The news component, relevant topics, adherence to journalism standards and ethical principles, public relations efforts, problematic on-air personalities, Russian narratives, and suppressed subjects.
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Read the first part of the October-December results (about the broadcasting schedule, topics, and guest policy) here.
The news component of the telethon broadcast
In regards to the “news component” mentioned, it is an arbitrary metric that serves to evaluate the quantity of actual news provided by each participant in the marathon. This is determined by adding up the number of reportages, live broadcasts, and in-studio newsmakers for each channel/media group and dividing by the total number of airtime hours. The following table presents the average per hour for each channel/media group:
Based on the above formula, Inter TV channel was found to be the most informative during the telethon in October-December 2022. This was due to the high number of reportages and live broadcasts, which were featured in both news segments and guest shows. However, the number of newsmakers in their studios was slightly below the overall average for the telethon. UA:PBC took second place, albeit with a noticeable difference. Despite having a low number of reportages and live broadcasts (which, for a news channel in the telethon, was less than one story and live broadcast per hour), UA:PBC compensated with a relatively high number of newsmakers as guests. The news component of the 1+1 block was almost on par with UA:PBC, with a low number of reportages but a decent amount of live broadcasts.
The news component for TV Channel Rada and the ICTV/STB media group was below the average for the telethon. While Rada had a low number of reportages and live broadcasts, it had the highest number of newsmakers among all channels, which somewhat made up for this. The channel’s claim to being informative is based primarily on the presence of these newsmakers, though the quality of their guest studios is lacking. ICTV/STB had the potential to match the news component, as they had a high number of reportages and a number of newsmakers close to the telethon trend, but for some reason, the media group has an aversion to live broadcasts. It’s unclear why, as both channels within the group have demonstrated their ability to effectively conduct live broadcasts, as seen on October 10th when they rapidly organized 10 live broadcasts from six cities in Ukraine during a missile attack by the enemy.\
Finally, the My Ukrayina channel. In October-November, the old team under the new banner was not convincing. The number of reportage stories and live broadcasts was negligible, and the number of newsmakers as guests was low. It’s questionable whether this channel can be considered an information channel, given its news component per hour of airtime, which was only 1.07, compared to the average of 2.27 for the entire telethon. It raises the question of whether it was worth returning to the telethon if the channel fails to function as a news channel. Before, it was believed that it was impossible to surpass Rada’s “record” in pretending to be a news channel, but it seems My Ukrayina managed to surpass this “record” in November and December.
In comparison to the previous period, the telethon has become less informative. The information component indicator in the first six months of the telethon was 2.37 for the weakest participant, the Rada channel. However, in October-December 2022, even the average indicator for the entire telethon was lower than the previous outsider’s 2.27. The current outsider, My Ukrayina TV channel, had an average of only 1.07. The trend of a significant decrease is evident in most channels, with the only exception being the average number of live broadcasts, which remained unchanged (although it remains insufficient for a news channel). A comparison of the average indicators for the telethon per air hour is as follows:
Inter’s editorial office produces the most stories for the telethon. ICTV/STB also produces a significant number of stories. However, UA:PBC, the public broadcaster with the largest correspondent network, produces fewer stories than expected. 1+1 and My Ukrayina produce very few stories, and Rada produces even fewer. This weak performance from 1+1 is surprising, considering the number of strong reporters the channel has.
But the most serious illness of the telethon (I never tire of reminding you that this marathon is pitched as an INFORMATION CHANNEL) is the critical lack of information as such, which has always been based on reports. Out of all the many stories that were aired during the telethon in October-December last year, less than a quarter was reportage. Less than a quarter! That is, on average, the INFORMATION CHANNEL aired only one reportage per hour. The rest are reviews (often compiled from Facebook messages), pseudo-analytics, and some background stories. And, of course, essays. But let me remind the “professionals” that news and information are primarily reports, and essays and analytics are only a supplement to them, and not vice versa, as is the case in the telethon. In this sense, to put it mildly, none of the participants in the telethon have anything to boast about, as none of them has a share of reportage that exceeds even 30 per cent. And the Rada and My Ukrayina channels are worse still.
If we compare the figures for October-December with the first six months of the telethon, we can see a steady decline in reporting and newsworthiness. Back then, at least on 1+1, ICTV/STB, and Inter, reportage made up at least about a third of the stories. This was also insufficient, but now the average for the marathon is less than 25 per cent.
Topics of stories and live broadcasts
The following table shows the priorities of different newsrooms in choosing topics for stories and live broadcasts. I use the “collective mind” of the entire marathon as a measure, i.e., the overall coverage of various topics on the air (this is the last column in the table). One can disagree with something in it, but I have no good reason to criticize this particular distribution of thematic priorities (because I could not find any authoritative sociological research on the preferences of the Ukrainian TV audience regarding the importance of certain topics). So, in this case, it is possible to compare the performance of each channel on any topic with the average telethon performance to assess which topics the channel pays too much attention to and which topics it pays too little (or does not pay attention to at all).
Each column shows the percentage of all stories and live broadcasts that were aired on the days I analyzed in October-December last year. I have left in the table only those topics that received one per cent or more in the marathon.
The topic of enemy missile attacks and shelling of peaceful towns and villages ranks first in this list, deservedly and with a large lead over other topics. This topic was covered by all the marathon participants, with 1+1 and Inter paying the most attention to these events and, surprisingly, UA:PBC, which has perhaps the largest correspondent network in the country, paying the least attention. The second place of international topics is justified, given the significant role of Western military, humanitarian, financial, and diplomatic assistance to Ukraine in this war. It is important to note that on all channels, all international topics were directly or indirectly related to Ukraine. Predictably, there was a lot of international coverage on 1+1 and Inter, as these two channels have foreign correspondents. Little attention to this topic was paid to by the Rada TV channel, and very little by ICTV/STB.
The coverage of hostilities (which is, in fact, the main topic during the war) in the marathon is very weak. The performance of Inter and ICTV/STB TV channels is higher due to the efforts of their own war correspondents. 1+1 also has many powerful war correspondents, so the channel’s below-average score is puzzling. Instead, TV channels Rada, UA:PBC, and My Ukrayina hardly covered the hostilities in their stories and live broadcasts.
Additionally, I would like to point out that in the blocks of the TV channel My Ukrayina, no mention was made of such an important issue as the restoration of the energy system, which the enemy regularly tries to destroy. However, as much as 13.2% of all stories in the channel’s blocks were devoted to the topic of “survival”. TV channels 1+1 and My Ukrayina remained silent on the topic of preparation for defense, and Rada channel addressed this topic very little. TV channels Rada and My Ukrayina paid little attention to cultural issues in their stories. In my opinion, there were too many sports topics in the blocks of UA:PBC. In a time of war, 8.5% of all stories about sports appear strange.
1+1, Rada and UA:PBC did not pay any attention to the rescue, treatment and rehabilitation of the wounded. This is a big problem today for a large number of people and the country as a whole. The topic of domestic politics in the telethon has been banished for reasons I do not understand. 1% of all stories and live broadcasts is clearly not enough. At the same time, important events and topics for society remain out of the marathoners’ attention (more on this in the section on topics not covered by the marathon). So far, among all the channels, My Ukrayina has paid a little more attention to this topic.
Inter, Rada and My Ukrayina did not pay any attention to the topic of education, despite the fact that the educational process in schools and universities is currently hampered by constant shelling and power outages. TV channels 1+1 and Inter did not report anything about the demining of the liberated territories (another urgent problem of the country) in their stories or live broadcasts.
Among those topics that accounted for less than 1% of the marathon and were not included in this table but which I believe are still important for the audience were the economy (0.9%), which was covered by Rada and ICTV/STB channels more than the average, while UA:PBC and My Ukrayina did not cover it at all. There was also religion (0.7%), which was covered more often in the news and broadcasts by 1+1, ICTV/STB, and UA:PBC, while Rada and My Ukrayina did not cover the topic at all. And the topic of prices for essential goods (including food, petrol, power generators, etc.). Overall, this topic received only 0.6% of the marathon’s coverage; most of the stories on the subject appeared on My Ukrayina and ICTV/STB, while Rada covered nothing on this topic.
As a last point, let’s discuss what’s good. About those who made the marathon still watchable. These are the reporters whose stories or live broadcasts in October-December last year were the best on different days. Here are just a few of those I have mentioned more than once: Anton Kotsukon, Iryna Markevych, Nataliya Nahorna, Oleksandr Zahorodnyi, Oleksandr Motornyi, Olha Pavlovska, Ruslan Yarmoliuk, and Yakiv Noskov on 1+1. Kostiantyn Melnykov, Luyiza Yeriomina, Mariya Malevska, Olha Chytaylo, Sofiya Bohutska, Tetiana Dotsiak, and Khrystyna Vengeliauskayte on ICTV/STB. Olena Mendaliuk, Ruslan Smeshchuk, and Svitlana Shekera from Inter, Oleh Reshetniak from Rada and Vyacheslav Mavrychev from UA:PBC. Unfortunately, I did not record the film crew, without whose high-quality work, of course, these stories would not have happened. I promise to correct this mistake by the next summary text.
Violation of standards on the telethon
In this monitoring, I do not record all violations of standards, only those that can affect the content of information, distort it or misinform people. In times of war, this can be costly for both individuals and the country as a whole. In addition, some of these violations significantly undermine the trust of thoughtful viewers in the telethon itself. Let’s take a look at the picture of these gross violations of professional standards in the October-December 2022 telethon in absolute terms:
I would have preferred not to display these absolute figures, but just consider that the telethon presented by its creators as supposedly providing high-quality information, as an “information front”, etc., is actually delivering a disastrous product in terms of professional quality. For comparison, in the first six months of the marathon’s operation, I recorded 3,582 gross violations of standards. Over the last three months, the number has doubled! That is, the professional quality of the telethon’s output has sharply decreased. My impression is that the marathon participants have “relaxed” and returned to their routine “bad habits” from relatively peaceful times.
Now let’s look at the details. The average rate of gross violations of standards per hour of broadcasting is as follows:
As we can see, the biggest offenders in October-December, as well as during the first half of the marathon, were the editorial offices of ICTV/STB and Inter TV channel. They also made the biggest “contribution” to the distortion of the content of the entire marathon. The other three channels were in the middle. There were the fewest violations in the content of UA:PBC, but still an unacceptable number for a public broadcaster. Compared to the monitoring results for the first six months of the telethon, all participants have significantly worsened their compliance with the standards.
In terms of overall indicators across channels, the worst situation is with compliance with two key standards: separation of facts from opinions (the average for the marathon is that this standard is violated more than 13 times per hour) and accuracy (violated on average 7.5 times per hour). Violation of the credibility standard, by the way, also raises serious questions about accuracy, but it is much harder to track compliance with the accuracy standard. As I have already mentioned, it is impossible to independently verify all the facts and quotes collected by six powerful newsrooms every day, so only the most obvious ones are included in this monitoring.
As for the individual participants of the marathon, the overall picture is as follows. ICTV/STB are the biggest violators of the standards both in the overall standings (39.7 violations per hour of broadcasting) and in the number of violations of the standard of separation of facts from opinions (24.9) and the standard of credibility (9.9). TV Channel Inter is not far behind, with a total of 31.8 violations per hour, most of which are also violations of the standards of separation of facts from opinions (18.9 per hour) and credibility (9.5). The average number of violations of the standards per hour on TV Channel 1+1 is 25.2. The majority of these violations were also caused by cases of neglecting the standards of separation (13.5) and credibility (7.1). The 23.3 violations per hour on average by TV Channel My Ukrayina are mainly 10.9 violations of the standard of separation of facts from opinions per hour and 7.2 violations of the standard of credibility. The number of violations of the standards of separation of facts from opinions and credibility is almost the same in the blocks of Rada (8.5 and 7.9 respectively). The highest number of violations of the credibility standard was recorded in the blocks of UA:PBC (3.4 times per hour on average).
Here, as we can see, the first two places are occupied by generalized references to sources of certain facts and even to the authors of subjective opinions. References to sources on the Internet (primarily, of course, social media pages and Telegram channels) are not far behind.
Generalized vague pseudo-references
More than half of them are general references to institutions, departments, organizations, etc. that have long been common in our journalism. This is when news references are made like this: “the President’s Office says”, “the Ministry of Finance reported”, “the Kharkiv Regional State Administration said”, etc. Hypothetically, one can imagine a situation where a specific official from the named institution has told a journalist something. A legitimate question arises: why don’t journalists just say, for example, “Deputy Head of the Presidential Office Kyrylo Tymoshenko told us” instead of “the Presidential Office said”? Most often, the reason is that the journalist has not actually spoken to the official personally. Most likely, the journalist simply found the official’s information (or even his or her opinion) on Twitter or on the official’s Facebook page. That is, the degree of credibility of the information is much lower than it would be if the journalist had actually received the information from the official directly.
However, there may be other situations. 1+1 TV channel aired a story about a human rights conference in Kyiv. The journalist said the following, “Even with the annexation of Crimea, Russia began to massively infringe on the rights of Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry added.” And then, “The President’s Office says that both the collective security system and the protection of rights and freedoms must undergo reforms”. In fact, in the first case, the journalist specifically referred to First Deputy Foreign Minister Emine Dzhaparova, and in the second case, specifically the head of the Presidential Office, Andriy Yermak, who spoke at the conference. Why not name them? Or the Rada TV channel talked about repelling an enemy attack with drones: “Thirty of them were shot down, the Air Force said”. In fact, this was reported by the Air Force spokesman Yuriy Ihnat, and he did so during the telethon. So why not say so?
