This article explains the actions taken by the competent institutions and bodies – the Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Services (AAAS) and the Temporary Committee for Supervision of Media in the Pre-election Period (the Ad hoc body), the decisions they make and how they explain their decisions on petitions against the media, when they break the rules of reporting, which are submitted to a court which should decide upon them
Author: Vlado Gjorchev
The Ad hoc body for supervision of the media (temporary committee) did not find any irregularities in the work of the broadcasters after the first report from 17 September 2016, but this was changed in the second ten-day analysis, and with three votes “for”, the Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Services (AAAS) decided to initiate an infringement proceeding against Nova and Sitel TV stations due to misbalanced reporting. The other broadcasters, whose reporting was also a subject of supervision, were not found guilty of breaking the Electoral Code.
According to the report, Sitel TV station, during the electoral media representation in the period from September 12 to 21, 2016, did not secure electoral media representation in a righteous, balanced and unbiased manner. Quantitatively, the report says, there are no significant discrepancies in the reporting regarding the two greatest political parties, VMRO-DPMNE and SDSM, however, there were huge qualitative discrepancies.
“There were huge qualitative discrepancies in the tone of reporting and framing the two greatest political parties. Namely, Sitel TV station’s 7:00 PM news broadcasted on September 12, 13, 16, 19 and 21, 2016, continuously reported with positive frame and positive tone for the political party VMRO-DPMNE and the other incumbents. The positive framing and positive tone are especially noticeable while announcing and ending news regarding the measures that will be in VMRO-DPMNE’s programme. As regards the reporting about SDSM’s activities, it is stated that the 7:00 PM news use mostly negative tone and frame”, the report writes.
Because of this, and having in mind that the infringement is not committed for the first time, the Ad hoc body for supervision of the media suggests initiation of infringement proceeding, after which the court will issue a court notice.
The explanation for the requested court notice regarding Nova TV station is similar, which states that there are not quantitative discrepancies in the reporting for the two greatest political parties. According to the report, there were huge qualitative discrepancies in the reporting tone.
“Namely, during the daily-informative program, Observer, airing on Nova TV station at 7:00 PM on September 13, 15 and 20, 2016, there was negative framing of certain persons and continuous reporting with positive frame and positive tone for the political party VMRO-DPMNE and the other incumbents”, the report says.
According to the temporary committee, on September 16, in the Open Studio at 8:00 PM, the anchorwoman had been supporting the dialogue between the minister of finance and his deputy.
“At the same time, the headlines section was full of quotes of minister’s statements (on the one hand) that emphasized his part of the statements, which is unambiguously supportive and the one who prepared the show can be directly blamed for this”, is said in the conclusion of the report of the Ad hoc body for regulation of the media.
The two TV stations expressed their reactions immediately.
Biljana Vasileva – Trendafilova, Nova TV station’s editor in chief, says:
“I am shocked by the fact that instead of saluting the pioneer step of Nova for realizing pre-election duels with representatives of the greatest Macedonian political parties, with the aim to present their programmes, the Ad hoc body for supervision of media unjustifiably criticized the way the duel was realized, while forgetting that basic journalistic rule is that the anchor, as long as acts professionally, has the right to provoke the guests in order to pull the maximum out of them, so the viewers can draw a conclusion more easily”.
SItel TV station gave similar, but harsher comment, saying that AAAS’ director, Zoran Trajchevski, is leading a personal foray against Sitel.
“In today’s press conference, some of the members of the Ad hoc body for the media confirmed that Trajchevski illegally interrupted the session and instructed fines for Sitel and Nova TV stations whilst using rigid tone. After some members’ reaction on his illegal presence, Trajchevski started insulting them personally. With this illegal and utterly unethical action, Trajchevski invalidated the idea for the existence of an Ad hoc body for media. The existence of this body is unfounded, because it is working under the guidelines of one man, who, from reasons known only to himself, decided to pour his personal frustrations over the back of certain media”.
The two members of the Ad hoc body who voted “against”, Cvetin Chilimanov and Slagjana Dimishkova, exempted themselves from this proposal, because, as they claim, there is a significant improvement in the reporting of the medium. They believe that the infringement proceeding is ungrounded and is based on AAAS’ subjectively authored report.
“The Agency’s director Zoran Trajchevski was present prior the beginning of the Ad hoc body’s session, and informed us that according to the report, the AAAS would suggest fines for Sitel and Nova TV stations, which was a strong suggestion and influenced the further work of the committee’s members”, Chilimanov said in his media statement.
The director of the Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Services (AAAS), Zoran Trajchevski, for the Media Fact-Checking Service says that Slagjana Dimishkova and Cvetin Chilimanov are constantly demanding meetings with him for odds and ends.
“Everyone in this body makes individual decisions, and this is visible in the reports. Although I am pressured by multiple parties, I won’t submit neither to Sitel’s pressures, nor to anybody else’s. Everything stated in these reports is correct”, Trajchevski says.
MTV, THE SAME – BY DEFAULT
What can be noticed in the reports is the fact that there aren’t greater changes or set-backs in the work of the Macedonian radio television.
The last report on MTV’s reporting says:
“Neutrally, mainly through the standard factography type of news (in line) and reports (with experts’ comments), in journalistic focus. In regard to the domestic current sociopolitical life they covered: the public parliamentary session on the lustration effects, whereupon the journalistic report, above all, emphasizes the experts’ opinions regarding the work of the Committee on Verification of Facts, then SPO’s six-month report and the open parliamentary session followed by daily journalistic reports and by voluminous report with journalist reporting live from the Parliament. As stated, the newsroom from the central noon radio-news of MRT1 reported on the party activities regarding the current sociopolitical topics and events, by using negative approach, shortly, via excerpts from press-releases, via news, reports and statements and all of this unnecessarily as inter-party replying, but with specific addressing of party criticism to specific state bodies and institutions”.
The assessment for MTV was similar in the first report from September 17, as well:
“Without journalistic comments, with neutral approach comprised of press-releases, news (in line) and reports, scarce party political (re)contextualization of current sociopolitical topics and events”.
The temporary committee is reviewing AAAS’ reports on the reporting of 18 TV stations and radios. According to the methodology, 100 days prior the elections, the adherence to the Electoral Code by the broadcasters is reviewed, whereupon the Articles related to the balance in reporting and the identification of the party with the state are being reviewed in ten-day periods.
According to the Electoral Code, the AAAS must submit the provisions to the Infringements Department of the Basic Court Skopje 1 in 48 hours, which it did.
“On Friday, September 30, a decision for initiating an infringement proceeding was made, and the provisions were submitted to the court on Saturday”, Trajchevski says.
According to the Law on Infringements, there is not a deadline for the courts to decide, it only says “upon swift proceeding”. For Trajchevski, it is a dilemma what does “upon swift proceeding” exactly mean.
“These days, we are receiving decisions on proceedings initiated back in 2014, so you do the math what does swift proceeding mean. Our job is to submit them, the court decides when it will be reviewing”, Trajchevski says.
This journalistic lesson was created within the framework of the USAID Media Strengthening in Macedonia Project - Media Fact-Checking Service Component,, mplemented by Metamorphosis. The journalistic lesson is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of its author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Metamorphosis, USAID or the United States Government. For more information on the work of USAID in Macedonia please visit its website (http://macedonia.usaid.gov) and Facebook page (www.facebook.com/USAIDMacedonia).