Case Study. Moldova 1, Mesager, 22 August, 21.00 24.08.2009
The analyzed TV report on the plenary reunion of the PCRM’s top leadership of 22 August is marked by multiple deviations from the professional norms, especially stipulated in the Code of Principles, Standards and Recommendations of the Producers of the Public Company “Teleradio-Moldova”, approved through the Observers Council decision no. 1/35(3) of 07.11.2007.
Moldova 1 mirrored this event in four materials, successively broadcast in the edition of 22 August of the newscast Mesager. The first was about the PCRM’s plenary reunion, the second was about the PCRM’s statement adopted at that forum of the Communists, the third was about the attitude of the Alliance for European Integration (AIE) towards the PCRM’s decision to set up a Center-Left coalition and the latter was a vox-pop with citizens’ opinions about that decision. Having the same leitmotiv, the respective materials naturally formed a common entity. Because of that reason, this analysis will treat all those reports as a whole (henceforth – extended TV material.)
The total duration of the analyzed material discloses the partisan editorial policies of the public broadcaster Moldova 1
The respective event naturally represents indubitable social interest and, consequently, its being covered totally matches the mission of the public broadcaster. However, according to the invoked institutional normative document, the report is mirror the events of public interest in a balanced way, including from the point of view of the airtime allotted in this respect. “The maximum duration for about any material in a newscast on the Radio and Television is two minutes; the normal duration is 30-50 seconds”, is specified in point 11. 4 of this document, called Rules to be respected in selecting the news.
In the analyzed case, Moldova 1 did not observe that requirement. The aggregated duration of the extended TV material was more than 10 minutes. The maximum time threshold largely is exceeded also in terms of elements of the extended TV material. Thus, the duration of the report from the PCRM’s plenary reunion was about 4 minutes, the presentation of the PCRM’s statement lasted for about 3 minutes, the vox pop had over two minutes. The Moldova 1 reporter interviewed passers-by about the PCRM’s decision to set up a Center-Left coalition. The exception in that series was the segment of the material about the AIE’s view (it lasted for more than one minute.)
The presented data explicitly show that Moldova 1, in terms of airtime, generously tackled that event (the plenary sitting of the Central Committee of the PCRM,) and, by extending the analyzed material, it expressed its favoring-preferential attitude towards that political party. In this context, it’s worth reminding that Moldova 1 constantly advantaged the personalized and institutionalized political actors representing the PCRM, during the electoral race for the early parliamentary elections of 29 July (see the monitoring data - http://apel.md/public/upload/md_13_Raport_Monitor_FINAL_rom.pdf).
The quotes used in the analyzed material have implicit attitudinal value
In the analyzed material, using the quotes was marked by the partisan conduct of Moldova 1. This can be found both in terms of the scale of the introductive presentations, and of the authors’ texts.
As a rule, the intro suggests the value platform promoted by this station, in a contracted manner. As a consequence, the quotes used on this segment of the TV material are to be selected with much prudence in order to match the editorial policies. In this respect, the code of Teleradio-Moldova’s producers, unveiling the useful procedures insuring objective reporting, makes reference to the “saving quotation marks”: “Reading other opinions can be used to support the logic of the arguments. And, in this case, the facts shall speak for themselves, a journalist being able to keep the distance from the tackled topic by using the quotation marks.” Moldova 1 paid no heed to that warning in the analyzed material.
To exemplify, one will refer to the text read by the presenter, which anticipates the exposition of the PCRM’s statement. Informing the viewers about the PCRM’s intention to start “negotiations partially concentrated with the political parties having entered the parliament”, he quotes the following excerpt from the PCRM’s manifesto: “The statement reads that only the Communists Party, in the present structure of the parliament, holds the real majority faction, which was formed in accordance with the voters’ will, and not following intrigues behind the curtain plotted by certain political leaders, who have created a provisory and instable coalition from Lilliputian parties.” Thisquote, lacking the necessary editorial comments, can be construed as an expression of unconditional agreements of the TV station to that message.
