The Novi Sad School of Journalism, a SEENPM member, is implementing two media monitoring projects during 2016 – the monitoring of public service broadcasters (PSBs) and media monitoring during election campaign. Both researches are based on a unique method of quantitative content analysis and critical analysis of media discourse. The projects are funded by the Open Society Foundation.
Monitoring of public service broadcasters
The aim of the six-months long monitoring of PSBs’ programs is to establish in what way and to what degree Radio-television of Vojvodina (RTV) and Radio-television of Serbia (RTS) fulfill public interest stipulated by law. It will also be established to what extent PSBs fulfill their legal obligation to take care of socially vulnerable groups while meeting the needs for information of all parts of the society without discrimination. Another aim is to see to what extent PSBs fulfill legal principles of work, such as the independence of editorial policy and other principles of independence from economic and political power centers. The project will feature six thematic reports during 2016, each dealing with specific topics within the research. So far the first report was published in April 2016 (’Campaign before the Campaign’ – available in Serbian only)
Media monitoring during election campaign
Considering that the elections were officially called only on 1 March 2016, while it was evident already in late 2015 that they would take place, Serbia went through several months of anticipation. Ruling parties used this time to acquire additional positive publicity, mainly by performing public tasks vested in them. Pseudoevents, such as annoucements of different agreement signing, opening factories or laying foundation stones, became everyday information. Representation of ruling parties in central news programs of RTS and RTV was twice bigger than that of the opposition parties. During the campaign before the campaign, extraparliamentary, small and new parties were faced with a specific problem. They had minimal opportunity for showing up in the media as they have small visibility, unlike parliamentary parties, and the PSBs did not see them as relevant.
The main characteristics of the campaign before the campaign were squaring accounts with political opponents and the war of press releases, although this type of public discourse narrows the space for a debate based on arguments. The research established that a large number of those in power use their public functions for pre-election promotion of the parties they belong to. Therefore, RTS and RTV should set stricter criteria when differentiating between relevant and purely promotional content.
Media monitoring during the election campaign spans 107 media, monitored for 30 days during the election campaign. The research corpus consists of programs of PSBs, those of national and commercial televisions, content of the national print media and local media in Serbian, Hungarian and Albanian language in 17 cities of Serbia. During the research, the public was presented with four interim sets of results titled ’What the Parties Offer, and Whom the Media Choose?’ (available in Serbian only: 1st , 2nd, 3rd, 4th set of results).
The monitoring established as key characteristics of this election campaign the following: the campaign outside of the campaign, negative campaign, the war of press releases, instrumentalization of crisis situations, covert advertising and strengthening of online political marketing. Open advocacy for a right-wing party on a pirate radio station was noticed during the research. This radio frequency was closed down owing to the initiative of the Novi Sad School of Journalism and the Independent Journalists’ Association of Vojvodina.
The research results show that the Serbian Progressive Party was the most represented actor in every type of media and in almost each media outlet, two to five times more frequently than any other political party. The interim prime minister, Aleksandar Vučić, stood out in the media – in central news programs of RTS he spoke more than representatives of all opposition parties put together.
The research results also showed marginalization of women in the election campaign. They were five times less represented than men at best.
The most frequent topics were investments and political opponents, while it was very rarely spoken about human rights, anti-corruption, refugee crisis and the European integration.
The results of both monitoring projects will be presented publicly and in a print publication to be issued towards the end of 2016.