Monitoring: Channels race to please the President
National channels paid excessive attention to the statements of Poroshenko while "Inter" and "1+1" continued to fight for problematic districts, moving from an unbalanced description of the situation in the courts to the attempts to influence the counting process or discredit CEC. The number of paid materials declined, and corporate advertising became the main problem. In weekly programs, the interests of channels’ owners were expressed in the materials about the coal shortage.
Daily news from November, 10-15 (detailed monitoring)
All channels pay excessive attention to the President Poroshenko. The channels covered the President’s statements about equipping soldiers without criticism; they also presented his talking about keeping control over the investigation of crimes of former heads of state; his assertion that the OSCE mission is the "key to resolving the conflict in the East." "Inter" quotes meaningless Poroshenko’s statement during his meeting with Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa. "1+1" pays attention to the charity of the First Lady.
During the week, the news announced twenty-five different statements and comments of Poroshenko, not including the reports on events where he participated, and the comments of his party’s representatives.
The confrontation between "1+1" and "Inter" over the problematic districts continued during this week. In the materials on the situation in the 59th and 79th districts, TSN defended the interests of candidates Valentyn Manko and Volodymyr Bandurov. On November 10, Ihor Kolomoyskyi’s channel continued attacking the head of the CEC Mykhaylo Okhendovskyi and aired a material, based on unsubstantiated accusations and manipulations. Formally, the newsroom complied with the balance standard since it declared its readiness to give the word to the head of the CEC. However, on Wednesday, November12, the channel released another material on Mykhaylo Okhendovskyi that violated the standards.
On the same day, the channel continued its campaign against the candidate Ihor Shkir, using his opponent Yuriy Lomonosov. There was a suspicious material on the initiative to ban the sale of alcohol at night in Kyiv where we can trace some support toward “Samopomich”.
On November 14, "1+1" aired an advertising material about “PrivatBank” that is owned by Ihor Kolomoyskyi.
Without evidence, “Podrobnosti” criticized the Ministry of Culture. To simulate the balance, in the material about the activities of the Ministry, the channel used the comment of Euhene Nyshchuk. However, his words are taken out of context and not directly related to the topic of the video.
On November 11, "Inter" returned to the subject it has not touched for some time; it spoke about raider capture of the channel TVi, which, according to "Int er", took placebecause of Mykola Knyazhytskyi. "Podrobnosti" tried to simulate the balance demonstrating how the channel appealed to Kniazhytskyi and received an answer from him: "I am at the meeting”. “Inter” invited “Petro Poroshenko’s Block” deputy Mykola Tomenko to the studio, and the guest received mostly comfortable questions.
When covering the coalition formation, “Inter” presents the statement made by “Opposition Block” without any explanation although this political force has nothing to do with the formation of the coalition. There was an unjustified mention of "Opposition Block" in the materials about problematic districts. “Podrobnosti” aired suspicious materials on the activities of Boryslav Bereza and the attempt to kill an activist Mykola Dzhohan.
On November 13, "Inter" returned to the attacks on “Samoponich” and its leader Andriy Sadovyi. Lviv’s mayor did not get a chance to answer the accusations regarding his house.
Without balance, ICTV aired a statement of Kyiv’s prosecutor Serhiy Yuldashev accusing volunteer battalions in "Makhnovshchyna". Journalists did not specify the battalions Yuldashev spoke about and did not present the position of the departments that govern the volunteer battalions.
The channel went on to praise the father-in-law of the owner - Leonid Kuchma. ICTV paid a suspicious amount of attention to the largest cruise ship in the world - Quantum of the Seas; the channel spoke about the ship on November 10, and it returned to this topic again. Also, “Fakty” have a corporate advertising of "PinchukArtCentre".
STB joined the uncritical coverage of President’s parquet statements. Also, “Vikna” had a rare case when Leonid Kuchma did not appear in the material about the former presidents. The journalists quoted Leonid Kravchuk and Viktor Yushchenko.
"Sobitiya" started the week with three promotional materials about Rinat Akhmetov: traditional food packages for residents of Donbas, a eulogy to the channel’s owner from the nominal Donetsk Mayor Oleksandr Lukyanchenko, and a statement that Akhmetov increases the amount of humanitarian aid. Laudatory materials about the owner’s charity continued to appear during the next days.