The documentary audiovisual set names latin1;INSERTs represented another form of using the quotes within each segment of the analyzed material. In most of the cases, they were differentiated from the rest of the text through the image and voice of the quoted person, they representing “the saving quotation marks” mentioned above. In the case of the report on the plenary sitting of the CC of the PCRM the set names latin1;INSERTs bore a particular character however. They contained documentary quotes from the discourse of PCRM president Vladimir Voronin, uttered at the Communists’ forum in Russian. As a result, its being quoted in the Romanian-language Mesager wasaccompanied by translation. Voicing that translation, contrary to the general practice of being done by a voice distinct from the reporter’s voice (“the saving quotation marks”), was done by the author himself in this case. This fact cancelled “the saving quotation marks” and generated the fusion of the quotes with the author’s text, at the sound level. As a consequence, the generated confusion harmed both a viewer’s capacity to discern the delivered information, and Moldova 1’s performance as a politically non-partisan station.
The way of using the quotes, both direct and indirect, noticed in the analyzed material runs thus against the provisions contained in point 5.1 (Impartiality in newscasts) of the producers code of Teleradio-Moldova, which reads: “From the perspective of respecting theimpartiality in newscasts, the viewers and listeners shall be offered reports urging them to make own opinions and views. A reporter may not express his/her own opinion. Theaudience shall not learn from the TRM’s programs the personal opinions of the presenters and reporters.”
The manner of mirroring the PCRM’s statement makes Moldova 1 susceptible of political affiliation
During a 3-minute segment, the analyzed material contains the almost full presentation of the PCRM’s statement on setting up a Center-Left coalition, adopted at the plenary sitting of the CC of the PCRM on August 22. Moldova 1 actually left off only the excerpt about Moldova’s advancement, for the last 8 years, from “the Middle Ages” to a “modern democratic society.”
From this perspective, the public broadcaster adopted towards the PCRM another type of treatment than the one applied in relation to the PLDM, PL, PDM and AMN, which had earlier launched a manifesto about the creation of the Alliance for European Integration. The Liberal-Democrats’ statement was exposed rather summarily (details can be seen on http://apel.md/libview.php?l=ro&idc=159&id=371).
The different coverage of the documents of different parties leads to the supposition that Moldova 1 could have certain political commitments and would be engaged in manipulating the public opinion, because of that reason. Such a conduct also represents a deviation from the norms set out in code of the Producers of Teleradio-Moldova. Its point 5.14 provides: “The personnel preparing the programs of TRM should not incite viewers and listeners to exert pressure upon public bodies, institutions, companies or individuals to change laws or to support partisan views, private views, as this incitement can be conveyed through programs or through attendance of public meetings, mass rallies or manifestations. This negative impact can involve the civil society in controversies and make it contradict the principle according to which the Company has no editorial opposition in its programs, is impartial and promotes social balance.”
The opposing view is presented in an imbalanced way
The third element of the analyzed material is dedicated to the viewpoints of the Alliance for European Integration on the PCRM’s statement on its will to set up a Center-Left coalition. On this segment, Moldova 1 showed itself as a promoter of the imbalanced approach of the adverse view. The disproportion was first expressed through the discrepancy between the airtime granted to the PCRM during the entire extended TV material (about 8 minutes) and the duration of appearances of the Liberal-Democratic parties (slightly more than a minute.) Second, the imbalance was promoted also by set names latin1;INSERTing the views of two representatives of the four parties from the AIE (A. Tănase, deputy president of the PLDM, and M. Ghimpu, the PL president.) “The leaders of the Democratic Party and of Our Moldova Alliance were not to be found today to comment on the PCRM’s initiative,” comes the justification in the end of the material.