This leads to the second bad consequence of generalization: audiences cannot tell who said what. In any institution, there are many different people with different competences in different areas. And it’s one thing for the head of the institution to say something, and another thing for a small clerk or a guard at the entrance to say it. That is, in a generalized reference, it is never clear how much this information can be trusted. And there are some lies in such references. For example, Podoliak said something, and the news reports it as “the President’s Office says”. They must be speaking in a chorus. The entire Office. And what happens if the Office denies this information from Podoliak?
And the telethon journalists, like true masters, are able to creatively combine this violation of the standard of credibility with a violation of the standard of separating facts from opinions, either by making generalized references or by adding unnecessary emphasis (using verbs of a solemn style), or by adding their own assessment (using verbs that not only denote an action but also give this action a certain characteristic). Here are examples from the marathon itself, and from the broadcasts of all its participants: “the President’s Office requested”, “the government said”, “the Ministry of Health assured”, “Energoatom noted”, “Kherson Regional State Administration emphasized”, “the Ministry of Defence said”, “DTEK was compelled to inform”, “the President’s Office hinted”, “as noted in the department”, “the President’s Office responded and assured”, etc.
Returning to the topic, we can say that when a specific organisation or institution is mentioned in a vague generalised pseudo-reference, it is still at least some kind of competence designation. This is followed by even more vague pseudo-references that do not mention specific institutions or organisations. All these “local authorities assure”, “one of the medical institutions told us”, “the police have information”, “the authorities say”, etc. And a huge number of pseudo-references by profession or place of work: “ electrical engineers say”, “the military say”, “officials say”, “the police say”, “reported from the frontline”, “according to sociologists”, “public servants say”, “rescuers say”, “according to scientists”, etc. Then there are generalisations by geography: “Odesa residents say”, “Zaporizhia residents report”, “local residents in Kherson report”. This was once taken to the point of absurdity on My Ukrayina: “The giant Ruslan ships, which can carry up to 120 tonnes of cargo, are allegedly carrying winter clothes and harmless electronics that Russians need so badly, according to Chinese officials.” There are more than 1.4 billion Chinese in China alone, so who is making this claim? And there were also some pseudo-references to indefinitely large groups of people without specification: “people say”, “residents say”, “according to the locals”, “the invaders say” (yes, they really made such a “reference”!), “according to eyewitnesses”, “internally displaced persons complain”, “people told us”, etc. The use of “eyewitnesses” was illustrative of the Rada channel in a report about the downing of a military aircraft in Russia: “According to eyewitnesses, the plane crashed near one of the high-rise buildings”. It is hard to imagine that these “eyewitnesses” from some Russian town of Yeysk shared their observations with the journalists of the Rada channel.
There were also many pseudo-references to unspecified media: “according to the media”, “reports began to appear in the foreign press”, “Hungarian journalists who are following the situation”, “often written in the press”, “foreign media write”, “however, the Chinese media immediately refute the accusations of their compatriots”, “the British media reported” and even “information is spreading in the media”. It is simply “spreading”, you see. And that would be half the problem, but from time to time, the telethon also included references like this: “Moscow media say”, “Russian media write”, “Russian media say”, “Russian propaganda media write”, “this is confirmed, in particular, by the Russian media, which are actively spreading information”. Or the “references” on the air of ICTV/STB: “a number of Russian media outlets, citing their own sources, confirmed that it was Mikhail Fridman”. A “reliable” reference, what can I say! Or “Completely different secret information from the Kremlin was leaked to the liberal Russian press”.
And sometimes there were some “geographical and geopolitical” pseudo-references: “A tribunal was also mentioned in Prague”. “The Kremlin calls Tehran like-minded”. “In Russia, of course, all suspicions were called absurd...”. “Berlin is also convinced” and so on.
In the fourth quarter of last year, Rada (160 violations), ICTV/STB (151) and Inter (126) were the most prone to generalizations of this kind.
Generalized pseudo-references to the authorship of subjective opinions
This is an even worse violation of the standard, as any subjective opinion is inseparable from the person who expresses it. In other words, any opinion can be voiced on a news channel only if its author is clearly identified. It is a major problem for all newsrooms, and therefore the telethon as a whole. During the quarter, I recorded 501 such violations, and this was only in the broadcasts that I watched (one day a week). Most often, such manipulation was used by the editorial offices of ICTV/STB (181 such violations), Inter (106) and 1+1 (90).
In all of these generalizations, of course, the mysterious anonymous generalized “experts” play the leading role. I counted 87 references to their opinions, and from time to time they are joined by the same anonymously generalized “analysts”, “professionals”, and “observers” (although “monitors”, which earlier were popular with journalists, have disappeared). Here, too, it is worth paying attention to the verbs used by journalists in these pseudo-references: “experts believe”, “experts are confident”, “experts predict”, “experts do not exclude”, “experts note”, “analysts suggest”, “experts advise”, “analysts confirm and add”, “experts differ on the issue”, “experts emphasize”, “experts unanimously recommend”, “experts are certain”, “experts are pessimistic”, “experts explained”, “all experts add”, “experts assert”, “observers doubt”, “analysts, including British ones, say” (just like in the joke), “experts are skeptical”, “experts warn”, etc. Can you feel how wide the range and, most importantly, what the mood of this “expert and analytical” opinion is? A shame we don’t know whose it is.
This approach sometimes causes even more problems. For example, a 1+1 TV presenter asked a guest the following question: “In particular, I’ve already heard analytical reports from some military experts who blame the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine and Mr Budanov in particular for the fact that a 25-kilometer long convoy has withdrawn from Snihurivka, and how come the DIU did not inform the Armed Forces of Ukraine and therefore did not allow them to deal with this convoy?” In fact, this is the grossest of all possible violations of this standard, to cite any serious accusations from anonymous sources. Accusations can only be specifically authorized, they cannot be made by “some experts”.
In the telethon, journalists attribute a lot of subjective opinions to people of different professions: “soldiers admit”, “artillerymen hope”, “builders say”, “power engineers assure”, “doctors confess”, “historians and architects are certain”, “officials and psychologists say”, “rescuers call”, “the theater community assures”, “human rights activists say”, “dog handlers say”, etc. The list is long. Not only people, but even institutions and agencies express their subjective opinions (obviously in unison): “The President’s Office (of course) says”, “the ministry says”, “the government promises”, “the Armed Forces say”, etc.
The falsity of this approach is well illustrated by the example when the host of Fakty Tyzhnia (ICTV) said: “We have actually survived a blackout, say the power engineers”. However, even during the telethon, different energy experts made completely different assessments of the blackout (whether it had occurred or not), so the generalization was definitely misplaced.
Just like in the case of pseudo-references to the source of information, the effect of the journalistic habit of generalization can take place automatically in some cases. For example, in the My Ukrayina block, there was the following: “The Mejlis is convinced that the invaders simply aim to destroy the indigenous people”. As it turned out, this was the opinion of Refat Chubarov, whose sound bite was shown in the story, so why not say “Refat Chubarov is convinced”?
There were many generalized pseudo-references to ordinary people: “people complained”, “people say”, “villagers say” and “townspeople say”, “residents assure”, “locals joke”, “boys are convinced”, “men confess”, etc. From time to time, journalists resort to an “improved version” of these pseudo-references and allegedly “confirm” their own generalization by posting one or two relevant sound bites. This is a manipulation, because even a dozen similar sound bites never mean that all “villagers” or all “townspeople” think exactly as the people in the sound bites do. Sometimes, however, journalists use this technique to extend “like-mindedness” to “difficult” people. In a story on ICTV/STB, the following was said: “The two new laws will only make life easier for those who help the army, MPs claim”. In fact, in this case, only one MP was “claiming”, and his commentary was included in the story.
From time to time, there are also “geographical and geopolitical” references such as: “European politicians are hinting”, “Kyiv, Brussels, and Washington are discussing”, “in Brussels, they have suggested”, “in London, they say”, or even this “International media and international politicians, foreign politicians, in particular in Germany, they note”. There are also “exotic” stories: “in criminal circles, they are talks”.
Some pseudo-references were completely impersonal: “another version that is being actively discussed”, “many people say”, “a new interesting idea has emerged”, “it is customary to say”, “there is an opinion” and even just “they say”. Someone just says it, you know? Someone. Impersonal statements are also quite popular in the marathon: “The war in Ukraine is rightly called the war of drones and artillery.” Who calls it that? “Zhirinovsky was ironically called a jester”. By whom? “This ministerial summit has already been called historic”. Who said so? “By the way, they say that after such operations... recovery is not long enough.” Who says this?
Out of all this “wealth” of pseudo-references, the most “powerful”, in my opinion, were two of them on the Rada channel: “Local officials assure, and point out, and urge everyone who wants to return not to do so.” There’s a whole range of sentiments in one sentence. Or something like this: “I found this opinion in the public domain”. The public domain can be like that, and there are a lot of different opinions out there.
Unverified information from the Internet
This primarily refers to any information that newsrooms pull from social media pages and Telegram channels for use during the telethon. I wrote in detail about why this is considered a gross violation under the monitoring. In the fourth quarter of last year, the highest number of such violations of the accuracy standard was recorded in the ICTV/STB blocks (129 violations). The number was lower, but still excessive, on Rada (94) and Inter (81). However, the number of such violations was overwhelming for the other three participants of the marathon, even for UA:PBC. In total, there were 499 such violations on the analyzed days. That is 499 potentially unreliable reports!
Here is a table of the resources that were mostly used by the telethon participants:
As we can see, newsrooms’ most frequently used channels are on Telegram, which are the riskiest sources in terms of spreading fake or simply inaccurate information. There were fewer references to Twitter and Facebook, which are still not anonymous and relatively “verified” (though not without risk), than to Telegram. The editorial staff of ICTV/STB (58 links), Rada (37) and UA:PBC (35) are particularly fond of Telegram channels. Here is the first unpleasant “surprise”. In total, in the analyzed telethon broadcasts in October-December, there were 59 references to anonymous (!) Telegram channels without specifying their names, and another 29 with names, but also of anonymous channels (”Trukha”, “Ukraina Seichas”, “Realnyi Kyiv”, “Odessa Info”, “Dnepr Operative”, “its_zp”, etc.) In most cases, the newsrooms pulled unverified videos of various events from these anonymous channels to air the marathon. And even worse, in 14 cases, they did it from anonymous Russian Telegram channels! What guarantees do the editors have that the information and videos from these channels, especially from openly hostile ones, accurately reflect the facts and the stated circumstances? This is a serious question about the quality of the telethon broadcast in general and the credibility of its content in particular. This means, in my opinion, that the editors completely disregarded the golden rule of verifying all information before broadcasting it to an audience of millions.
As for real individuals, the most popular Telegram channels were those of the head of the Dnipro Regional Military Administration, Valentyn Reznichenko (8 mentions), the deputy head of the Presidential Office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko (6 mentions), the Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi (6), the head of the Luhansk Regional Military Administration, Serhiy Haidai (5) and of the Kharkiv Regional Military Administration, Oleh Synyehubov (5). As you can see, the Telegram channels of real officials pale in comparison to the anonymous ones.
Information from Twitter was most often used by Inter TV channel (27 times), 1+1 TV channel (23 times), ICTV/STB and Rada TV channel (22 times each). Here, the favorite source of telethon channels was, of course, the Twitter account of Mykhailo Podoliak, the adviser to the head of the President’s Office (12 times), which overtook even the Twitter account of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (10). The channels referred to the tweets of Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov 9 times, followed by our Western partners, US Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Ann Brink (8), Estonian President Alar Karis (6) and Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis (5). Facebook channels were used much less, and no clear leaders of journalistic trust were found.
The situation with Twitter sometimes took on grotesque forms. For example, Inter’s live coverage from Brussels featured an entire “review” of Twitter posts: Josep Borrell, German Defence Minister, Czech Deputy Foreign Minister, Latvian Foreign Minister, Lithuanian Foreign Minister, Dutch Prime Minister, President of the European Parliament, President of Moldova, President of Estonia. A total of 8 tweets in one bundle.
Of course, there is still a considerable array of 105 links, from which it is impossible even to understand which social network or Telegram channel the news came from. The “references” were varied but extremely vague and indefinite: “footage of this appeared online”, “the video was posted by local residents”, “people write in local online groups”, or even just “residents of Dnipro write”, “many people reported on social media”, “such footage recently appeared on the Internet” or even “flooded the Internet” and the like. Not to mention vague and generalized: “there was even information on the Internet”, “rumors were circulating on social media”, “the video is widely circulated and went viral”, and “we don’t know the details, it briefly appeared on Telegram channels”. “There were rumors,” you know? “Widely spread.” “Briefly appeared.”
And a few more examples. A presenter on the 1+1 TV channel said: “We’ve already seen pictures of people leaning out of windows with guns, trying to hit something.” It was about shooting at drones. The photo the host was talking about had nothing to do with current events.
At the same time, on the 1+1 TV channel, a live broadcast of a correspondent from the G20 summit partially “overlapped” with a video with the logo of the hostile propaganda resource RIA Novosti. It is high time that the telethon participants realized that no information or video from Russian resources is reliable by definition.
And on ICTV, the following was reported: “As reported by Russian oppositionist Leonid Nevzlin on social media, citing sources close to the Russian special services.” Well, not only is he a “Russian oppositionist”, but also “on social media”, and with “sources close to the Russian special services”. Don’t the editors of Fakty (Facts, that’s their self-titled publication!) realize all of the links in this chain of pseudo-references just scream disinformation?
The picture was complemented by abstract pseudo-references, which were most frequent in the blocks of Inter (83 cases) and 1+1 (81). The content of other newsrooms also contained many of them. Out of all 367 such “references”, the universal “it is known” was clearly in the first place. Just “it is known”, and that’s it. Repeated 163 times in the broadcasts I analyzed. To this “it is known”, journalists add various words to “enhance” the pseudo-effect of “credibility” or even “timeliness”: “previously known”, “just learned”, “now known”, “already known”, “currently, it has become known” or “this hour, it has become known”, “as far as we know”, “we know” and even “we know for sure”. Most of all, “it was known” from nowhere to journalists of 1+1 (27 news items with this “reference”).
