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Monitoring Results Indicate that Serbian Media favour Ruling Parties in their Campaign Coverage

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The Bureau for Social Research (BIRODI), with the support of Slovakian organization MEMO 98, conducted a monitoring of election coverage of broadcast media – central newscasts and selected talk shows aired by a number of Serbian TV stations, in the period February 26 – March 11, 2014. The monitoring aimed to inform the public about the conduct of TV stations in the last two weeks of the campaign and to point out the cases of deviation from standards of professional reporting.

Zoran Gavilović, chief analyst with BIRODI, noted in the presentation of the report at the Media Center in Belgrade, that the campaign was dominantly promotional by nature and dealt with narrow scope of topics to the effect that it was reduced to discussion of economic issues. He added that the monitoring again detected the phenomenon of “officials’ campaigning”, noting the case of Prime Minister Ivica Dačić and first Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić, two state officials who dominated the campaign coverage.

“The voters were provided with a wide scope of information on candidates running in the Elections. There was, however, a general trend of insufficiently analytical reporting, especially in the reports on activities of Government officials and representatives. Broadcasters often blurred the line between regular activities of public officials and their campaign appearances, making direct contributions to the parties they represent”, said Rastislav Kuzel, media analyst with MEMO 98.

Snežana Đapić, Coordinator of BIRODI’s team, said that one important characteristic of campaign reporting was the separation of campaign reporting in a distinct electoral coverage block in all monitored broadcasters.

“The analysis of the reporting inside those electoral coverage blocks indicates intensive reporting of candidates running in the elections. The distribution of reports and news stories on different candidates are much better balanced in the programmes of public service broadcaster – RTS1 and RTV (Radio and Television Vojvodina), especially in reporting on activities of the coalitions led by the ruling parties SNS and SPS. The commercial TV stations almost uniformly presented SNS and SPS activities as first or second item in the blocks”, Đapić said.

The monitoring included the following TV stations: RTS1,TV Pink, TV B92, TV Prva, TV Vojvodina (central newscasts); and the following talk shows: RTS1 – “Upitnik“, “Da možda ne“, TV Pink – “Teška reč“, TV B92 – “Utisak nedelje“, TV Prva – “Stav Srbije“, TV Vojvodina – “Sučeljavanje“.

The Monitoring Centre of the House of Human Rights and Democracy presented its third weekly report with analysis of reporting of daily newspapers on campaign activities of political parties. The same eight dailies were analyzed (Danas, Politika, Blic, Alo, Kurir, Informer, Večernje novosti and Naše novine).

The main trend of strong support for the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) continued. SNS was favoured in five of the eight monitored dailies (Novosti, Alo, Politika, Kurir and Informer – in which the party got from 31 to 65 percent of the total coverage).

Blic and Naše novine dailies didn’t favour any party over the last monitored week, while Danas daily remains top rated paper in terms of the fair treatment and diversity of covered topics. Danas is also the only daily in the country that had critical approach in the reporting of SNS and its campaign.

Another conclusion refers to the extremely negative campaign against the biggest opposition party in Kurir and Informer which has continued for the third week in a row. Informer also increasingly focused on negative campaign against the Socialist Party of Serbia (seven of the nine articles covering SPS activities were negative in tone). Kurir published 14 articles on the Democratic Party, all of them extremely negative. In comparison, all 30 articles covering SNS and its activities were positive. (Source: CRNPS/BIRODI/)

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