This assertion mismatches the provision from the Producers Code of the public company “Teleradio-Moldova”: “When it’s impossible to secure a version of the facts or the opinion of an important figure, the personnel responsible with the programs find someone else to represent the view or the opinion of the respective person. If this fails, the journalists will themselves expose the position in a way as objective as possible, on the basis of the statements made by that person in media, earlier.” That recommendation could easily have been respected as the PDM and AMN representatives were contacted by other media. E.g. Marian Lupu said he had made about 50 comments for media in August 22 (see http://voceabasarabiei.net/index.php/stiri/politica/4301-audio-ediie-special-la-radio-vocea-basarabieiceva-coace-in-interiorul-pcrm-)
The vox pop tells of Moldova 1’s partiality
The vox pop set names latin1;INSERTed in the end of the analyzed material contains the views of 7 persons, four of which expressed their adhesion to the PCRM’s statement, two showed themselves neutral and one supposed the AIE will make no alliance with the PCRM. The mentioned opinions are picked randomly, are not representative and are insufficient to draw generalizing conclusion on their basis. Despite that fact, both the presenter and the author of the street poll stated, in a partisan manner, the following: “The Chisinau people back the PCRM’s initiative to set up a Center-Left coalition and to negotiate with a part of the political parties having entered the parliament. In their opinion, the Communists Party is the only party capable to put an end to the political crisis from the country.”
Such generalization would have been avoided, if the reporter producing the vox pop had guided himself by the provisions of the Teleradio-Moldova producers’ vox pop. Point 15.1 of that document specifies, among others: “The opinion polls should be produced with much skill and accuracy. Sometimes the produced opinion polls may be misleading because a) the polls offer data to be interpreted; b) the polls do not unveil “objective” facts; c) the forecasting language in the case of opinion polls is never timely in reporting the results; d) the polls can anticipate some things, can indicate or suggest, at best way, but they cannot establish.” Because of those reasons the respective Code truly finds: “The opinion polls produced by different reporters asking the same questions can yield different results. That is why, to interpret something on the basis of polls, making deductions and conclusions, is incorrect.” We agree with the authors of this code when they say: “If the poll is not credibility, it’s better not to broadcast it. In matters of politics, international relations, social conflicts, the street polls can mislead and incite the public opinion, negatively influencing Teleradio-Moldova’s image.” Namely that unwanted effect was obtained by the poll set names latin1;INSERTed into the analyzed material.
We’ll pay also heed to the improper (partisan) usage of the word “to back” “a susţine – Rom.” (“the Chisinau people back the PCRM’s initiative”). In this case we also agree with the Code of Teleradio-Moldova’s Producers, which reads in point 5.9: “The impartiality principle may be affected also by the language used in the reports on politics. That is why we must be conscious that certain words or phrases bears certain nuances, meanings, allusions, etc. E.g., using the word “to back” needs special attention. (...). In order to preserve the impartiality, the presenters should use a neutral language, lacking any qualifiers.”
To conclude, we’ll point out that the analyzed extended TV material, through its concept, structure and essence widely jeopardized the honorable implementation of the editorial policies by the company “Teleradio-Moldova”, including by Moldova 1. As redacted in the Code of Principles, Standards and Recommendations of the Producers of the Public Company “Teleradio-Moldova”, approved through the Observers Council decision no. 1/35(3) of 07.11.2007, they entail that the public broadcaster must “provide full, wide, balanced and objective coverage to the events occurring in the fields of politics, economy, society and culture of the Republic of Moldova; offer a comprehensive image of the real situation from the country; encourage the viewers/listeners shape personal opinions in a free way.”
The Videomonitor is produced in the Project “Monitoring the political/electoral actors’ presence on the main television channels during the electoral campaign for the early parliamentary elections in Moldova in 2009 and enhancing the impact of the monitoring by depicting the cases of severe violation of legal provisions and professional ethics.” This project is financially supported by the Eurasia Foundation from the resources provided by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents of the commentary do not necessarily share the views of the Eurasia Foundation, SIDA or USAID.