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News

Posted on: 20 Jan 2016

Monitoring of the editorial policy of TV news programs

1-31 December, 2015

Third report

Subjects of the monitoring:Rustavi 2, Imedi,Public Broadcaster, Maestro,Tabula, GDS.

The methodology of the monitoring is available at: http://mdfgeorgia.ge/eng/view_news/415/ 

The following tendencies have been noted as a result of the monitoring of the main news programs during the period of 1-31 December:

Similar priority issues 

  • Only 3% of priority issues of the news programs in December coincided with each other. In particular, the following main events of the month were reported on in the first part of the news program of all channels: special operation in Nasakirali, as a result of which individuals suspected of connection to "Islamic State” were arrested; the issue of Pardons Commission with Alexander Elisashvili [independent member of Tbilisi City Council] accusing high level officials of corruption; resignation of Prime Minister Garibashvili and changes in the government.
  • The greatest similarity of priority topics was between Rustavi 2 and Imedi. Slightly less similar priority topics had Tabula, which has shorter news program compared to other TV channels, while during 25-31 December it did not air news programs at all and thus could not be part of this study.
  • Public Broadcaster had somewhat different tendency regarding placement of topics in its news program.For instance, on 10 December Rustavi 2, Imedi and Maestro aired as their first story Alexander Elisashvili’s accusations against high-level officials regarding the Pardons Commission issue. EkaBeselia, Chair of the Human Rights and Civil Integration Committee responded to Elisashvili’s accusations regarding pressure on the Commission, saying that if these accusations were not backed by evidence, their author could have to face justice. Tabula aired the issue as its 4thstory, while GDS dedicated to it its 2nd story and an interview in the second part of the news program.Public Broadcaster, meanwhile, aired it only as 11th story in the third part of the program. 

Also, on 10 December, other channels (Rustavi 2, Imedi, Maestro, GDS, Tabula) aired the story about assault on the National Movement office in Dedoplistskaro in the first parts of their news programs, while Public Broadcaster aired it as its 10th story in the second part of the program. See Table #1.

Table #1. 10 December

 

  • Maestro also had differing priorities. Most of the news programs of 2 December (Rustavi2, Public Broadcaster, GDS, Tabula) aired as their first story Montenegro joining NATO and adoption of the communiqué about future relations with the aspirant states, including Georgia. Maestro aired this as its 8thstory and started their news program with another topic, specifically the parliamentary majority’s session, where the Georgian Dream discussed the changes to be made in the election code.The key topic for most of the 3 December news programs was the MIA project regarding the traffic norms, which envisions nine new regulations. Specifically, introduction of the points system since 2016, movements of police cars covertly without distinguishing signs, with the right to impose penalties when citizens break rules, as well as prohibition of the vehicles with wheels on their right side.Some NGOs protested the new regulations, while others believed they were in accordance with European standards. MaestroTV aired the issue as the 16thstory of the 2nd part of its news program. See Table#2 

Table #2. 2-3 December. 


Tendencies while covering political issues

It has been found as a result of the monitoring that TV companies dedicate most of their news programs to political issues. 4 main lines have been noted: Critique of the government, reporting on the government’s activities, critique of the opposition and reporting on the opposition’s activities. TV channels have shown different tendencies in this regard. In the Public Broadcaster news programs stories reporting the government’s activities dominated compared to the stories dedicated to its critique, while Maestro news program had more critique stories. In Rustavi2 news programs critique towards the government also dominated, while Tabula news programs contained more stories reporting government’s activities than critique stories. The monitoring found that the most unbalanced TV channel was GDS, in the news programs of which stories reporting the government’s activities had 16% lead compared to the critique stories, while stories containing critique of the opposition led in comparison to the stories reporting opposition’s activities by 5%. See Diagram #1

Diagram #1


Critique of the government 

  • Most active in critical reporting about the government in December were Rustavi 2 and Maestro. For instance, 10 December news programs of both TV companies identically covered the same issue, when their journalists tried to find the trees planted within the a project of Tbilisi Town Hall.According to these TV stories, in most cases they could not find planted trees at the addressed where they were supposed to be. Imedi covered this issue in the 11thstory of the 2nd part of its news program.
  • The least critical towards the government was GDS. For instance, GDS did not cover the rally where citizens were protesting the state of damaged roads in Dighomi village and demanding them to be repaired. According to the participants of the rally, they also protested against building roads to the house of the Minister of Justice Tea Tsulukiani only. GDS and Public Broadcaster also did not cover Council of Europe report about conditions in Georgian prisons, according to which instances of torture, inhumane treatment, so called "thieves-in-law” and other criminal leaders remained a problem. TabulaandMaestrocovered this as their 2nd stories, Rustavi 2 – 8th story, Imedi – 11th story of the 2nd part of its news program. See Table #3

 

Table#3.15 December.


