalition; 16% - the opposition and 8% - other politicians. This disproportion is, furthermore, on the increase. Natalya Kostenko from the Institute of Sociology points out also that members of the government do not face negative assessments whereas the value judgements with respect to the opposition are pretty negative.
The disproportion in favour of those in power and the ruling coalition is most flagrant on the First National TV Channel, or UTV-1 which is State-owned and therefore funded by the taxpayer. .
This was 85% in April; 97% in February; 73% in December. The opposition received 11 % in April, 20 % in December. In February it was not mentioned at all.
Similar disproportion on all channels is seen in the commentaries accompanying news features. In April 74% of the direct speech came from members of the government; 16% from the opposition and 10% from other politicians. In February the asymmetry was even more pronounced: 84% against 14% for the opposition and 2% other politicians. Most often heard are President Yanukovych; Prime Minister Azarov (37% in April; 36% in February and 28% in December). The percentage of mentions of Yulia Tymoshenko came to 4% in April and in December, while in February the leader of the opposition Batkivshchyna Party was not heard at all on UTV-1.
For the first time since 2005 monitoring found a positive trend with increase in the number of items reported from different points of view: 23% in April against 19% in February and 18% in December. STB had the greatest balance in news broadcasts (30% in April and 27% in both February and December). The least balance was on UTV-1.
The researchers identified specific features of news broadcasting on each channel. UTV-1 was positioning itself as the channel of official news with the least balanced distributing of attention and the divide between different politicians. on Channel Ukraina, owned by millionaire Akhmetov, and Inter (effectively owned by Khoroshkovsky, the Head of the Security Service) I, international news predominates.