On November 11, “Ukrayina” invited “Opposition Block” representative Oleksandr Vilkul to the studio, and he received mostly comfortable questions. Alongside “Inter”, the channel joined baseless broadcast of “Opposition Block” statements. Also, “Sobitiya” presented Poroshenko’s statements in parquet style.
First National does not rush to get rid of its parquet habits. The first material of the issue is live from CEC of the correspondent where she just presents her stand-up without any additional materials; and the second material is the digest of the comments of various deputies.
It’s not the first time when the channel presents a comment of the deputy Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman when talking about the plans to restore the Children's Hospital "Okhmatdyt" in Kyiv. Also, the same material with no apparent reason used a comment of the newly elected deputy from Petro Poroshenko’s Block Euhene Rybchynskyi. When covering this topic, "1+1" focused on the sick children, not promises of the politicians.
5th Channel alongside other channels was uncritical when covering the statements of the President.
The excessive attention to Poroshenko can be interpreted as a desire of the owners to get some support from the President. Even before, Poroshenko was virtually an untouchable persona for the most channels, but coverage of events and hollow declarations return the channels to the Yanukovych era.
During the week, there were 39 materials with paid news features. Most of them were on “Ukrayina” (16, including 10 corporate advertising of Rinat Akhmetov), 11 - on "Inter", 6 - on ICTV, 4 - on "1+1", and one on STB. "Opposition Block" remains the political force that pays for news the most (4 items).
However, the main message of paid materials is about media owners trying to influence judicial processes when counting the votes and regarding the partial cancellation of the election results that gives hope for victory of "their" candidates in problematic districts. Among the array of such messages, we should point out “1+1” campaign against CEC chairman Mykhaylo Okhendovskyi.
“TSN” journalists "suddenly" found a lot of dirt that could be used against him although most of it is baseless. A series of materials against Okhendovskyi reminds us that paid news is not just "harmless" substitute for legal advertising and campaigning, but black technology that can be used to ruin someone’s reputation or the confidence in public institutions in general simply because of the owner’s desires.
Monitoring of weekly programs on November, 16 (detailed monitoring)
The coal for thermal power plants was this week’s topic that serves as the best illustration of channels defending the interests of their owners.
The information cause for covering this topic was the fact that the Minister of Energy and Coal Industry Yuriy Prodan was called for questioning by the General Prosecutor of Ukraine.
ICTV correspondent Oleksandr Vizhin began his material with evaluative judgment calling the coal "unreliable" and even "scandalous" product because of Prodan’s questioning at GPU. The issue of supply problems from Donbas region is commented by a representative of a company that is titrated as DTEK, owned by Rinat Akhmetov.
Taking into consideration the ending of the material made by the journalist of Pinchuk’s channel, we can say that the video was directed against Akhmetov. For instance, Oleksandr Vizhin refers to Mustafa Nayem’s data and says that during the shortage of anthracite, Akhmetov’s company was exporting coal. When saying this, the reporter calls Mustafa Nayem a "journalist", although now, he is a politician and a candidate from “Petro Poroshenko’s Block”.
However, it is worth noting that the journalist enables DTEK representative to refute this information.
"Ukrayina" advertised the company of its owner. The journalist begins the material with the intimidations over possible shortage of coal. The journalist names the lack of anthracite as the reason for it; and he says that thermal power plants are the ones using it. Then, the journalist retells the story of Prodan’s interrogation and presents his comment as well as the opinion of the representative of "Ukrinterenerho". The author also shows the comment of Prodan who, at the Cabinet meeting, says there is no other way but to buy Russian coal.
After that, the journalist begins to advertise DTEK saying that while the government is thinking of purchasing a coal from the neighbor, the largest energy company in Ukraine already imports coal from Russia. They brought 1.5 million tons, but the country still has to think where to get 12 million tons.
By the end of the material, it becomes clear that the material was aired not to cover the issue of coal shortage and possible "systemic accident", but to pressure the government through the formation of public opinion in order to resolve the corporate interests. After all, the blocked coal in the warehouses is goods that cannot be sold, so it is impossible to make money out of it. The journalist presents a comment of Akhmetov’s DTEK in which the speaker says: whenever there is a chance to get the coal from the warehouses, we will not need to buy anymore from anyone.