The second place, albeit by a wide margin, was taken by “there was information”/”there is information”/”information appeared”. This information “was”, “is”, and “appeared” 32 times. Another 14 times, it was “it was reported”. I like the impersonal “it was reported” the most. That is, it is not someone who informs, but it is “reported” by itself.
And, of course, there was a considerable amount of imitation of “credibility” in the form of “according to preliminary information”, “according to preliminary data”, “according to some data”, “according to updated information”, “according to various data”, “according to official information”, etc. It is not clear, however, whose “information” or whose “data” it is, even if they are ten times “official”.
And some exotic abstractions like: “we know from our official sources”, “unconfirmed information has appeared”, “some say”, “just recently released information”, “unofficial information has appeared”, “there is a lot of talk about it”, “information is spreading”, “sources say”, etc. Some magical sources are reporting.
In the marathon, there are still many impersonal sentences without a subject, for example: “It is noted that such a meeting will be held for the first time.” “Volyn residents living near the border with Belarus are urged to be extremely careful and cautious.” “In addition to the fact that the missile attacks are associated with revenge for the destruction of the Kerch Bridge...”. “However, the preliminary results are already being called better than expected for the Democrats.” For a news channel, this form is nonsense. It is necessary to name exactly who is “celebrated”, who “calls”, who “links”, and who “names”.
Sometimes in the marathon, competent guests shatter these abstractions. For example, on 1+1, the host said, “There is even information that drones were sent from the territory of Belarus today”. This “information” (with an unknown source) was immediately denied by the spokesperson for the Air Force Command, Yurii Ihnat. On Rada, the hosts said, “There is information that the result of countering Iranian drones in Mykolaiv is one hundred percent”. Guest Vitalii Kim did not confirm this “information”.
It can be assumed that there is nothing behind the abstract pseudo-links, they are just rumors and gossip that circulate on social media. The 1+1 TV presenter once spoke frankly about this: “We know... that Russian-American negotiations were held in Turkey... In addition, there are rumors about an alleged plan that Mr Sullivan allegedly made during his last visit to Kyiv.” This is how conspiracy theories get transmitted from the “big screen” of the telethon (with “references”, “we know”, and especially “rumors”). In my opinion, this is unprofessional journalism. And by the way, if there are rumors somewhere in the universe, it is the job of journalists to check them with competent sources before spreading them to a multimillion audience.
Another situation that is quite common in marathons is, for example, “So far, 26 people are known to have died, including two children. Another 85 people were injured.” There are plenty of similar situations in the marathon. However, the number of dead and wounded after another shelling or missile attack is too sensitive information to report without a clear reference to the source. In addition, in this situation, it is always important to say at what point the information is relevant (because, unfortunately, the number of dead and wounded can increase).
Factual information without references to sources
Despite the abundance of references available, some 300 instances were observed where journalists failed to cite their sources when presenting factual information. The majority of these instances occurred on channels such as ICTV/STB (70 cases), 1+1, and Rada (69 cases each). This included reports featuring specific events and numerical data. It’s common for channels to dispatch their own correspondents to regional centers, who then report live on various events (such as fighting or shelling) happening in different communities in their regions without providing sources. It’s possible that in these cases, the journalists sourced their information from the internet but chose not to disclose this.
Violation of the standard of accuracy of information
Similar to before, a significant proportion (82%) of violations of this standard were due to either partial or complete inconsistency of images with the narration. This was observed both in news reports (such as “illustrating” of reports, stories, and low-quality live broadcasts) and in unsuccessful attempts to “illustrate” conversations with guests. Looking at the overall statistics, compliance with this standard has deteriorated by almost ten times compared to the first six months of the marathon. The channels with the worst compliance record are ICTV/STB (234 violations), 1+1 (195), and Rada (185).
Mismatch of images and narration in the news
The predominant issue faced by editorial offices is that, in accordance with the “Soviet” tradition, the text takes precedence over the visual aspect. This means that the writing comes first and then visuals are added on afterward. However, this approach makes it difficult, and in many cases impossible, to achieve consistency between the text and visuals. Nonetheless, when it comes to news television, the primary source of information should be conveyed through visual reporting, while the commentary serves to explain or supplement it. This means that only the authentic picture of actual events should be shown - the one that the editorial team managed to capture. However, such cases are rare in the marathon.
The largest discrepancy between text and visuals in news broadcasts was observed in the ICTV/STB blocks, with 190 such cases recorded. This is because many newscasts feature a lot of short forms that attempt to “cover” the text regardless of whether they have the appropriate footage or not. Often, archive footage is used, which doesn’t exactly match the text and doesn’t provide any useful information; it is merely used as a “wallpaper”. Even when a small amount of “fresh” footage is available, the result is often unsatisfactory, as the text is written first, and then overlapped with this footage, making it impossible to achieve consistency. Additionally, editorial staff often have a habit of mixing together multiple pieces of information, resulting in a single news outlet reporting on the shelling of many settlements across several regions. However, all of this is “covered” with pictures from unidentified regions, cities, and villages. This lack of accuracy is detrimental, especially since the marathon is watched by people who are familiar with these towns and villages. They can easily spot that the marathon journalists are lying as they say one thing and show another. Such falsehoods can have catastrophic consequences during times of war.
In general, there are many inconsistencies between the text and visuals in the marathon. For example, while discussing the GUR’s report on the depletion of Russian missiles, the visuals shown may feature tanks or footage of drone bombardments of positions, rather than the missiles in question. Similarly, when reports are made about the President convening an emergency meeting of the National Security and Defense Council, an old archival video of the meeting is often used as a cover, even though it features individuals such as Bakanov and Venediktova who have not been part of the NSDC for six months and are clearly visible in the background. Furthermore, the video is not marked as archival, which can be misleading for viewers.
The situation on Rada is similar, with 115 inconsistencies between pictures and text. There are numerous poorly-made reports that feature footage, mostly from archives, as the channel rarely produces its own reportage filming. Similarly, 1+1 (102 inconsistencies) appears to film a lot, but the picture often does not match the voiceover text, due to the general principle of text dominance that leads to automatic inconsistencies. Some of these inconsistencies are gross and even comical, such as a report about Ukrainian Armed Forces hitting a command post and ammunition depots being “covered” with a video of two villagers with shovels clearing rubble near a private house. However, some inconsistencies are not funny, such as a message about Commander-in-Chief Zaluzhnyi’s support for the new law on toughening responsibility for desertion being “covered” by a video of Ukrainian soldiers training near the Belarusian border, without any indication that it was from the archive.
Most channels consistently “overlap” daily reports from the General Staff with a chaotic assortment of videos showcasing combat operations from unknown locations and times, often sourced from partially or completely archived footage. For instance, when hosts report that “the Russians launched three missile and one air strike”, visuals may show Ukrainian soldiers firing hand-held anti-tank grenade launchers instead. There may also be instances where they discuss NASAMS but show Soviet Buks. Additionally, videos may occasionally feature green trees, despite the fact that it’s winter, without any indication that it is archived footage. It’s worth noting that there is no “archive” tag on such footage.
Serial topics are often “overlapped” with archived footage, such as when discussing the “grain deal” where ports, ships, harvesting, or even sowing are shown, regardless of the time of year. Similarly, reports of power outages are often “covered” with pictures of evening streets illuminated by lanterns. Discussions of macro-financial assistance from the West are “illustrated” with videos of money counting machines. In a particularly “logical” approach, a small stack of 200 hryvnia notes may be shown on the screen after mentioning that “half of these funds will be used for the army.” Conversely, reports about Ukraine’s gross domestic product forecast for the next year are “overlapped” with videos of wads of US dollars. Whenever gas is mentioned, such as when discussing the limitations of Russian gas prices, archived footage of pipes, valves, etc. are often used as visuals.
News regarding international politics often resemble a tourist show, where visuals are chosen based on the location being discussed. For instance, if the news concerns the EU, beautiful views of Brussels may be shown, while London may be showcased when the UK is mentioned. Similarly, the Congress and White House buildings will be featured for news related to the US. However, when it comes to Russia, the same old Kremlin shots are always used as visuals. This approach is prevalent even when the story pertains to individuals like Bridget Brink, who are in Kyiv.
“Illustrating” conversations with guests
This endeavor was doomed to failure from the very beginning. But this does not stop most newsrooms (only ICTV/STB and Inter do not suffer from this “disease”). All the others keep doing it, even though, in my opinion, it’s obvious that it’s nonsense, because you can never guess what the guest will say and at what moment. It is much more difficult to achieve a match between the picture and the conversation, even when “overlapping” the journalistic text. The situation is completely hopeless. But they do it, because for some reason it has become a perverted “fashion” in the telethon. How is it done? They collect footage in the archive associated with “the topic of the conversation”. They edit it together and loop it. And then it’s up to them. In October-December, the highest number of such violations was recorded on Rada (42 times), slightly less, but also a lot on 1+1 (28), UA:PBC (26) and My Ukrayina (19).
I will give a few examples from different channels, although, of course, all attempts at such “illustration” were unsuccessful. In the block of the Rada TV channel, the guest spoke about the punishment of war criminals and collaborators, while they showed the celebration of liberation in the central square of Kherson. The guest spoke about the prices of Russian oil, while some training of the Ukrainian military was shown. The guest was talking about the work of nuclear power plants, but they showed windmills and thermal power plants. They talked about increasing the defense budgets of different countries, but showed a video of the production of 50-euro notes. In general, the Rada doesn’t really care about any kind of relevance, because it often happens that the same looped video cut “illustrates” conversations with several guests, and these conversations are on different topics.
On 1+1, the guest was analyzing the NATO Secretary General’s statement with reactions to Russia’s attempt to annex Ukrainian lands, while Zelenskyy, Stefanchuk, and Shmyhal were shown signing Ukraine’s application to NATO. Or the guest was talking about Zelenskyy, but they showed Putin. The expert was assessing the losses of the Russian military-industrial complex from the termination of cooperation with Ukraine in 2014, and this was “covered” by a photo of Bohuslayev’s arrest. Once, guest Yuriy Ihnat even called out an error by the editorial team. He saw this “illustration” on the screen and said: “and the footage you are showing is from Yahorlyk, two years ago”. They were discussing the shooting down of enemy missiles by Ukrainian air defense on that day.
In UA:PBC’s block, an expert spoke about the risks of Putin using biological and chemical weapons or sabotage at Ukrainian nuclear power plants, while submarines and missile launches were shown on screen. A guest spoke about the work of the police with residents of cities and villages liberated from occupation, and the screen showed sappers clearing minefields. They talked about the events in occupied Kakhovka, and showed the liberated Kherson. And once, they tried to “illustrate” a conversation with a military expert with a dynamic map of military operations. It was as if the guest was deliberately talking about the wrong parts of the frontline all the time.
On the My Ukrayina TV channel, an expert spoke about the enemy’s actions on the occupied left bank of the Dnipro River, “illustrating” it with pictures of liberated Kherson. Another guest spoke about heating and heating points, and showed public water wells. They tried to “illustrate” a conversation with an international expert with pictures of the White House, Congress, Biden and, for some reason, pictures of dollar bills being printed. It looked particularly funny when the expert was talking about the drama of the US election, and at that moment there were dollars, dollars, dollars on the screen. A conversation with the President’s economic advisor about macro-financial assistance from the West and the financing of the budget deficit was “illustrated” by videos of hryvnia bills in production.
Inaccurate illustration of direct connections
This is also a hopeless case. It would only make sense if the correspondent were commenting on a video. In fact, in these attempts by the editors, the footage plays the same role of “wallpaper” as it does in conversations with guests. The highest number of such violations was recorded in the blocks of 1+1 (35 cases), Inter (19), and UA:PBC (11).
Just a few examples. In the 1+1 block, a correspondent from Brussels spoke about the reactions of EU countries to Russia’s attempted annexation, while the programme showed views of Moscow and archive footage of the staged “referendums” in the occupied Ukrainian territories. In one of the other broadcasts, the correspondent tried to comment on the video, but did not do a very good job. For example, she said “you can clearly see a missile hit an empty building”, but it was neither “clearly” nor at all, because at that moment they were showing rescuers pouring foam into the missile crater. A correspondent from Washington said that Minister Dmytro Kuleba was on the phone with Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, and an archival video of Blinken meeting with Zelenskyy in Kyiv was shown. 1+1 has another persistent flaw. They do not just “illustrate” with unsuitable footage, but also partially “block” the live broadcast. At the same time, they have the title “live” on the screen. And the video is definitely not live. It is either from the depths of the archives or, although from today, was still filmed earlier. So this “live” title is a complete lie. Which is quite noticeable to viewers when it’s pitch-black night outside, and the video (which is supposed to be “live”) shows a sunny day.
On the Inter TV channel, a correspondent spoke about a trolleybus destroyed by enemy shelling, while a multi-storey building was shown, then spoke about a crater caused by a missile hit, while a trolleybus was shown, etc. In another live broadcast, the correspondent said that there was no electricity in Sumy, but they showed the illuminated streets and a close-up of a street light. One particular live broadcast, where the correspondent was talking about enemy shelling in Marhanets, was “illustrated” with a photo of a broken car, which had been used to “illustrate” reports of mine explosions in the Kherson region.
