`Strong editorial control’ was abandoned in broadcast media – monitoring unit

The Guyana Elections Com-mission’s Media Monitoring Unit (MMU) found that “strong editorial control” was abandoned in the broadcast media in the month leading up to the November 28 polls, which included the violation of the media code by the airing of campaign material the day before the elections.

In its report for the November 1, 2011 to Novem-ber 27, 2011 period, which included an analysis of the elections coverage on CNS Ch 6, WRHM Ch 7, HBTV Ch 9, NCN Ch 11, TVG Ch 28, MTV Ch 65 and NTN 69 and Voice of Guyana (VOG), the MMU was critical of the unedited broadcast of some campaign meetings and rallies.

It pointed out that while political party rallies and meetings would see politicians give in to their “base instincts” and “indulge in anti-social behaviors and language” before a limited audience and within a specific geographical locale, the television rebroadcasts would subject the public to the those behaviours. “…The unedited airing of these meetings was totally unacceptable and repugnant in that they served to bring the animus of the campaign hustings uninvitingly into people’s living rooms, thereby exposing them in the process, to the crass ad hominem attacks and general indecorum directed by the politicians towards their competitors,” it said.

According to the MMU, the unedited airing of these meetings on television was also a violation of Section B 2 (C) of the Media Code of Conduct for the elections, which advises editors to always exercise judgment in favour of good taste and respect for public decency by refusing or insisting on the modification of material submitted by political parties for publishing/airing that does not conform to acceptable legal, moral and other standards.

The MMU also reported that on Sunday, November 27, the day before the elections, there were unrestrained broadcasts of rallies, talk-shows, and commentaries promoting the contesting political parties on various television channels, as candidates used the available opportunities to make their final pitches to the electorate. But the MMU pointed out the time-frame of the airing of these promotional events violated Section M of the Media Code, which expressly forbade media organizations from giving coverage to activities by political parties for a period of 24 hours prior to the opening of polling stations and lasting until the close of polling. The MMU identified channels 6, 9, 28, 65 and 69 as those which “knowingly or unknowingly” breached the Code and it was concerned that given the number of offenders the Code was “probably gathering dust on the shelves” at many of the country’s media houses.

NCN Channel 11

On the state-owned NCN Channel 11, the MMU found that the NCN 6 o’ clock News gave the PPP/C the highest amount of positive coverage, followed by AFC, APNU and TUF. “The coverage provided to the PPP/C in this instance by the news team was more than double the same coverage given to AFC, APNU, and TUF, combined,” it noted. MMU also found that APNU was apportioned the most negative coverage on the newscast, followed by AFC and PPP/C.

The talk shows on Channel 11 yielded only a small amount of positive coverage for the PPP/C, while the commentaries it aired produced a modest amount of positive coverage exclusively for the PPP/C, the MMU found.

Additionally, the MMU said from the general programming on the channel, only the PPP/C and TUF gained positive coverage, with PPP/C obtaining the most, while only APNU and AFC received negative coverage, with APNU obtaining the most.

VOG

The state-owned radio station, VOG, meanwhile, also gave the PPP/C the most favourable coverage, followed by AFC, APNU and TUF in descending order. The positive coverage given to the PPP/C on the VOG newscast, the MMU found, was more than three times the same coverage apportioned to AFC, APNU and TUF, combined. Only three parties were covered negatively – PPP/C, APNU and AFC – with APNU receiving the highest, AFC the second highest and PPP/C, the least. VOG’s general programmes, meanwhile, saw the PPP/C receive a large amount of positive and a moderate amount of neutral coverage, while there was no measurable coverage timed for any of the other political parties, according to the MMU.

CNS Channel 6

Among the private broadcasters, the MMU said CNS Channel 6, which is owned by JFAP leader CN Sharma, who aligned himself with APNU, broadcast talk shows like Voice of the People that gave the coalition the most positive coverage among the political parties and this was measured at extensively more than the same totalled for AFC and PPP/C combined. The largest share of negative coverage went to the PPP/C, while AFC was credited with the second largest amount, followed by APNU and TUF. The negative coverage timed for the PPP/C was approximately 12 times the same coverage observed for AFC, APNU and TUF combined, the MMU noted. It added that from the general programmes on the channel, the PPP/C was the front-runner, followed by AFC, APNU and TUF, in that order, but the incumbent also attracted the most negative coverage followed by APNU and AFC.