Ihor Kolomoyskyi’s channel "1+1" explains the situation in detail, and the material has paid news characteristics, but against Akhmetov. The journalist Serhiy Shvets made the report from the town Shchastya, where there is TPP that has to provide the entire Luhansk region with light. He points out to the absurdity of a situation when this thermal energy goes to the territory controlled by the separatists for free.
Further, the journalist talks about the half-secret coal supply from the uncontrolled territories, which allegedly involves Akhmetov’s DTEK. The journalist calls either the company or the oligarch a "monster" that "the state cannot deal with”. DTEK is not given the opportunity to respond to this criticism.
"Inter" aired this topic the latest in the issue. The host Dmytro Anopchenko discussed the problem with energy experts and DTEK representatives. However, the name of the company was never used in the program. After listening to the guest’s statement, it was clear that his task was to explain to the audience that the government and DTEK corporate interests coincide.
The coal supply topic clearly demonstrated not only the wars between different oligarchs, but different analysis and presentation of facts on various channels depending on the interests of their owners.
Another key topic of the weekly programs was the expected open attack of Russian troops.
In "Fakty tyzhnia" on ICTV, the hostess Oksana Sokolova said that Sunday, November 16, was the day when military actions could intensify, but she did not indicate the source of information. Without explanation, she concluded that “as for today, the situation is not so critical”. The material of Maksym Krapivnyi was built around the descriptions of different scenarios in Eastern Ukraine. When speaking about the war scenario, the journalist refers to NATO information. In order to confirm the presence of Russian troops, he uses not entirely correct proof such as the video from Makiyivka where a military convoy is seen moving. Unfortunately, with this video, it is not clear whether this technique is Russian.
It is important to add that the journalist presents comments of the experts mostly. Among them, there is no Dmytro Tymchuk, the candidate from “Narodnyi Front” who commented the elections problems in the last issues on ICTV.
In the material, the journalist uses an incorrect definition of territory controlled by rebels - "cancer." By doing this, he spreads the idea that Ukraine should get rid of this part (as an analogy with the real tumor).
About the attack that did not happen, “Ukrayina” spoke in the middle of the issue. The topic was described based on the report from the village Krymske.
"1+1" devoted an entire block to this subject and aired it in the beginning. In the first material, Oleksandr Romaniuk indicates that "Russians" can start a war at any moment, and “no one doubts it in the East”. Such a generalized statistics are incorrect because they hardly represent the opinions of those who live in the East.
The author presents the official data about the number of Russian military equipment in Ukraine, referring to the expert, the former head of the Foreign Intelligence Security Service. The advantage is that other channels do not even present such unofficial data, and thus, it is difficult to imagine the scale of invasion in this case.
In the material of Oleksandr Romaniuk, there is no alternative scenario, but only undeclared war. The author makes such a conclusion based on the conversation with a military expert, but refers to a number of experts.
In the following material, Andriy Tsapliyenko uses the story of one of the anchor points on ATO map to show the problems with weapons to stop the separatists and Russian army. The journalist also mentions the story of how he found out about the attack of militants on November, 16. He described this story in social networks in the middle of the last week, and several websites presented it as news.
“Chas. Pidsumky tyzhnia” on 5th Channel aired this topic on the second place and presented the information about Vladimir Putin in Australia at the summit G20 as the first material.
The newsroom did not present a full material, but the journalist Oleksiy Bratushchak had a live from Slovyansk where he described the situation on the East. When talking about a possible attack, he rightly pointed out that it was impossible to say whether the predictions of a massive attack came true. After all, there were several hours left until the end of the day.
By the end of his live, Oleksiy Bratushchak notes that the number of attacks is increasing. And finally, referring to the opinions of different soldiers from the front, he says, that even if the Russian army attacks, it will not be able to perform large-scale operations.
Channels continued to cover the topic of coalition formation, but they do not put materials about it as the main in their issues. Oksana Sokolova on ICTV was critical after she caught the authorities speaking about short-term coalition after the elections.
In the material on “Sobitiya niedieli”, there is a comment of the political technologist Taras Berezovets about “Batkivshchyna” and Radical Party blackmailing coalition with the "golden auction". This topic immediately dispersed through news websites. However, the journalist does not give the political forces an opportunity to reply to these accusations. Moreover, the material does not have any comments of the coalition members from “Batkivshchyna”.
