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Bias, unbalanced reporting still a problem in Georgian TV media

By Salome Modebadze
Monday, September 17
The official announcement of the election campaign on August 1 has been reflected in the activities of TV companies, but unbalance reporting remains a problem, this according to a media analysis of the Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics and Memo-98 reported on September 14.

Media analysts studied news programs, political talk shows and humorous programs of eleven separate TV channels and their manner of reporting during prime-time from 19:00-24:00 before the upcoming parliamentary elections. They all followed highly professional standards in terms of selecting relevant and up-to-date news for coverage but the bias toward the political groups was evident.

The Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics encouraged the TV companies not to emphasize the “already privileged conditions” of Georgian officials and not to put the other politicians in an unequal position.

Although Kavkasia TV had some gaps with identification of sources, the channel received a grade of “high quality” in terms of balance. But the personal bias and stereotypical approach of the anchors put its impartiality in question.

The Georgian Public Broadcaster’s (GPB) overall activities were estimated as “good” but the report states that the channel has to change its strategy by spending less time on the president’s various trips and visits.

Media analysts found Maestro TV’s quality also “good” but the channel was advised to identify the analyst and reveal whether they belong to any political party.

Rustavi 2 is around “satisfactory” level. The charter suggests that the company should ensure balance and neutralize the tone towards the president, government, election administration, and political parties which are the subjects of the monitoring. “Moreover, special attention should be paid to the problems and their solutions, not the government’s promises,” the report reads.

Imedi TV was closer to Rustavi 2’s accomplishments so that Imedi TV’s journalists were recommended to separate facts from their own opinions.

TV 9’s activities are also close to “satisfactory” with the recommendation to minimize the anchors’ “subjective estimations.” Real TV received the lowest criteria for partiality and bias of its journalists in news programs.

A multi-staged report called Media for Fair and Transparent Elections included the period from 1-15 July, and 23 July – 5 August, 2012; its third part will be published by the end of the month, while the summary of the three-month analysis will be published after the elections.

Media monitoring by the Human Rights Centre revealed that the political ads of the ruling United National Movement are most frequently shown on the TV channels. Studying the different types of election advertisements at GPB, Imedi TV, Rustavi 2, Kavkasia, Maestro TV and TV 9, Ucha Nanuashvili, Executive director of the Human Rights Centre, discouraged the fact that the distribution of the advertising time is unbalanced in favor of the ruling party, while the “unethical” approaches towards the Georgian Dream is also apparent. “Several advertisements even contain illegal norms,” he said, stressing that such steps negatively reflect on the election environment.

The costs of a one-minute ad at Imedi TV and Rustavi 2 ranges from 2, 000 to 23, 000 GEL, while a month ago Rustavi 2 charged over 660-6, 200 GEL and Imedi TV – 990 – 4, 900 GEL per minute. GPB ranges from 1, 500 to 3, 200 GEL, Kavkasia from 300 to 900 GEL and Maestro TV from 800 to 1, 300 GEL, while TV 9 has kept its initial cost as low as 390 GEL.

The parties which overcome the 5% threshold in the parliamentary election will be granted 1 million GEL from the state budget to cover their campaign expenses so that GEL 300, 000 goes for TV ad costs. These costs are usually higher during prime-time but the broadcasters should allocate 90 seconds for free ads for the political parties every three hour.

Broadcasters should offer equal prices to the political parties and provide the Georgian National Communication Commission (GNCC) with detailed information about their tariffs and the free ads on a weekly basis, as well as publish the information on their own web pages.