In the UA:PBC block, a correspondent from Brussels spoke about the likely content of the eighth package of sanctions against Russia, while footage of the invaders’ imitation of a “referendum” somewhere in the occupied territories and archive footage of the Kremlin were shown. A live broadcast from Budapest discussed Hungary’s energy policy and preparations for the heating season. This was “overlaid” with beautiful, but simple views of the streets of Budapest. When the correspondent was talking about students, the elderly were shown. When they were discussing the work of restaurants, the parliament building was shown. And in the live broadcasts about food prices in different cities, all attempts to “illustrate” were “exactly the opposite”. They talked about oatmeal and showed peas, discussed lard and showed cucumbers.
It’s important to note that verifying all facts and quotes presented in the marathon is physically impossible. Therefore, the analysis focuses only on the errors that are evident on the surface. Even then, there were numerous errors across all channels, with 168 factual errors recorded in the analyzed broadcasts of the marathon. The majority of these errors were found in the broadcast blocks of ICTV/STB (42 errors) and 1+1 (30 errors).
It’s worth noting that the errors recorded across all channels were primarily factual errors. There were over a hundred such errors in total, with the majority found in the airtime blocks of ICTV/STB (34 errors). However, similar errors were also prevalent in the blocks of other channels. Often, journalists across all channels are careless when it comes to handling simple and complex facts. For example, they may refer to a missile attack as “artillery shelling,” or vice versa. They may also call a drone attack a “missile” attack or refer to an Iskander missile attack as an “air strike,” despite these missiles being launched from land-based launchers. The UA:PBC block reported that “Bohuslaev helped the Russian defense industry to repair attack planes,” while the investigation was actually discussing engines for helicopters. Another example is when they reported about the destruction of a “five-storey building” in Vyshhorod, when in fact, the enemy destroyed a four-storey building, which was shown on video at that moment. The presenter could have corrected the mistake by counting the floors, but the error was repeated in two more newscasts. Other examples of factual errors include referring to a US senator as a “secretary” and stating that the drones were shot down mostly with small arms, even though only one drone was shot down with small arms, while the others were shot down with missiles, as noted by Yuriy Ihnat on 1+1 earlier that day.
The most serious factual error recorded in the fourth quarter of last year was the report by 1+1 TV channel about the alleged liberation of the town of Oleshky on 14 November. In this case, the violation of the accuracy standard was accompanied by a severe violation of the credibility standard, as the channel’s editorial team took the “news” from the Facebook page of the mayor, Yevhen Ryshchuk, and broadcasted it in two newscasts without any verification.
Numerous factual errors were recorded where numbers were involved, even simple ones. For instance, a 1+1 presenter claimed that the enemy attacked the humanitarian convoy in Zaporizhia with sixteen missiles, although the guest, Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskyi, had stated that it was only four. Confusion with numbers also arose due to poor coordination between studios, as the guest presenter might say that “18 people have already been rescued,” while the news had been reporting the number as 19 for two hours. Another example is when the news anchor claimed that 15 enemy ships and boats had been sunk, while the infographic and the General Staff’s report had long since put the figure at 16. Additionally, the anchor claimed that the Shahed-136 kamikaze drones “can fly for up to 1,500 kilometers,” while the infographic slide at that moment showed “range 2000 km.”
In the ICTV/STB blocks, the same fact was often referred to in different ways in the summaries and stories. For instance, in one summary, the presenter said that “a Kherson volunteer, Uncle Hrysha, raised 700,000 hryvnias for the Ukrainian army under the watchful eye of the Russians”. However, in the story, it began with the words: “At the age of 75, Uncle Hrysha in his native Kherson raised millions to help the Ukrainian army”. Conversely, in another example, the story mentioned that the American astronaut Scott Kelly “had already raised half a billion dollars to help Ukraine”. What was actually intended was “half a million dollars,” which was mentioned in a “short version” of this information in a later edition.
In Inter’s block, the presenter said that “Russian losses compared to ours are 1:6.5”. However, this was precisely the opposite, as the Russians had significantly higher losses than Ukraine. In addition, the channel’s final news bulletin on 28 November featured an infographic from 28 October in its report on enemy losses. Furthermore, in the preview of a story about the Ukrainian Women’s Congress, the presenter claimed that 60,000 women serve in the Ukrainian army, while the correspondent in the story stated that it was 50,000.
On the Rada TV channel, an expert guest once caught the host in the act of quoting inaccurate information that Western countries had already provided over $100 billion in aid to Ukraine.
In the UA:PBC block, the host made a critical mistake when he said that “according to our Main Intelligence Directorate, Russia has already used more than 80 of its high-precision missiles”. In reality, it was 80 per cent. Moreover, the synchronous translation incorrectly stated that “...a financial package from the EU of up to 1.5 billion a month, totalling up to 80 billion euros.” The correct amount was only 18 billion. Additionally, during a review of the total number of air alerts in Ukraine in October, there was a factual error. The voice over claimed that “residents of the Zakarpattia region heard the least air raid alarms in October - 39 hours”. However, the infographic showed even less time in the Lviv region - only 12 hours.
In the My Ukrayina block, a live broadcast from the Ukrainian Women’s Congress had an extremely confusing story. During the speech of the Vice Speaker of the Parliament, Olena Kondratiuk, the correspondent stated that “Almost right at the beginning of her speech, she emphasized that 50 per cent of the Armed Forces of Ukraine are now Ukrainian women, and this is one third of the Ukrainian army.” However, 50 per cent is not equal to a third of the army. Kondratiuk also mentioned that there are 50,000 women in the army, which is neither 50 per cent nor a third of the army.
Sometimes, the complex numbers were accompanied by incorrect interpretations. For example, in the ICTV/STB block, the presenter spoke about Zaluzhnyi’s interview with The Economist: “He says, literally, the numbers we need to win: 300 tanks, 600-700 infantry fighting vehicles, 500 howitzers”. And Zaluzhnyi said this was necessary to reach the frontline on 23 February this year, not to win the war.
There is also a lot of confusion about geography. The simplest ones are when Vasylivka in Zaporizhia Oblast is called Vasylkiv (which is in Kyiv Oblast), Svitlodarsk in Kirovohrad Oblast is said to be Svitlovodsk (which is actually Svitlovodsk), Nevske village in Luhansk Oblast is called Nevelske, and Ochakiv in Mykolaiv Oblast appears in the list of cities in Donetsk, Kharkiv and Zaporizhia. The British newspaper Financial Times is called “an influential American publication”, the Canadian city of Halifax is called British, and the German city of Rostock is called Russian (the latter in the current context looks like a “betrayal”). It is difficult to deal with geography when it comes to enemy attacks with missiles and drones. For example, the 1+1 news channel said that “Russians used drones of Iranian origin to attack from the north”. The Air Force spokesperson said that they were launched from the south. Or the Rada TV channel claimed that “the missiles were fired by the enemy from the Caspian Sea, from the Rostov region”. But the Rostov region of Russia is not on the Caspian Sea or even close to it.
There were also instances of confusion and errors in the background during the marathon broadcasts. For instance, the ICTV news block claimed that the upcoming meeting between Biden and Jinping would be their first personal meeting. However, the two leaders had already met five years earlier in Davos, when Biden was not yet the President of the United States. Additionally, 1+1 claimed that Russia was once one of the co-founders of the UN, when in fact it was Ukraine that was a co-founder, although not yet a state at the time. The Soviet Union was a co-founder as a state, but not Russia.
Another recurring mistake made by many marathon journalists, both anchors and reporters, was forgetting that the war against Ukraine was unleashed by Russia in 2014. Statements such as “the 219th day of the war,” “this was the 270th day of the war,” “today is really exactly eight months since Russia attacked,” and “the tenth month of the war,” were commonplace. However, these calculations have been made from February 24th, 2022. I recorded 39 such factual errors in the fourth quarter of last year, occurring on all channels, but mostly in the airtime blocks of ICTV/STB. While some may consider these mistakes insignificant, they are a serious concern as they show that the journalists making these mistakes did not fully recognize the impact of the war until February 24th, 2022. This forgetfulness can be disrespectful to the hundreds of thousands of people who lost their loved ones in this war before Russia’s full-scale invasion, thousands of people who were injured, and millions of people who lost everything they had in 2014 and were forced to start a new life from scratch. For the sake of the viewers and the trust in the telethon, journalists should correct this habitual mistake out of respect for those affected by the ongoing conflict.
There is another argument to consider regarding the use of the phrase “9 months of war”. It appears as though people have forgotten about the ongoing war and genocidal crimes committed by Russians in the occupied lands of Ukraine for the previous 8 years. As Ukrainians, it is important to be appropriately vindictive in this regard.
There is another factual impact of these mistakes on the perception of information by viewers. When journalists use time markers like “40 days after this happened, the war began” or “this is where the Russian army arrived on the first day of the war” or “people received temporary shelter only on the tenth month of the war”, these markers will be perceived differently by people who have been affected by the war since 2014 compared to those who have only been affected since February of last year. For instance, when the marathon says “the High Council of Justice stopped working two days before the war,” is this referring to February 2014? Similarly, when they say “if we are talking about the beginning of the war, then, of course, the javelins did their job,” does this imply that the Ukrainian military had Javelins all these 8 years before? It’s crucial that the viewer can easily understand the information conveyed in TV news and guest news studios, and that two different viewers interpret any information heard from journalists in the same way. Therefore, wherever journalists talk about the “beginning of the war” without naming the year, these words can be perceived differently by those who experienced all the miseries of war during 2014-2021 and those who were affected by the war only after 24 February last year. As a result, the former will think about 2014, while the latter will think about 2022, and they will have differing thoughts about the same words.
Another group of mistakes observed during the telethon are terminological errors. For example, journalists refer to refugees as “migrants” and migrants as “refugees.” They use the term “numbers” to refer to casualties, refer to the heads of regional military administrations as “governors,” and describe the occupied territories of countries like Georgia or Moldova as “self-proclaimed.” Some may argue that these are minor errors since “everyone understands what we are talking about.” However, such mistakes indicate sloppiness in the work of journalists, which can undermine the audience’s trust. Moreover, using terms like “governors” or “self-proclaimed republics” constitutes equivocation that is being imposed by the enemy, which further complicates the issue.
Another area of mistakes observed during the telethon are errors in the credits that are apparent to the viewer. For instance, a person may be credited as a completely different individual in soundbites, as was the case in the ICTV block where the head of the Kherson Regional Military Administration, Yaroslav Yanushevych, was credited as “Mykhailo Osipov, cycling volunteer.” Another example is from the Public TV block, where lawyer Gayane Rizonyan was presented with the title “Anton Korynevych, Ambassador-at-Large of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.” In some cases, the gender of a person may be arbitrarily changed, such as on 1+1 where Nobel laureate Oleksandra Matviychuk was referred to as “Oleksandr Matviychuk” in the title. These errors in the credits can further erode the audience’s trust and may even cause confusion.
Geotags can also be inappropriate in the marathon, which can be misleading for viewers. For instance, the destroyed Antonivskyi Bridge in Kherson may be shown, but it could be captioned as “Kyiv”. Similarly, footage of the production of Iranian drones may be shown but captioned as “USA”. Additionally, in a story about the life of an IDP family in Rivne, Inter TV channel displayed archival footage of houses destroyed by shelling, which in itself was a violation of the standard of accuracy, as an “illustration” to their stories about lost homes. However, all of these shots of ruins had the geotag “Rivne” instead of the title “archive” (at least!), which may lead viewers to believe that Rivne was severely damaged by enemy shelling. Moreover, “thematic” or “topic” titles were not always appropriate to the picture, context, and actual content. In one instance on the Rada block, a guest caught the editorial team distorting the meaning of his words with such a “topic” title. All of these errors can confuse the audience and reduce their trust in the marathon’s reporting.
Linguistic mistakes can sometimes become factual errors during the marathon. For instance, journalists may misstate numbers with decimals, such as saying “3 and 9 billion hryvnias” instead of the correct value of 3.9 billion. Similarly, saying “a bill on spending in the amount of 1 and 7 trillion” instead of the correct value of 1.7 trillion can lead to confusion. In other cases, linguistic gaffes may be more amusing than harmful, such as the Inter block’s statement that “the larger half of the missiles were shot down today,” when in fact, half is always the same and cannot be more or less. Nonetheless, even seemingly minor mistakes like these can reduce the audience’s trust in the accuracy of the marathon’s reporting.
While relatively rare, there have been situations during the marathon where inaccuracies were caused by approximations. For instance, saying “the Russians fired almost 10 missiles at the city” when complex numbers should not be rounded can be misleading. Similarly, saying “almost 55 wounded are known” leaves uncertainty about the actual number. When reporting on the number of dead, it is generally wrong to round up since it involves human lives.
Occasionally, journalists can make mistakes in their assessments. An example of this was demonstrated during the 1+1 block when the host made the statement: “...Russia, which is a terrorist state recognised worldwide”. However, it is important to note that this statement is not entirely accurate as not all countries have recognized Russia as a terrorist state, including the United States, as well as many other countries, not just in Europe but across the world. Additionally, journalists may also tend towards generalizations, which was evident in the case of the Inter bloc, when they reported that “All cities are under massive rocket fire. Explosions are heard in all regions”. However, it’s worth noting that this statement was not completely accurate as not all cities and regions were affected by missile strikes on that particular day.
At times, inaccuracies can even be clumsy, as seen in the ICTV/STB block when reporting on Mykhailo Dianov, an Azov man who was released from captivity. During the broadcast, there was a noticeable inconsistency as his injured right hand was intermittently portrayed as his left hand. This was due to the video being mirrored for some reason, which undermined the accuracy of the image. In another instance, a journalist from Inter TV channel referred to the host, Anastasia, as Lilia, repeatedly during a live broadcast, which was a clear error.