WRHM Channel 7

On WRHM Channel 7, the MMU found that Capitol News gave APNU the most positive coverage, followed by AFC, PPP/C and TUF, while the PPP/C was apportioned the highest amount of negative coverage, followed by TUF, then AFC. Indepen-dently, it said the PPP/C was given more negative than positive coverage, resulting in the party absorbing overall net negative publicity. Talk shows on the channel also gave APNU the most positive coverage, followed by AFC and PPP/C, while the PPP/C took in the lion’s share of negative publicity, followed by AFC and APNU with almost the same amounts of coverage.

The PPP/C, the MMU noted, was “bombarded” with more than double the amount of negative coverage accrued by AFC, APNU and TUF, combined. From the channel’s general programmes, the MMU did, however, find that AFC gained the most positive coverage, followed by APNU, PPP/C and TUF. In fact, it said AFC got measurably more positive coverage than APNU, PPP/C and TUF combined. In terms of negative coverage, the PPP/C received the most, followed by APNU and AFC.

HBTV Channel 9

According to the MMU’s findings, on HBTV Channel 9, Prime News gave APNU the largest amount of positive coverage, followed by AFC, PPP/C, and TUF, while the PPP/C gained the highest amount of negative coverage, followed by AFC and APNU. The PPP/C was the recipient of approximately four times more negative coverage than AFC and APNU, combined, the MMU said. The other news programme broadcast on the channel, First Look News, meanwhile, allotted the AFC the most positive coverage, followed by APNU, PPP/C, and TUF. AFC’s positive coverage approximated to the combined coverage timed for APNU, PPP/C, and TUF, the MMU noted, while also reporting that the PPP/C received negative coverage that was almost the combined share for APNU and AFC.

The MMU, did, however, note that the figures for the newscast during the reporting period reflected the fact that it placed much more emphasis on reporting apolitical issues rather than the more topical hot-button political issues in the lead up to the elections.

HBTV talk-shows, according to the MMU, were largely dominated by APNU and AFC produced/ aligned programmes, which gave APNU the largest quantum of positive coverage, followed by AFC, PPP/C, and TUF, with APNU’s coverage far exceeding the combined positive coverage timed for the other three parties. The PPP/C, meanwhile, received the most negative coverage, which was calculated at 59 times more than the negative publicity given to the TUF and AFC. No negative publicity was measured for APNU, which was the recipient of large amounts of positive and neutral coverage.

General programming on HBTV also saw APNU get more positive coverage than the PPP/C, AFC, and TUF, almost combined, while the PPP/C got the largest share of negative coverage, followed by APNU and AFC. Like with APNU’s positive coverage, PPP/C’s negative coverage outstripped the combined total coverage given to the other parties.

MTV Channel 65

MTV Channel 65’s News Update, according to MMU, gave the PPP/C the highest amount of positive coverage of all the parties, followed by APNU, AFC and TUF. The PPP/C’s positive coverage, the MMU said, was calculated at over 12 times the same coverage awarded to APNU, AFC and TUF, combined. APNU, meanwhile, was the recipient of the largest slice of negative coverage, which exceeded the combined negative coverage allotted to AFC and PPP/C.

Individually, the MMU said the PPP/C gained a positive to negative ratio of coverage of over 128:1 from the newscast. The talk-shows broadcast on Channel 65 also saw the PPP/C being the only party that gained positive coverage “in a significant quantity,” while APNU gained the largest slice of negative coverage, followed by AFC and PPP/C. Similarly, in general programming the PPP/C got the most positive coverage, while APNU and AFC came in for approximately similar amounts of negative coverage.

NTN Channel 69

On the talk-shows and general programming aired on NTN Channel 69, the PPP/C received considerable amounts of positive, negative and neutral coverage, and it was the only party that received positive coverage. Both APNU and AFC got a large amount of negative and a small amount of neutral coverage, the MMU said.

TVG Channel 28

The TVG Channel 28 Evening/Morning News, meanwhile, also gave the PPP/C the highest amount of positive coverage, which was more than the same for APNU, AFC and TUF combined. APNU got the most negative coverage, followed by AFC and the PPP/C.

The talk-shows broadcast over the channel also provided the PPP/C with a modest amount of positive coverage, while no other party received measurable coverage. Commentaries aired on the channel also saw small amounts of positive and neutral coverage for the PPP/C, while AFC came in for a relatively small quantum of negative publicity, and similarly general programming on the channel saw the PPP/C receive a huge amount of positive airtime, while APNU was the recipient of a small amount of negative publicity.

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