"TSN. Tyzhden" ("1+1") put an analysis of twists and turns around the parliamentary majority after the information about Volodymyr Klychko defeating Bulgarian Kubrat Pulyevyi. At the beginning of the material about coalition formation, the journalist criticized the President who promised quick creation of the majority to start a new parliament.
Then, Serhiy Shvets goes on to analyze the draft text of the coalition agreement and the five priority reforms proposed by the Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. However, the journalist defined priorities differently from the Prime Minister.
When talking about the controversy surrounding the positions, the journalist omits the participation of “Batkivshchyna” and Radical Party in the coalition.
"Podrobnosti niedieli" did not give a lot of time to the coalition topic. The host Dmytro Anopchenko discussed it live with the parties’ representatives. Representative of "Opposition Block" was invited to the studio although he has nothing to do with coalition formation. Vilkul used given time to criticize the government.
Overview of the talk show "Pravo na pravdu" on November, 6 (detailed monitoring)
After the elections, politicians have to discuss urgent problems and explain how they are going to solve them. Here comes a truly great time for the newsrooms of social and political talk shows. Stormy Ukrainian reality gives enough reasons to have difficult conversations with politicians (hard talk). This is an opportunity to expose liars and populists and at the same time, it is an opportunity to widen the supporters of the new faces.
On November 6, the issue of "Pravo na pravdu" on the channel "1+1" was devoted to the situation in Donbas. The information cause was the elections of the "heads" and "people's councils" in the so-called DNR and LNR.
Three participants (Biryukov, Herashchenko, and Verihina) through the nature of their work over the past six or seven months had a direct connection to the conflict on Donbas and even stayed in ATO area. Among the experts, only Motornyi could also rely on personal experience as a witness of Donbas events. From this perspective, the participants had an advantage over some experts, and some abused it. The channel kept the balance of political forces’ representatives.
It is important to note that Biryukov and Herashchenko as the members of the new government stubbornly avoided to answer uncomfortable questions. In particular, when Volodymyr Ohryzko asked about the "phony war" in Donbas, when the military are not allowed to fight and win, Biryukov and Heraschenko altogether started talking about how impossible it was for Ukraine to beat Russia. However, after few minutes, a guest in the studio, a trooper Ivan Nechuvnyi described how his unit stood for 99 days near Donetsk before the events in Ilovaysk and did not receive any orders to attack or defend. No one among the authorities wanted to comment these facts, but the host did not use it as an opportunity to ask the participants one more time about the "reason" and "authors" of the phony war on the Ukrainian side.
In another episode, the host used manipulations with two questions of the military journalist Motornyi, and forwarded the more difficult question to Verihina, who could not give an adequate response due to her being distant from the authorities. At the same time, the host did not ask Herashchenko anything although his boss as the Minister of Interior could answer the question “what to do next”.
When the expert Ihor Koziy practically repeated the question referring to the Interior Ministry adviser Anton Herashchenko asking him about the things the authorities were doing to convince people in the freed territories, the latter resorted to attacks on expert trying to undermine the audience’s confidence in the expert’s competence. When speaking, Herashchneko also used a method of humiliating the opponent comparing his words with “rooster’s crowing”.
Although the host did not really pressure the participants of the talk show, his choice of giving the last word to the soldier from ATO zone allowed to put everything in place.
Monitoring of compliance with professional standards in the information services of Ukrainian TV channels was carried by NGO "Telekritika" with financial support by USAID, provided through the "Internews Network". The purpose of monitoring is to increase media literacy of Ukrainian society, motivate media to be just and responsible, respect professional standards, and improve the quality of media products.
Monitoring of compliance with professional standards in the information services of Ukrainian TV channels was carried by NGO "Telekritika" as a part of the project “Strengthening informational society in Ukraine” supported by Council of Europe. The purpose of monitoring is to increase media literacy of Ukrainian society, motivate media to be just and responsible, respect professional standards, and improve the quality of media products.
Monitoring is an independent expert assessment of the NGO "Telekritika." All conclusions and opinions expressed in all monitoring publications may not necessarily reflect the views of Council of Europe.