Another noteworthy violation of the accuracy standard occurred in the 1+1 blocks, which I briefly mentioned earlier. The broadcast often included archived or previously recorded video footage, which was used to overlay live broadcasts. However, the video was consistently labeled as “live,” which was a misrepresentation of the facts. In fact, during my analysis, I identified at least 10 similar situations where archived footage was used but inaccurately labeled as “live.”
Violation of the standard of separation of facts from opinions
The most significant violations of the standards on air were related to the separation of facts from opinions, and this was observed across all marathon participants. These violations accounted for more than half of all standard violations during the broadcasts. It’s concerning that sometimes it seems like journalists are unaware of the existence of this standard, or worse, they choose to deliberately ignore it. The channels/media groups that participated in the marathon violated the standard in several ways, including:
The joint editorial board of ICTV/STB showed the greatest disregard for the standard of separating facts from opinions, leading by a significant margin in both the overall standings and across all types of standard violations. Within the media group, many journalists routinely flouted the standard, sometimes with enthusiasm, including top news anchors and the hosts and journalists of the weekly news programs. The frequency of repeated texts in newscasts and the high volume of stories featured in the weekly news program resulted in an alarming rate of almost 25 violations per hour of airtime. However, it’s worth noting that talk show hosts rarely violated this standard. Inter ranked second in terms of standard violations, and 1+1 ranked third. Nevertheless, all three newsrooms had a significant number of violations, indicating that they were not merely isolated incidents or mistakes made by individual journalists.
Subjective opinions of journalists in the news
It’s important to note that viewers tune into the news to be informed about current events, not to hear journalists’ personal opinions. Opinion-based programming exists to fulfill that need. When news journalists offer their own evaluations, summaries, comparisons, and conclusions, it creates two significant risks to the quality of news. Firstly, journalists can make mistakes in their reasoning, regardless of their level of expertise in a particular field. Secondly, journalists introduce their own subjective attitudes towards the event and its participants into their reporting, which can distort the reality of the situation. This distortion can sometimes be innocuous, but other times, it can significantly affect the accuracy of the news or its audience’s perception. There is also a third risk, where journalists may unconsciously omit important facts that shaped their conclusions or assessments. Facts are constant, but subjective opinions about them can be numerous and vary greatly. Therefore, viewers may receive only one interpretation of the facts from the journalist, which may be closer or further from reality.
To illustrate this point, I will provide a few examples from the telethon broadcast that occurred between October and December of last year. However, due to the high number of violations (almost 100 pages worth), I will only focus on the most typical violations across all channels. The most common violation was the inclusion of subjective assessments, with very few of those as exceptions in the UA:PBC blocks. Journalists provided subjective opinions on everything, including facts, circumstances, situations, other people’s words, and behavior, among others. While viewers may agree or disagree with these assessments, they are still subjective opinions from the journalists themselves and add little to the content beyond emotional responses.
First of all, the assessments that invariably appear in the news about the fighting: “a lightning attack”, “the enemy is putting up a fierce fight”, “it’s the hottest time there” (1+1), “Russians continue senseless shelling”, “the occupiers are heavily shelling the village”, “heavy mortar fire”, “they got their teeth kicked in by our defense forces”, “deadly iron is flying around”, “blood runs cold” (ICTV/STB), “suffers crushing blows from the enemy”, “Russians are fighting like crazy” (Inter), “fierce battles”, “hellish battles” (Rada), “huge losses”, “they have created a real hell for the enemy”, “it is hot in the Donetsk region”, “our guys are fighting back”, “the bloodiest battles”, “terrible battles”, “hellish battles”, “like locusts, they came from everywhere”, “the much-hyped Pskov paratroopers” (My Ukrayina). As you can see, there are purely emotional definitions here, but there are also words that could have a certain weight only in the mouths of the military, because they are also terms. Like a “fierce” battle and a “hellish” battle. The former is a term, the latter is an exaggerated epithet.
The various epithets in the article primarily refer to the consequences of the enemy’s actions on civilians and settlements in Ukraine. These include phrases such as “an unprecedented genocide in history,” “the infamous Bucha” (or other cities), “a shocking tale of occupation,” “living conditions there are terrible” (1+1), “terrible consequences of the Russian invasion,” “a huge crater,” “a huge missile crater” (a standard epithet for the craters mentioned in the telethon), “harrowing findings after de-occupation,” “like one of the circles of hell,” “apocalyptic ruins,” “brutally mutilated by the Russians,” “deadly shells fell heavily on peaceful houses,” “the old woman could not even imagine in a bad dream,” “it is impossible to look at what the Russians left instead of the new building without crying,” “a sacrificial day,” “all the details of this terrible day,” “terrible ruins,” “it withstood seven months of hell,” “it was a real torture chamber,” “by a terrible coincidence,” “recalls the day with horror” (ICTV/STB), “the turbulent Donbas,” “armageddon in the city,” “the street landscape is increasingly reminiscent of an apocalyptic wasteland,” “armageddon, a real armageddon here,” “a terrible reality,” “Bakhmut is shocking,” “experienced all the horrors of the occupation,” “an apocalyptic picture,” “these satellite images are shocking,” “a video that makes your blood run cold,” “when Halyna recalls the night of 22 December, her heart sinks” (Inter), “horrors of the occupation,” “terrible figures,” “terrible news,” “they tell terrible stories” (Rada), “a terrible video,” “the horrors of occupation,” “inhuman conditions,” “terrible shelling of Kherson,” “rebuilding it literally from the ashes,” “a huge sinkhole has formed,” and “without a leg, but with a fierce strength of spirit” (My Ukrayina). I would also like to say that the facts and testimonies of real people, if journalists gave them the floor properly (and not for 5-10 seconds, as is customary), are much more emotionally powerful than all these journalistic clichés, which could be dispensed with.
And a variety of other assessments on any occasion, which in peaceful and relatively peaceful times was a bad habit of journalists in most editorial offices: “sensation”, “symbolic”, “rhetorical appeal”,”stubbornly denies”, “historic event”, “unprecedented”, “disappointing statistics”, “outrageous case”, “unique”, “grandiose” (1+1), “touching video”, “thanks to heroic efforts”, “demand for them is insane”, “legendary unit”, “he got it in an amazing manner”, “and such a huge audience” (ICTV/STB), “everyone is extremely moved”, “cultural triumph”, “heartbreaking moments” (Inter), “unprecedented case”, “a symbol of confidence in our victory” (Rada), “incredible sacrifice”, “legendary song”, “heartwarming concert”, “a meeting place for incredible people”, “the most painful issue”, “real masterpieces”, “the amount of aid is unprecedented”, “touching Christmas video”, “this is an exorbitant figure” (My Ukrayina). And in addition, there are two dimensions of immediacy from 1+1: “The first reaction to the annexation from the Office of the President of Ukraine was immediate”. No comments are necessary here. And “the fire was immediately extinguished by the rescue team”. In real life, it never happens “instantly”. And the “unexpected” hyperbole from ICTV/STB: “Eggs in supermarkets today are not plain, but golden. At least, many of them are worth their weight in gold.” I think this is, to put it mildly, an exaggeration.
The coverage on some channels, especially 1+1 and My Ukrayina, included a large number of stereotypical assessments that used phrases such as “fortunately” or “unfortunately.” For instance, when someone was not injured or killed, journalists often used the words “fortunately,” “lucky,” or “miraculously not killed.” Sometimes, 1+1 even used the phrase “got away with a fright.” These assessments were so pervasive that they bordered on absurdity, such as when different stories from various authors on Inter started with the words “She miraculously survived.” The equally stereotypical phrase “unfortunately” was also heard during the marathon. Sometimes, these phrases were used together, as in the My Ukrayina programme: “Fortunately, people and animals were not injured, which, unfortunately, cannot be said about the factory itself.”
In addition, some assessments in different channels substituted factual information. For instance, phrases such as “a lot of people are leaving by train” failed to provide specific figures, such as how many people were evacuated (tens, hundreds, or thousands). Similarly, phrases like “people did not stay there for long” lacked information on the duration of their stay (minutes, hours, days, or months). Other phrases, like “there are huge fines now,” failed to provide details on the amount of the fine in hryvnias. Some assessments were seemingly irrelevant, such as “the city has warmed up, the weather helps in these difficult times,” without specifying the temperature. And of course, there were some trivial examples, such as “eggs have risen in price in Ukraine.”
Another issue is equivocation in the coverage. At times, Russians are referred to as “orcs” - a fantasy term - (even though NSDC Secretary Oleksiy Danilov once urged journalists not to use such language, to no avail). Lukashenko is frequently referred to as the “self-proclaimed president” instead of “self-styled” or “usurper.” The coverage also refers to various regions such as Transnistria, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia as “self-proclaimed republics” rather than the more accurate term of “Russian-occupied territories” of Moldova and Georgia. It is worth noting that the media has gradually stopped using the term “self-proclaimed” when referring to the DPR/LPR.
Journalists also draw their own conclusions on various occasions. For instance, regarding the course of the war, one channel stated, “The Kremlin’s actions give no reason to believe that they are really ready to negotiate because they do not stop shelling the energy system” (1+1). Another channel claimed, “Such actions of the occupiers are caused by the extremely high number of requests for surrender by Russian soldiers and are unlikely to stop desertions in the Russian army” (Inter). Regarding international politics, another channel opined, “No one has yet been officially accused of carrying out the [Nord Stream] explosions, but Russia is the main suspect” (Inter). Some channels also draw conclusions about the agricultural sector: “It’s too early to talk about the final figures of winter crops, but it is clear that farmers will have to reseed their fields, and, for example, in the spring it will be much more difficult to do so” (Rada).
Another common practice among most marathon participants is for journalists to make their predictions. For instance, “Obviously, Russia will use its veto power and block the resolution, and then it will be submitted to the General Assembly.” “Russia’s Investigative Committee has classified the case as a ‘violation of safety and operational rules,’ so the dead pilots will probably be found guilty” (1+1). “If the Iranians do manage to overthrow the regime, the next government may stop supporting Russia, finally turning it into a pariah” (ICTV/STB). “The EU is expected to disconnect the remaining Russian banks from the SWIFT system, as well as to limit gas export prices and ban Russian ships from entering European ports” (Inter). “The enemy attacked Zaporizhia with missiles, presumably from aircraft” (Rada). “Therefore, it is likely that no declaration will be adopted at the summit, but at least a joint so-called ‘family’ photo will be taken without Putin. And this is already a plus.” “But now Russia is unlikely to dare to hide planes at the same airfield” (My Ukrayina).
This practice stems from the fact that journalists often begin to feel like “experts” in the topics they cover, rather than deferring to real experts. As a result, they often offer their own “expert” assessments, conclusions, and assumptions. Here are a few examples related to the topic of hostilities and the course of the war: “Intense fighting in the south. The occupiers are continuously shelling almost everything near the contact line with barrel and rocket artillery. Our troops are enduring the fire and giving a worthy response.” “North of Bakhmut, the Russian invaders have sharply increased their offensive efforts, and the intensity of enemy artillery shelling has also increased sharply” (1+1). “Putin is putting pressure on Lukashenko to launch an armed aggression against Ukraine, and if this happens, our response will be adequate.” “Thanks to the targeted destruction of command posts and ammunition depots, we managed to break the command, logistics, and communication system of the Russian troops.” “Their army is fighting according to the operational art of the twentieth century, where everything is decided at the top, and they are trying to hold the entire captured territory by stretching troops along the entire front line” (ICTV/STB). “While at the beginning of the full-scale invasion, the Russians outnumbered us in terms of artillery, the situation was leveled in the summer, and now the advantage is often on the side of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.” “The history of mankind is the history of wars. The winner is the one who is better organized. And the level of technical equipment of the army becomes the main issue of the country’s survival” (Inter). “The biggest military load has traditionally been maintained in the Avdiivka and Bakhmut directions, as well as near Bilohorivka in the Luhansk region” (Rada). “Some of its strategic bombers may be sent to bases in northern Russia. This will extend the time to complete the task, and with it, the use of the resource.” “For the Muscovites, the loss of control over this road means the destruction of the entire Luhansk front” (My Ukrayina).
SSometimes, the feeling of “expertise” among journalists becomes so powerful that they start giving out “useful tips” and “instructions” to viewers during the marathon. Here are just a couple of examples: “For those who have been waiting for help from the state for a long time, it makes sense to follow the example of the residents of Borodyanka and Bucha - to repair their homes with their own money, and only then demand compensation” (1+1). “War is a reason to be more responsible, so we should not neglect safety precautions to avoid unnecessary tragic consequences” (ICTV/STB). “And that is why I will repeat once again: I ask all residents of the Sumy region to limit electricity consumption” (Inter). “They say that habit is even worse than fear. When a person gets used to it, well, in this case, people just stop going down to the shelters, and we urge them to follow the rules” (UA:PBC). “According to preliminary forecasts, salo may rise in price by 15% by the new year, so those who cannot do without the tasty fatty morsel every day have time to replenish and freeze their stocks” (My Ukrayina).
From time to time, journalists also try to artificially attract the audience’s attention with dubious markers such as “interesting”, “important”, etc. For example, you may hear phrases like “interesting in itself”, “and what is interesting”, “there is an extremely interesting story here”. Or “but what is important”, “another point is important”, “but the important geopolitical point here is this”. From time to time, there are the following: “there is one more disturbing piece of news”. Or vice versa: “there is also good news”, “optimistic news, as you can see”, “there is good news from our defenders of the sky”. And even “it’s worth adding”. However, it is questionable whether these markers truly add value to the content being presented.
A separate large block is the periodic use of propaganda language by journalists from different editorial offices of the marathon, rather than news language. This is despite the fact that the marathon itself is positioned as “informational”, “news”, but not propaganda.