Coverage of the government’s activities

GDS and Tabula led in the coverage of the government’s activities.This made most of the news programs of these TV channels, to equal extent.After them come other TV companies, in the following order: Imedi, Public Broadcaster,MaestroandRustavi2. Rustavi 2 dedicated the least portion of its news programs to the government’s activities, which does not indicate that the TVcompany is ignoring the topics. Since its news program Kurieri is relatively long, most of the issues of high public interest related to the government’s activities were covered in the main news program. Rustavi 2 did not cover however, several governmental visits, as well as the so called "Town of the Homeless” that the government had built in Lilo for the socially vulnerable people.

Critique of the opposition 

  • Just like in November, GDS was the leader in the critique of the opposition in December. Stories were still dedicated to the specific party – the UNM – in most cases covering events that had occurred during the UNM period in government. For instance, the 5thand 6th stories of the GDS news program of 25 November, concerning investigation of cases from the UNM period in government, are notable in this regard. The 5th story, headlines "Saakashvili’s Court” was dedicated to the testimony of one of penitentiary officials, about the privileged conditions for the officials arrested in the Girgvliani case and frequent visits paid to them by the high-level officials, with numerous feasts being held in his own cabinet. In the end of the story it was said that former Presidet Saakashvili pardoned all four of the convicted. 

The 6th story concerned launch of investigation by the Prosecutors Office on SergoTetradze case. Family of Tetradze and other persons accused of spying were demanding acquittal. 

  • The least critique of the opposition was in the news programs of Rustavi 2 and Tabula. In the 4 December news programs a secret audio recording spread by a Ukrainian website was covered. According to this website, the recorded conversation was between brothers Lado and GokaGabashvili [MP of opposition UNM party]. In the recording, names of the UNM members are mentioned and conflicts between them are discussed. Former leader of the UNM Mikheil Saakashvili is mentioned as "crazy for power” and alleged to be fighting against Gabashvili, Giga Bokeria and imprisoned Gigi Ugulava. Maestro, GDS and Imedi covered the recording as their 1st story, while Public Broadcaster aired it as the 7th story in the 2nd part of its news program. It needs to be noted that the headline of the GDS story – "Conflict in the National Movement”, without confirmation of the recording’s authenticity – could result in misleading the viewers. Rustavi 2 and Tabula did not cover this issue at all.See Table#4 

Table #4. 4 December.


Coverage of the opposition’s activities 

  • The largest portion of the news programs was dedicated to the opposition’s activities by Tabula TV. Tabula mainly covered activity of the specific opposition party – the UNM, such as visits and meetings of the UNM members. For instance, on 8 December only Tabula’s news program covered the UNM visit to United States, while on 21 December only Tabula aired a story about the UNM members’ meeting with the car dealers, who protested the new regulations regarding right-sided wheel cars.
  • The least coverage of the opposition’s activities was conducted by GDS TV, in the news programs of which there was 6 times more critique of the opposition than coverage of its activities. 

Independent issues 

  • TV companies Maestro, Rustavi2 and GDS covered most independent issues in their news programs. Among them, independent issues covered by Rustavi 2 and Maestro mostly concerned critique of the government, while independent issues covered by GDS were connected to the critique of the former government.
  • The 1st Maestro story in its 14 December news program covered everyday life and problems of the population of Pankisi gorge. In the story, headlined "Special Report from Pankisi Gorge”, the residents of Pankisi complained about neglect and ignoring of their needs by the government. The story also covered young people going to Syria. A story with similar content was aired in Maestro’s 16 December news program as well.
  • In Rustavi 2 news programs of note is the 9thstory on 3 December, headlined "Food Aid”, covering 50 lari food aid package for the mountain region’s population. The story contained critique towards the government expressed by the population. Accusation against the government, categorically denied in Akhmeta Municipality, were voiced by Kakheti Information Center as well. 

17 December news program of Rustavi 2 contained a story about production of Bitcoins in Georgia. According to the story, from three centers of this virtual currency existing in the world, two are in Georgia – in Gldani and Gori. At this point it is not known who are the owners of these enterprises and how many are they, but it is known that BitFury Georgia company acquired from the state 18 hectars for servers for a symbolic price – 1 lari. According to some experts, such enterprises can become centers for money laundering, since they are not subject to control by the state and the National Bank. Despite denial of association with Bidzina Ivanishvili, former Prime Minister by the company’s representative, some experts in the story point out Ivanishvili’s personal interests. To illustrate the point they bring 10-million investment into Gori center by the investment fund established by Ivanishviliand support by the state to a company, the sphere of activity of which is not regulated by any state agency. The story also used footage of Prime Minister Garibashvili’s visit to the company. 

