The Communications Commission: In a pluralistic and diverse pre-election media environment, a part of the media is polarized and other part is saturated with hate speech and obscene talk
The Communications Commission publishes the first qualitative and quantitative interim report on the media monitoring of the pre-election period of Georgia’s parliamentary election. The report covers the period from September 1 to September 30. The qualitative media monitoring was conducted on 6 national broadcasters, including First Channel of the Public Broadcaster, Adjara Public Broadcaster, Rustavi 2, Imedi TV, Pirveli TV and Mtavari TV. The monitoring covered the primetime period, namely, the period from 19:00 to 24:00. The quantitative media monitoring was conducted on up to 50 TV channels. During the qualitative monitoring of the 6 national broadcasters, observations were made considering the elements of media ethics such as balance, accuracy, relevance, omission of important information, as well as hate speech and disinformation, discrimination and visual/audio manipulation.
The media monitoring has shown that the media environment is pluralistic and diverse, although on the example of Imedi TV, Pirveli TV and Mtavari TV it is clearly how polarized the pre-election media environment is. A bias in favor of different political parties is unequivocal. News programs as well as political programs are characterized by a violation of journalistic standards and disturbing balance. Violations of ethical norms are frequent in the programs of Pirveli TV and Mtavari TV; the same channels often spread misleading, false information and make serious allegations that are not supported by evidence. Also, in the case of Mtavari TV, there are frequent cases of using hate speech and obscene talk.
The news programs of the Public Broadcaster are mainly balanced and in compliance with and ethical standards. As for Adjara Public Broadcaster and Rustavi 2, the news programs are balanced and ethical in most cases. It should be noted that the biggest number of election subjects were covered by the Public Broadcaster.
As for the main findings and analysis, the results of the media monitoring have shown that the news programs of the Public Broadcaster were in compliance with ethical standards and the coverage of the pre-election activities was balanced. There was a tendency for the representatives of the government (the government and the Georgian Dream) to have the right to both the first and the final word in the coverage of ongoing events. In political programs, presenters were distinguished with critical questions and analysis, even towards the government officials. Allotted time when covering the news was as follows: Georgian government - 24.8% (positive - 37%, negative - 5%), Georgian Dream - 17.0% (positive - 31%, negative - 18%), United Opposition “Power is in Unity” - 12.3% (positive - 9%, negative - 26%), and all other subjects - less than 10%.
The diversity of covered parties and opinions was also largely noticeable in the main news programs of Adjara TV, however, most of the airtime was dedicated to the Government of Adjara. During the monitoring period, most of the time of direct coverage was allotted to the representatives of the Government of Adjara. Allotted time when covering the news was as follows: the Government of Adjara - 25.7% (positive - 49%, negative - 5%), Georgian Dream - 19.5% (positive - 40%, negative - 29%), United Opposition "Power is in Unity" - 18.4% (positive - 15%, negative - 28%), the Government of Georgia - 10.7% (positive - 35%, negative - 16%), and all other subjects - less than 10%.
The results of the media monitoring has shown that Imedi TV has a positive attitude towards the government and Georgian Dream, and a sharply negative attitude towards the opposition. There is no balance in the news stories, and usually no coverage of the opposing position. In most cases, the representatives of the Government and the ruling party are invited to the political programs. The representatives of the opposition have not been invited to any of the primetime political programs aired on Imedi TV. The political programs are one-sided, no debates are held. Allotted time when covering the news was as follows: Georgian Dream - 43.3% (positive - 34%, negative - 2%), the Government of Georgia - 26.9% (positive - 43%, negative - 1%), United Opposition "Power is in Unity" - 18.9% (positive - 0%, negative - 77%), and all other subjects - less than 10%.
The results of the monitoring has shown that the presenters of “Courier” on Rustavi 2 cover the news mostly in accordance with ethical standards, however, there are news stories with the disturbed quantitative balance, in particular, the representatives of the Government and Georgian Dream are allotted more time than the opposition. There are cases when the presenters use ironical expressions towards the opposition parties. Allotted time when covering the news was as follows: Georgian Dream - 25.6% (positive - 32%, negative - 12%), United Opposition "Power is in Unity" - 21.6% (positive - 14%, negative - 32%), the Georgian Government - 15.4% (positive - 32%, negative - 5%), and all other subjects - less than 10%.
According to the monitoring results, Pirveli TV is sharply negative and biased towards the Government and the ruling party. The channel covers election activities of only the opposition parties. The stories focus on investigations and possible corruption cases, but are not supported by evidence and are based on assumptions. In order to enhance the special significance of the news stories and the dramatization of the events, the noisy announcement during the broadcast is often used, accompanied by specially selected dramatic music. There are cases when the presenters of the program show support for the opposition majoritarian candidates during a live broadcast. Allotted time when covering the news was as follows: Georgian Dream - 37.7% (positive - 16%, negative - 48%), United Opposition "Power is in Unity" - 22.9% (positive - 2%, negative - 20%), the Georgian Government - 12.1% (positive - 2%, negative - 40%), and all other subjects - less than 10%.
The monitoring has shown that the journalists of Mtavari TV openly declare their political views and have a sharply negative attitude towards the ruling party and several other political parties. Their texts and assessments are often saturated with hate speech and obscene talk. The news programs often cover fake news where the story is entirely built on assumptions and assessments. The coverage of the pandemic was sharply negative, the representatives of political parties were invited as experts, and the situation was assessed as hopeless that may contribute to sowing panic among the population. Allotted time when covering the news was as follows: United Opposition "Power is in Unity" - 37.6% (positive - 21%, negative - 3%), Georgian Dream - 32.1% (positive - 1%, negative - 62%), the Georgian Government - 10.5% (positive - 0%, negative - 37%), and all other subjects - less than 10%.
The media monitors of the Communications Commission were trained by a media expert of the Council of Europe, the executive director of Memo 98, Rasto Kuzel, in compliance with international standards.