Here are examples of this language: “Muscovite freaks”, “Russians”, “manic speeches”, “Putin’s henchmen”, “zombified Russian voters”, “Russia’s cynicism knows no bounds”, “Russian dirt and evil spirits who came to pollute our land”, “propaganda nonsense”, “propaganda rubbish”, “the Russian ambassador and his henchmen were screaming at the UN” (1+1). “Kremlin’s mouthpieces”, “the Russian propaganda machine is working at full capacity”, “TV zombie”, “aggressive editor of Russia Today”, “the Kremlin has not come up with anything better than to intimidate the world again”, “Kremlin scum”, “Russian inhumans”, “thugs and maniacs”, “looters were replaced by murderers”, “Russians have their own ritual - murder and terror”, “their animal instincts to kill and destroy” (ICTV/STB). “On the eve of dancing with tambourines in Muscovy and signing papers, the invaders started howling”, “since then, the level of absurdity of anti-Ukrainian propaganda has been hitting rock bottom every day”, “Putin’s henchmen”, “the scum looted”, “his cynical lies”, “lies from the bunker-dwelling grandfather”. “a professional liar and a brazen jingoist”, “cynical and unprincipled manipulators”, “absurd methods”, “Kremlin screamers” (Inter), etc.
The language being used in a propagandistic manner is prevalent on a large scale by three marathon participants: “1+1, ICTV/STB, and Inter.” This language is frequently utilized in their broadcast blocks, with some materials even consisting entirely of such rhetoric, including pseudo-analyses concerning Russia and Russian propaganda. While it may be understandable to have negative sentiments towards Russia, this approach is not appropriate for the marathon. Rather, it resembles the style of hostile Russian propaganda, akin to that of the Pravda newspaper and Vremya programme. During the period of October-December last year, such language was not observed on UA:PBC blocks and was relatively rare on Rada and My Ukrayina.
Subjective opinions with unclear authorship in reports and conversational studios
Now, let’s talk about subjective opinions in reports on the air. The general principle here is as follows: unlike news, authors of such programmes or stories, as well as talk show hosts, have every right to express their own opinions. However, it is imperative that they are authorized so that the viewer understands where the journalist is stating facts, where they are quoting someone else’s opinion, and where they are expressing their own. Otherwise, the journalist’s opinion will either replace the facts or look like a “universal truth”.
In this section, I will give a few examples, because the main thing is not what exactly the journalists expressed in the telethon, but the general approach. Although sometimes the opinions were categorical, the assessments were debatable, and the conclusions were not necessarily correct. And in all these cases, there were no simple authorisation markers (”I believe”, “in my opinion”, “it seems to me”, etc.).
In general, the highest number of such violations of the standard was recorded on the air of ICTV/STB (585), Rada (147) and Inter (118). Others had fewer, but still enough to not be considered accidental mistakes.
These are just a few of the opinions that were voiced in the blocks of various channels and were not authorized in any way: “We continue to discuss the historical combination that just happened before our eyes. This is when Putin made his move and checkmated, and Zelenskyi checkmated Putin” (Natalia Moseychuk on 1+1). “We see problems with the Red Cross. In recent months, it has shown itself to be an impotent organization” (Natalia Ostrovska on 1+1 TV channel). “Well, if something has to happen in the world to once again confirm that Russians are savages, and that Russian propagandists, that Putin’s plan is really a genocide of the Ukrainian people, then his propagandists are doing everything for this, with their own mouths” (Yevhen Plinsky on 1+1 TV channel).
“What is Elon Musk smoking? The question of the week arose after the billionaire space tamer shared his amazing plan to end the war in Ukraine... From this nonsense, it became clear that Musk not only does not know history, but also smokes in the company of Russians, because all his tweets are based on the key theses of Kremlin propaganda” (Serhiy Kudimov in the ICTV/STB block). “The liberation of the right bank of the Dnipro River and the return of Kherson to its native harbor is of great strategic importance. Firstly, it shows the insignificance of Putin’s idea of annexing territories. Secondly, it continues to destroy the myth of the “Russian world”, because the whole world saw with what sincere and frantic joy Kherson residents greeted Ukrainian soldiers...” (Oksana Sokolova in the ICTV/STB block). The weekly “Facts of the Week” on ICTV/STB is a separate story. All of its stories and all of the summaries to them almost entirely consist of subjective assessments and conclusions not authorized by the hosts and correspondents. Most of them are purely emotional, while others are “expert”. For example, in Pavel Vasiliev’s story, “The fact is that further east of Svatove, the terrain is naturally suited for quick action. Therefore, our tactics are breakthroughs and the creation of constant threats to new environments. The Ukrainian Armed Forces can bypass the resistance nodes and put nooses on the occupiers’ logistics routes, although it will not be a cakewalk.” My assumption is that in such cases, journalists speak on their own behalf about the analytics they heard from real experts, instead of giving their opinions in sync in the stories. At the same time, I repeat, the hosts of the StarLightMedia media group’s talk studios, Vadym Karpiak and Yana Brenzey, hardly ever violate this standard, i.e. almost all of the 585 violations of the standard related to quotes with uncertain authorship were committed by the weekly’s journalists in October-December last year.
In contrast, the Rada TV channel does not have a weekly, so all 147 such violations were committed by the hosts of the guest studios. Three examples: “We call this resolution historic, and the International Committee of the Red Cross has also called a spade a spade for the first time. It used to have doubts for some reason. Now he says that there is a “Russian-Ukrainian military conflict” in Ukraine. (Maksym Zborovsky in the Rada bloc, and this is on the day when the Red Cross, on the contrary, once again failed to get to Ukrainian prisoners in Olenivka). “You see, absolutely obvious things are now being revealed that the ban and obstruction of active Chinese investment in this particular enterprise was, at a certain level, absolutely correct, perhaps not quite timely, but better sooner than later. And we can see that this decision was right then” (Nazar Dovhyi in the Rada block). “There is an interesting story here, just like with NATO. Because we see allies helping and NATO trying to keep it in the media, that specific member countries are helping, but not NATO as a whole. Again, again, in order not to escalate this war. That is, this war is like the history of individual states, not the whole world” (Tetiana Honcharova in the Rada block).
In the Inter block, most of the 118 such violations of standards were attributed to guest hosts, for example: “It’s strange that these women are asking for support from their fellow citizens, who for years have turned a blind eye to the arbitrariness of the authorities, who write slander and denunciations against each other, who rejoice in the deaths of not only peaceful Ukrainians, but also the deaths of their own soldiers in Ukraine” (Dmitry Chistyakov on Inter TV). “Obviously, this coven that was held in the Kremlin today has no impact on our desire to liberate our territories, but Putin is essentially driving himself into a dead end” (Oleksandr Prosyanyk on Inter TV).
Journalists must avoid generalizations, especially when it comes to the actions, thoughts, feelings, and attitudes of large groups of people since such generalizations are often untrue. Unfortunately, journalists frequently and readily make generalizations. In my analysis of broadcasts between October and December, I identified 402 instances of such violations, equating to more than five unfounded generalizations per hour on average. The journalists from the joint editorial office of ICTV/STB (133 violations), Inter (95), and 1+1 (75) had the most violations of this kind. Although other channels had fewer generalizations, there were still too many to be considered a coincidence.
The generalizations were more or less local: “Kherson residents drew strength from their faith”, “locals are hopeful”, “our tankers are confident”, “the theater community is confident: their creativity heals and saves”, “other people were dancing and insisting that celebrating is still important” (1+1), “almost everyone in Zhmerynka volunteers”, “none of the soldiers here are used to wasting time”, “the military were very touched by this”, “the townspeople are confident” (ICTV/STB), “the news of this shook the whole town”, “despite this, the morale of the people of Kropyvnytskyi is high”, “Kyiv residents have relaxed a bit lately” (Inter), “Dnipro motorists literally fly on the roads and often cause accidents”, “Kherson residents are rejoicing”, “Bukovyna locals understand” (Rada), “locals do not hold back tears” (UA:PBC) , “villagers do not plan to leave”, “drivers were not prepared for icy conditions and were driving on summer tires” (My Ukrayina).
eneralisations were indefinitely broad, but somewhere within the country: “now everyone is talking about his arrival”, “switching to Ukrainian everywhere is a conscious desire of everyone”, “Ukrainians who managed to get out of the occupied territories are convinced”, “most Ukrainians see” (1+1), “millions of people wished that this birthday would be his last”, “at the same time, Ukrainians say They were not afraid of massive missile attacks, nor of frosts with blackouts and colds”, “the current generation of Ukrainians feels the pain of Babyn Yar extremely deeply” (ICTV/STB), “this video has spread all over the country”, “racists cannot intimidate Ukrainians”, “almost every Ukrainian has felt the power of Iranian drones” (Inter), “the whole of Ukraine is concerned about the raccoon”, “Ukrainians are not afraid, they are already hardened people, ready for any development of events”, “almost everyone woke up around four in the morning” (Rada), “all Ukrainians pin all their hopes on the Armed Forces of Ukraine”, “Ukrainians do not rejoice during the holiday” (UA:PBC), “the slogan of Ukrainians is that every life is precious to us”, “no one will be surprised by this footage”, “now Ukrainians know: it is possible to live without light, water, heat, communication, the most important thing is not to panic” (My Ukrayina).
Then, there were also “global” generalizations: “this graffiti, like the previous ones, made a splash all over the world”, “the world has once again seen what Russia is capable of”.”the whole civilized world is outraged by the annexation of Ukrainian territories”, “this year’s speech has worried the whole world” (1+1), “the world is outraged by another act of terrorism by Russia”, “this year, the world celebrates Christmas Eve with thoughts about Ukraine” (ICTV/STB), “Europeans have understood”, “everyone is shocked” (Inter), “Orthodox Christians are hopeful” (Rada), “Europeans are in solidarity with Ukrainians”, “in the end, the whole world, there is probably not a single sane person who would not admit that yes, this is beyond cruelty” (My Ukrayina).
Sometimes journalists even summarized the knowledge and feelings of the marathon viewers themselves, as, for example, the 1+1 TV presenter Nataliia Moseichuk did: “We are going to talk to the experts you already know well and love, these are Petro Kulpa and Mr Vynnytskyi.” This particular instance serves as an excellent illustration of the impracticality of generalizations. From a personal standpoint, for instance, it’s challenging to provide an opinion about the gentlemen mentioned by the host during the telethon. I can’t claim to “like” or “dislike” them, mainly because I didn’t know them well before that moment. Despite having to watch the telethon, albeit selectively, almost from the beginning, it was for work-related reasons rather than personal interest.
Violation of the standard of completeness of information
At first glance, 212 violations may seem like a minor issue, especially when compared to the thousands of violations observed under the previous standards. However, it’s worth noting that these 212 violations equate to nearly three violations per hour of broadcasting on average. Upon reviewing the table, it’s apparent that My Ukrayina, Rada, and ICTV/STB were the primary contributors to this number.
Incomplete introduction of studio guests or speakers in soundbites
The standard of editorial completeness was most often violated in this way. One third of such violations were in the blocks of TV Channel Rada, and one fifth – in the blocks of TV Channel My Ukrayina.
In most cases, guest experts in the telethon’s studios were not provided with proper explanations regarding their expertise, as the channels limited themselves to using generalized and simplistic titles such as “military expert”, “political scientist”, “international expert”, etc. It’s important to note that an expert’s experience needs to be confirmed by something, such as work experience in a particular field, military or academic rank, or belonging to a highly specialized and authoritative structure. Despite the fact that a group of experts has been forming in the marathon for many months, and they are constantly involved in discussions, the hosts of the telethon continue to ask viewers to trust the editorial team that a particular guest has a deep understanding of the topic. However, there is a significant difference between claiming to be an expert and actually being one. For instance, looking at the background of Heorhiy Birkadze, an “expert on economic and political issues” who is favored by the editors of the Rada TV channel, I find it hard to believe that he is competent enough in most of the issues discussed by the channel’s hosts. Similarly, my confidence in the “political scientist” Dmytro Vasilyev expertise is doubtful, given that he seems to be involved in marathon discussions of any topic, and has even written songs and sang on one occasion. It’s important to acknowledge that there is no such thing as an “expert on all topics.”
Some of the violations of the standard were due to guest introductions that required additional explanations. For instance, the introduction of the guest as the “director of recruitment at Gremi Personal” in the 1+1 block needed some form of explanation regarding the nature of Gremi. Even the word “recruitment” may not be familiar to all viewers. Similarly, in the Inter block, when introducing the “political scientist” Alexei Makarkin, it would have been appropriate to mention that he is a Russian political scientist. However, this information was not provided, and both he and the “political scientist” Abbas Galyamov discussed Russian backroom politics. Additionally, there were instances where the channel’s host introduced the guest as a “member of the Committee on Energy and Housing and Communal Services,” without clarifying that it was a committee of the Verkhovna Rada. As a result, it was unclear which “committee” was being referred to. In another instance, MP Larysa Bilozir was introduced on the Rada TV channel as “the head of the Verkhovna Rada Subcommittee on Administrative Services and Administrative Procedures,” while being asked about the PACE resolution on the recognition of the Russian regime as a terrorist one. As a viewer, I found myself momentarily confused about how administrative services and procedures could be related to PACE and a global issue. However, her real competence in the subject matter was explained when it was mentioned that she was a member of the Ukrainian parliamentary delegation to PACE.
In many instances across most channels’ blocks, there were missing credits for people in soundbites, and these individuals were often experts rather than ordinary individuals.