  • GDS story from 22 December about so called Enver operation, which, according to the journalist, has become relevant again due to the Pardons Commission scandal, is also notable. The story highlighted the naming of two prisoners within this case as "spies” by the anchor of Rustavi 2 program Different AccentsEkaKvesitadze, while the GDS journalist said that according to defending lawyers, there are no proofs of the former prisoners’ guilt in this case. In a telephone conversation Kvesitadze said that in her program she only reported the list of former prisoners and did not specify whether they were guilty or not. 

This was not the only case of GDS taking interest in Rustavi 2 related issues in December. On 3 December 20/30 aired a story headlined "Half-million Aid”, which concerned a story by Rustavi 2. Later, Rustavi 2 journalist David Kikalishvili qualified this as an "attempt to discredit” his program. The issue was related to the Vardiashvili family, affected by the 13 June flood, which according to Rustavi 2 story, did not get the compensation. According to the GDS story, prior to airing of this story by Rustavi 2, the family received more than 500 000 lari as compensation.This was the 1st story aired by GDS news program on 3 December. 

  • 30 December news program of GDS did not have its traditional format. The program assessed activities of the former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, while the anchor did no tend to ask critical questions, including those regarding the issue of informal governance. 

The left out important issues 

  • The NGOs’ and opposition’s demand from 14 December to investigate the issue of Sakdrisi was not covered by TV companies Imedi, Public Broadcaster and GDS.
  • Two issues directly related to Rustavi 2 are of note. Specifically, the 1st story aired by Kurieri on 9 December concerned the driver of the TV company’s financial director KakhaDamenia, who said that representatives of the State Security Service attempted his recruitment and promised money in return for information about the TV company. No TV company reported on this issue at all, except Rustavi 2 and Tabula.

Also, only Rustavi 2 covered the issue of its journalists – NatiaTrapaidze and David Kashiashvili being summoned by the prosecutors. The journalists were summoned because of their story about the "cocaine case”. Since this issue concerned the prosecutors’ interests towards journalists doing their job, due to the high public interest of this issue, failure of other TV companies to cover it must be considered as ignoring it. 

  • As a result of the monitoring, GDS has been found to have the highest rate of ignoring issues of high public interest in December. GDS mostly ignored the topics concerning opposition’s activities, citizens accusing the government of pressure, and events in the territories occupied by Russia. For instance, GDS did not cover the case of the former director of Botanical Park Nino Gotsadze suing Tbilisi City Hall. Nino Gotsadze accused the Mayor David Narmania and the City Hall’s officials of pressure. According to her, she was fired by the government of Tbilisi without any explanation or the necessary documents. Gotsadze believed that the reason for her being fired were the plans related to the Park’s future development, to which Gotsadze was opposed. The plans concerned unification of Botanical Park, Dendrological Park and Vere valley.According to her, the City Hall planned to develop a tourist zone there, which endangered the scientific part of the Park. For this reason Gotsadze opposed this plan. Deputy Mayor of Tbilisi denied Gotsadze’saccusations and claimed that she had been fired because of the conditions in the Park. The issue was covered by Rustavi 2 in its 3rd, by Imedi in its 6th and by Maestro in its 8th stories. 

On 10 December, all TV channels except GDS covered the violation of the Georgian air space by Russian aircraft. Public Broadcaster and Tabula covered this incident in their 1st, while Rustavi 2, Imedi and Maestro – in their 7th stories. 

  • As to ignoring issues of high public interest, there was high rate of this in Tabula news programs as well. However, short format of Focus (Tabula’s news program) must be considered, as well as the lack of Tabula’s news programs at all during the period of 25-31 December. As a result, Tabula was not subject to this study during these days, and important issues covered during the days by other TV channels are not considered as ignored by Tabula.
  • Rustavi 2 had the lowest rate of ignoring issues of high public interest compared to other TV companies.

See the timeline:


 

Thematic diversity 

  • Public Broadcaster had the highest thematic diversity compared to other TV channels. It has been found that Moambe devotes more time to the issues concerning minorities, religion and healthcare, compared to other channels’ news programs.
  • At the same time, in terms of topics covered, the main news programs of various TV channels differed and, therefore, showed different tendencies.

 

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