Unmarked archive footage in the background
The failure to indicate the archives used in news reports or reviews is a significant violation of the standard of accuracy since viewers perceive any video presented as current. While archival videos can serve as a suitable alternative to supplement lengthy text read by journalists, they should only be used as a background when a reference to past events is necessary. However, according to the standard, archival videos used in such instances should be clearly marked with the date of the event/shooting. Unfortunately, there were 62 instances where background videos were used on the air of the telethon without any captioning or labeling, including dates or titles such as “archive.” The majority of these violations occurred on ICTV/STB (21 cases), 1+1 (15 cases), and UA:PBC (11 cases).
Lack of answers to key questions in the news
Among the broadcasts analyzed, there were 29 violations of the standard of completeness of information, and in most cases, they pertained to key issues. Although the number of violations may not seem significant, it’s worth noting that these were crucial issues that were not given the attention they deserved. The majority of these violations occurred on the airtime blocks of ICTV/STB (9) and My Ukrayina (8), while other channels had fewer instances. However, it’s important to acknowledge that there were violations in all the channels analyzed.
One of the most common issues observed in the news and reports analyzed was the lack of coherent answers to the fundamental question of “where did it happen?”. For instance, in the ICTV/STB block, the story’s summary mentioned the village of Kryvorivnia but failed to specify that it was in the Ivano-Frankivsk region. The Inter TV channel had a story about a village in the Kyiv region hit by a Russian missile on October 17, but they did not mention the name of the village in the lead-up to the story or during it. Additionally, the same channel reported on an explosion in a high-rise building “in one of Kyiv’s residential areas” without naming the district or the street. While it wasn’t an enemy missile explosion, providing this information would have been appropriate. In another instance, a UA:PBC story described in detail how power engineers were repairing the power grid of a city damaged by enemy shelling. However, the city was not mentioned in the story or the summary. Finally, in the My Ukrayina block, the presenter announced that “Makiivka has been liberated under constant fire,” without specifying that this was a village in the Luhansk region. This is particularly significant as there is a large city of Makiivka near Donetsk that is still occupied.
In some cases, the news reports failed to address another fundamental question, “When?”. For instance, in the midnight newscast of UA:PBC TV channel, a report on the aftermath of the hostile shelling of Mykolaiv did not mention that the shelling had taken place the day before. This omission left viewers without a clear understanding of the timeline of the events.
In the My Ukrayina block, the hosts forgot to answer the question “who?” the summary was as follows: “In the Kirovohrad region, they found an alternative to ‘blue fuel,’ and now local schools are warmer than ever. Most of the institutions have been re-equipped for this purpose and, as they say, it has been quite successful, and now they are considering a new challenge: how to maintain autonomy in the event of a power outage.” In my opinion, it is unprofessional to use impersonal sentences in the news.
Or key details for the news. In the segment on the 1+1 channel, the host reported: “35 hostile drones attempted to strike energy infrastructure facilities. The air defense forces successfully intercepted the vast majority.” However, an exact number of downed drones was not provided. Additionally, during the coverage of Argentina’s triumph over France in the World Cup final, the ICTV presenter omitted the match’s final score in two separate broadcasts.
The Rada TV channel cited “recent polls in Russia” without specifying the organization responsible for conducting the polls. Furthermore, the UA:PBC TV channel shared the findings of a survey carried out by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology but neglected to mention details such as the number of respondents, polling methodology, or margin of error.
No background noise in the video
Background noise often serves as a crucial supplementary element, conveying emotions and, in combination with video, immersing the viewer in the scene. When background noise is either absent or drowned out by the reporter’s narration, these effects are diminished. The fact that background noise is frequently muffled by narration on Ukrainian TV channels’ news broadcasts is a significant shortcoming. Between October and December of the previous year, during the telethon, I identified at least 17 instances where background noise was entirely absent. Of these, 12 occurred in the My Ukrayina channel’s broadcast segments.
The lack of background noise was uncommon and likely resulted from errors made by individual journalists rather than a widespread issue.
Violation of other standards and ethical norms of journalism
Violation of the standard of accessibility of information
Even seemingly minor infringements of this standard can significantly hinder information comprehension for all viewers or at least large groups of them. I documented only the most blatant cases, yet there were many—134 across all channels, averaging 1.7 violations of this standard per hour during the marathon.
Numerous violations from October to December last year arose from journalists using terms unclear to the entire audience. The issue is that when viewers encounter unfamiliar words, they attempt to find explanations or analogies in their minds, becoming distracted and losing grasp of some information.
Throughout the telethon, journalists from all newsrooms frequently used trendy slang words, primarily borrowed from English. Although it may seem that “everyone knows” terms like gadgets, devices, life hacks, and startups, not everyone actually does. Firstly, not all Ukrainians speak English, so unfamiliar English words may not trigger any associations. Secondly, these terms are primarily familiar to younger people. This is exacerbated by the use of words like “messages” and “cases.” All these terms have Ukrainian equivalents that are easily understood by the entire audience: for instance, “gadgets” and “devices” can be simply referred to as something specific (phone, charger, etc.). A “message” could be a message or idea, depending on the context. Similarly, depending on the context, a “case” could be a case, situation, or circumstance. During October-December, the telethon also featured more exotic borrowings like “feedback,” “anti-promoter,” “food court,” “update,” “cancel,” “random,” “light mode.” In the Rada segment, the host unexpectedly substituted the simple word “holidays” with the English word “vacation.”
Moreover, journalists frequently used professional jargon (e.g., “slot,” “prime,” “top topic,” “preview”), with 1+1 hosts being the most culpable, sometimes even in a “concentrated” manner: “This is the analytical hour that we have within our prime time slot, as we call it.”
During the marathon, there was also some terminology from various fields that required explanation but was left unclarified on air: “spoiler,” “quest,” “futures,” “recession,” “must-have,” or the utterly exotic “NFT format.” The Rada host, in my opinion, invented a new term when he mentioned “the very symbiotic Putin and nuclear weapons.”
Occasionally, journalists used complex bureaucratic language in TV reports on specialized topics. Examples include: “In the same houses that do not have such devices, heat is charged according to a formula that takes into account three factors: the heat load of the house, the average monthly temperature, and the actual amount of time the heat is provided” (ICTV/STB). “Amendments to the agreement on joint provision of regional security in the military sphere have been signed” (Rada). “At the same time, social housing standards and social standards are not calculated for such persons” (My Ukrayina). And the UA:PBC segment somehow (and for some reason) quoted a lengthy, convoluted, and incomprehensible “explanation” from the National Energy and Utilities Regulatory Commission, to which even the expert guest immediately remarked, “they certainly know how to confuse the matter.”
Numerous accessibility standard violations also occurred with the use of infographics, which are intended to simplify complex information for viewers. However, in various editors’ hands (most often Rada, UA:PBC, and My Ukrayina), they frequently complicated matters. I’ve included images with explanations in the current monitoring texts, but here I’ll highlight the most common issues. Firstly, maps of hostilities were often either overly complex or entirely unclear in conveying the intended message (due to an excess of unnecessary information). Dynamic maps caused even greater confusion when their movement contradicted the narrating host’s words. Matters worsened when dynamic maps were utilized, as in UA:PBC segments, to “illustrate” expert discussions.
A long-standing issue many channels struggle to overcome is the infographic of enemy losses. Graphic flaws include combining total losses and daily losses in slides with multiple indicators, which appear on the screen for just a few seconds. Other issues involve unnatural column alignment, small fonts, and poor color schemes. Additionally, the anchor’s voiceover often didn’t match the on-screen data. Moreover, editors frequently borrowed ready-made maps, tables, or graphs from websites (e.g., the Ministry of Defense), which were not adapted for TV screen viewing or the limited time frame. These infographics are designed for extended viewing on computer screens or smartphones.
Other accessibility standard violations were less frequent. For instance, they were related to the completeness standard violation: the lack of necessary background explanations. When viewers are informed about specific items (e.g., “blank checks” in Senator McCarthy’s statement) or unfamiliar characters are mentioned (”imagine yourself as Bear Grylls”), immediate explanations should be provided. Similarly, uncommon abbreviations (e.g., “PNPU”) and lesser-known names (e.g., The Reckoning Project) should be explained. In UA:PBC segments, soundbite credits occasionally appeared so briefly (one and a half to two seconds) that viewers barely had time to read the name and didn’t have enough time for the second line, which clarified who the person was. Rada TV channel also had a peculiar tradition of occasionally displaying lengthy texts on a completely different topic (e.g., how to behave during rocket attacks) while a guest spoke about another subject (e.g., fighting in the south). In such situations, viewers were left unsure whether to listen to the interesting guest or read the helpful tips, as doing both simultaneously was impossible.
Violation of the timeliness standard
Overall, channels generally adhered to this standard, with only a few blatant violations - 16 in total. UA:PBC violated the standard six times, ICTV/STB and Inter four times each, and 1+1 twice. Most of UA:PBC’s violations can be considered unfortunate, as they mostly involved night-time events of great significance, such as large-scale enemy shelling of cities with civilian casualties, occurring during the channel’s night blocks filled with repeats. ICTV/STB twice aired a segment about a meeting between Andriy Yermak and Victoria Nuland from the previous day, possibly for PR purposes. Other violations included outdated information about the number of deaths from a rocket attack and artificially created “urgency” by an anchor.
On December 24th, Inter’s segment reported on a massive enemy shelling of central Kherson belatedly, as their colleagues had already provided detailed coverage in the previous broadcast block. Another violation involved airing a report on enemy shelling from the day before during an evening news bulletin.
1+1 TV channel’s timeliness violations stemmed from discrepancies between the news and guest studios, with outdated dynamic data being reported despite updates in previous broadcasts.
Violation of ethical standards of journalism
Few ethical standard violations occurred, with only eight instances noted. UA:PBC accounted for five of these, including two violations in a single report that aired twice, which showed a grieving husband without consent, violating his right to privacy and exploiting his emotional state. Another case involved a shock video. ICTV/STB and Inter’s violations pertained to uncensored coarse language used by story protagonists.
Violation of the balance of opinion standard
The balance of opinion standard was rarely violated by marathon participants in October-December (three violations being exceptions rather than systematic). All three violations resulted from openly PR stories discussed later.
A possible explanation for this phenomenon is that all channels seem to unanimously avoid controversial topics requiring balance, response, and arguments from different sides. Topics related to domestic politics, which exists despite the war and often involves conflicts, were scarce. Other topics focused on the conflict between Ukraine and its enemies, who should not be given a platform for obvious reasons, or non-conflictual topics that did not necessitate balance.
Manifestations of political and business PR on the air of the telethon
I would like to begin by noting that the overall number of PR instances (primarily political, with a few business-related ones) during the telethon in the last quarter of the previous year increased significantly compared to the first half of the marathon. On average, there were 0.43 instances per broadcast hour, which has now risen to 0.67. The primary source of this PR remains the state-owned TV channel Rada, controlled by the President’s Office. In October-December last year, its broadcast blocks accounted for over half of the PR content in the marathon. Comparing figures from the previous and current periods, the average number of PR instances in Rada’s blocks has more than doubled, increasing from 1.05 appearances per hour to 2.22, which equates to over two instances per hour of airtime.
Discussing the trends concerning other marathon participants, we observe the following pattern. There was an increase in the number of PR messages on ICTV/STB’s airtime (0.32 messages per hour, now 0.53) and on the Inter TV channel (0.21, now 0.45), albeit not as substantial as Rada’s. There were no significant changes on 1+1 and UA:PBC (1+1 had 0.26, changed to 0.25, UA:PBC - 0.06, and 0.02, respectively). In the broadcast blocks of the newly created My Ukrayina TV channel, there were even fewer PR messages than when the same team was part of the “Ukraine” media holding (0.77 previously, now 0.55). I recorded only one instance of PR in UA:PBC’s blocks during this period, which is more likely attributable to an accident or editorial error rather than a conscious intention.
In October-December of the previous year, the most popular method of promoting PR on air was the time-tested “parquet” technique. This mostly involved short forms (narration, no commentary, no commentary with a soundbite, or narration with a soundbite) about protocol actions or statements of individual political figures. These segments did not contain socially important news but featured the characters in a positive context. There were a total of 131 such stories, accounting for more than half of all recorded PR. Almost two-thirds of these were in the broadcast blocks of the Rada TV channel, highlighting the channel’s editorial focus. Additionally, there were 17 classic “parquets” in Inter’s block, 15 in My Ukrayina’s block, and 12 in ICTV/STB’s block.
The second most popular method of promoting PR on air is quoting politicians’ posts on social media. There were 37 such materials, with more than half of them featured in the Rada blocks. ICTV/STB, My Ukrayina, and Inter also employed this technique. Unjustified PR references to certain characters in stories were practiced by Rada, 1+1, and ICTV/STB. These same three telethon participants also had fully PR-focused stories.
At the same time, the number of references to party/fractional affiliation that were not justified by the context decreased sharply. There were only 9 instances across three channels, compared to 59 in the previous period (albeit over six months). This indicates a shift in focus for some channels when it comes to promoting PR content.
Here is a list highlighting the most frequently mentioned individuals in PR materials, presented in a positive context (with three or more mentions). The complete list is too extensive to include here:
The President’s Office being at the top of this list can be seen as a formality. This is because whenever the Presidential Office is mentioned positively in PR materials, the name “Presidential Office” itself is automatically portrayed in a positive context. However, this indicator demonstrates how closely the Rada TV channel follows the actions, words, and even social media posts of the officials from the President’s Office. This enthusiasm appears to be increasing: in the previous summary review, 48 references to the Presidential Office were recorded in Rada’s content over six months, whereas now there are 55 references in just three months.
Otherwise, there are almost no major surprises or novelties. The only difference from the first half of the year is that the list of beneficiaries of the marathon is more “compact,” with a reduced “role of parties” and an increased “role of individuals.” Only the “Servant of the People” party topped the list of parties with 10 cases, which is significantly less than in the first half of the year (39). This can be explained, in part, by the fact that party/factional affiliation was mentioned much less frequently now, even when individual representatives of the ruling party were being promoted. The only surprise was the 4 positive references to “European Solidarity.” Still, all of them were in the blocks of one telethon participant - ICTV/STB, in two pieces, each of which was repeated twice.
This time, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy took the top spot in the “individual standings,” thanks to the joint efforts of the editors (this is, as a reminder, without taking into account all the materials featuring him and about him that were justified in terms of the public importance of his statements, meetings, or other actions). In the PR list, the president was closely followed by the deputy head of his office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, followed by the head himself, Andriy Yermak, and Yermak’s adviser, Mykhailo Podoliak. The primary PR contribution to their high positions in this table was, of course, made by the Rada TV channel (who else!), which was strongly supported by Inter, My Ukrayina, and ICTV/STB. The “new face” at the top of the list, securing a “high” fifth place in the “individual standings,” was First Lady Olena Zelenska. This could be attributed, for example, to an increase in her activity in general. Still, once again, the large number of her PR appearances on the Rada TV channel gives it away.
Following them are Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, the leader of the Servant of the People faction, David Arakhamya, and three parliamentary leaders, with the most popular of these three being Deputy Chairperson Olena Kondratiuk. The appearance of Ihor Palytsia and his foundation at the top of the list is a “merit” of the 1+1 channel, as Palytsia is a long-time associate of the channel’s owner, Ihor Kolomoiskyi. However, the channel has somewhat reduced its promotion of the For the Future parliamentary group. MPs from there are still invited to appear on the air, but more or less within their area of expertise.
Yulia Tymoshenko, the leader of the Fatherland party, consistently receives airtime in the marathon, but this time it was solely due to the efforts of the Rada TV channel. Surprisingly, the Minister of Infrastructure Oleksandr Kubrakov also appeared in the main list of PR efforts. But the biggest surprise was the appearance of MP Oleksandr Trukhin. Yes, that’s right, that one. The Rada TV channel dedicated an entire massive PR story to him, which was aired three times during the marathon. It was about how Mr. Trukhin brought humanitarian aid to the liberated Kherson and distributed boxes to people on camera. Frankly, this kind of story on the air of a national TV marathon is, in my opinion, in poor taste in and of itself. And considering the MP’s controversial background, it becomes inappropriate.
During this period, I recorded a few cases of negative PR (almost all of them were positive). Only the 1+1 TV channel had outright negative PR against the current president of the Ukrainian Football Association, Andriy Pavelko. In her guest appearance on TV Channel Rada, Yuliya Tymoshenko, without getting personal, traditionally subjected the current government in general, the Cabinet of Ministers in particular, and, as always, Naftogaz of Ukraine to devastating “criticism” (the hosts did not interfere).
In summary, the Rada TV channel is significantly strengthening the PR component of its content, which is also aired by all participants in the marathon (with 120 PR activities recorded during the reporting period). In addition to what has already been mentioned about Rada, the channel also tends to quote almost all posts by Mykhailo Podoliak, Andriy Yermak, and Kyrylo Tymoshenko on Twitter and Telegram channels. The content of their posts seems to be less important than the fact that they had posted something. However, according to insiders from the channel itself, there is no “obligation from above” but rather self-censorship and the initiative of individual editors. But the accuracy of this information is uncertain.
ICTV/STB had 32 PR activities. Most of the attention in these manifestations was paid (in descending order) to Zelenskyi, Podoliak, for some reason, “European Solidarity,” and Yermak. The most commonly used “tools” were the tried-and-tested “parquetry”, inappropriate mentions of party affiliation, and positive references to individual characters in the stories (for example, “among the benefactors of UCU is Vice Speaker Olena Kondratiuk” and soundbites). But there were also openly PR stories, in particular, about the Leonid Kuchma Foundation, about the virtues of the Kyiv Cardboard and Paper Mill, and how it is being oppressed by the security forces with their criminal cases. There was even a PR story about some legal software.
In third place for PR activities in the marathon was My Ukrayina, with 23 manifestations. The head of the Presidential Office, Andriy Yermak, had the most appearances with a total of 7, followed by the President with 6, as well as Mykhailo Podoliak and Olena Zelenska. The channel mainly used the classic “parquet” method of PR and also quoted posts from social media. However, there was once a PR instance for Zelenskyy and his team from a guest on air with the approval of the hosts. My Ukrayina also featured a classic PR story about the progressive nature of the controversial law on urban planning.
TV Channel Inter had a total of 21 PR activities in their blocks. Unlike other participants, they did not openly promote the President but rather focused on Kyrylo Tymoshenko, who appeared in 10 PR activities. However, Tymoshenko was still behind Mykhailo Podoliak, who appeared four times. The channel mainly used the “parquet” method to promote these individuals, with occasional mentions from social media.
In the airtime blocks of TV Channel 1+1, there were 14 PR references. The most positively mentioned individuals were Andriy Yermak, Ihor Palytsia, and his foundation. The channel promoted them in a more sophisticated manner than other channels, with sudden and unjustified positive mentions in the stories. However, they also resorted to the “parquet” method, inappropriate mentions of party affiliation, and twice made classic PR stories. Additionally, a presenter on the channel once again sang praises of President Zelenskyy in the guest studio.
The UA:PBC block only once unjustifiably mentioned the guest’s party affiliation with the Holos faction.
Russian propaganda narratives and toxic media characters on the air of the telethon
In contrast to the previous period, no openly toxic guests were observed in the analyzed broadcasts from October to December of last year. However, the ratings of Rada and Inter are still driven by the toxic hosts of these channels who were yesterday’s propagandists of the “Russian world” and today’s “exemplary patriots”: Maksym Zborovskyi, Tetiana Honcharova, Nazar Dovhyi, and Olha Nemtseva on Rada, and Anastasiya Dauhule on Inter. Despite the influence of the Presidential Office on Rada and the marathon’s management by the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy, the state-owned TV channel remains the most toxic of all the channels in the telethon. It is concerning that the marathon continues to tolerate these toxic hosts on the national television networks, promoting Kremlin’s narratives.
Compared to the first half of the year, more pro-Russian narratives are being aired during the telethon. While there were only nine such instances in six months before, now there have been seven in just three months. The difference is that previously, these narratives were spread across four channels, but now they are concentrated on two: five of them were in Rada’s blocks, and the remaining two were in 1+1’s blocks.
As previously mentioned, the pro-Russian narratives were promoted by the toxic hosts on the Rada TV channel. For instance, on 20 November, host Nazar Dovhyi twice insinuated in his questions to guests, with references to unnamed Telegram channels, that the liberation of Kherson was a “contract, an agreement” and “it was agreed at the highest level.” On 4 December, host Tetiana Honcharova mentioned some “recent polls in Russia” in two conversations with her guests, claiming that “55 percent of Russians are ready to negotiate with Ukraine”. She even drew the conclusion that “even their polls indicate that Russians are ready for negotiations,” which was right during the period when Russian propaganda was dispersing the narrative of Russia’s “readiness to negotiate”. On 9 December, host Honcharova inexplicably quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying that “Russia is allegedly ready to end the war even tomorrow.”
On September 30th, during a broadcast on 1+1 TV channel, host Nataliia Moseichuk claimed that “a lot of military experts and analysts say” that “the military and political leadership has a ‘stop’ before the line of February 24th, 2022”. She suggested that Ukrainian troops were not crossing this line even though they could already be in Donetsk. However, there were no such thoughts expressed in the sphere of public discourse, and the military and political leadership consistently articulated the goal of liberating all territories within the 1991 borders of Ukraine. On October 24th, during a conversation with Bohdan Krotevych, the ex-POW chief of staff of the Azov regiment, Moseichuk persistently sought a comment on the “confrontation between Zelenskyy and Zaluzhnyi” – a narrative launched by the Russian propaganda channel Zvezda a month before the broadcast and already refuted by all parties. It is unclear why Moseichuk would promote Russian narratives in the marathon, especially since these were not the first instances. It is possible that these attempts were merely unsuccessful attempts to create hype.
Throughout the analyzed broadcasts of October-December last year, none of the other participants in the telethon featured toxic characters or promoted Russian narratives in their blocks.
Events/topics that were not reported by the marathon (at least day by day)
To start, I need to reiterate a few important points that I previously discussed in more detail in the summary text for the first six months of monitoring.
To begin with, the marathon operates under a “cumulative selection” effect whereby four participants discuss different topics each day. This means that a socially important subject that went unnoticed or was deliberately ignored by three participants can be brought to the forefront by the fourth. Additionally, the effect of “delayed coverage” ensures that even a topic that was not reported on the same day can resurface in subsequent broadcasts as it evolves, allowing viewers to learn about it at a later time. In an all-informational broadcast, the typical excuse of “not having enough time for all topics” does not hold water. There is undoubtedly sufficient time to cover all important topics, including those that may not be considered vital but are still intriguing to viewers. Moreover, the subjective factor also comes into play when selecting topics for the broadcast. What one editor may perceive as important, another may not. As a result, when I identify important topics that were not covered in the marathon, I may subjectively consider a certain subject to be more significant than it is or than the editors who planned the broadcasts for that day deemed it to be.
During my weekly monitoring of the marathon in October-December last year, I identified a total of 121 events/topics that were potentially silenced. This amounts to an average of over 9 topics per day, which is more than the average of approximately 6 topics per day in the first half of the marathon’s operation. Even if we discount my personal subjectivity in evaluating the topics, the number is still high for an informational channel such as the telethon. It’s worth noting that the “cumulative selection” effect is also in play, which means that even if some topics are not initially covered, they can still be discussed by participants in subsequent broadcasts. Therefore, the excuse of not having enough time on air does not hold water.
To categorize the topics I’ve identified as important but not covered by the marathon, I’ll group them into several conditional categories. The first significant group pertains to everything related to the war in all its dimensions. Despite various channels’ hosts constantly reiterating their commitment to keeping viewers informed about the war’s developments, the marathon failed to cover several topics, including:
- Russia forces employees of Zaporizhia NPP to sign contracts with Rosatom (30 September).
- Commander-in-Chief Zaluzhnyi showed the scheme of the enemy's morning attacks on Ukraine (10 October).
- Another body of a victim of the invaders was found in a forest in the Kyiv region (24 October).
- An explosion destroys two combat helicopters at an airfield in Russia (31 October).
- Russians dropped explosives from a drone on a village in the Sumy region (8 November).
- Parts on Iranian drones were made after 24 February – intelligence refutes Iran's claims (8 November).
- About 150 people die every week in occupied Mariupol (14 November).
- Russians killed children's writer Volodymyr Vakulenko during the occupation of the Kharkiv region (28 November).
- In Makiivka, the invaders hand out summonses in queues for water (4 December).
- The invaders deported all civilians from the Kinburn Peninsula (9 December).
- The invaders detained a schoolgirl in Mariupol for writing, "You bombed it, traitors" (19 December).
- Putin decides to give "war heroes" land in Crimea (19 December).
- One of the enemy's "Shaheds" flew near the nuclear unit of the South Ukraine NPP at night (19 December).
- The invaders conduct searches and detain Crimean Tatars (19 December).
- Russians destroyed a school and damaged a heritage site in the Zaporizhia region (24 December).
- Occupants abduct 8 Ukrainians in the Kherson region (24 December).
As you might expect, this list is not exhaustive, and several other topics were left unreported by the marathon (the complete list is quite extensive). Furthermore, with the passage of time, the marathon contains fewer mentions about the majority of Azovstal defenders who, under orders, surrendered to the enemy, remaining in captivity. At the outset, this topic was discussed almost every day, if not every hour. Additionally, the marathon failed to allocate time for several significant international topics related to Ukraine and the war, including:
- On 30 September, it was not reported that the President of France, the future Prime Minister of Italy, and the President of Georgia condemned Russia's annexation of Ukrainian regions.
- The US military begins monitoring the accounting of Western weapons in Ukraine (31 October).
- The IAEA begins inspecting facilities in Ukraine following Russia's “dirty bomb” claims (31 October).
- Russia and China agree to invest $1.3bn in joint projects (8 November).
- Turkey started partially paying for Russian gas in rubles (8 November, important because it undermines sanctions against Russia).
- The White House said that Biden's adviser discussed "reducing nuclear risks" in talks with the Kremlin representative (8 November).
- China prevented the inclusion of language condemning Russia's aggression in the G20 communiqué (14 November).
- Britain imported more than 200 million pounds of oil from Russia without officially considering it Russian (November 20).
- Warsaw denies Minsk's lies about the mass exodus of Ukrainians from Poland to Belarus (28 November).
- There are no problems with controlling aid to Ukraine, says head of US congressional committee (4 December).
- British Prime Minister Sunak promised Zelenskyy new air defense equipment in the coming weeks (9 December).
- China says it does not want to "choose between its friends", Ukraine and Russia (24 December).
What strikes me as surprising is that certain topics are discussed extensively across all broadcast blocks, but when significant news emerges regarding those topics, the marathon remains silent (as was the case with the aforementioned topics about the “dirty bomb,” the “betrayal” of semi-secret negotiations in Turkey, China’s policy towards Russia, and more). At times, marathon participants seem to “overlook” practical topics that directly impact the lives of large groups of people. For instance:
- The government increased compensation to households sheltering IDPs (30 September).
- All schools in Kyiv have been switched to remote operation since Monday (17 October).
- Berlin says it has almost exhausted its capacity to accept Ukrainian refugees (24 October).
- An educational platform in the Crimean Tatar language will be created in Ukraine (24 October).
- More than a quarter of Ukrainian schools will postpone their autumn holidays to winter (31 October).
- Ukrenergo has denied the fake news that they allegedly announced that they would end power outages in a week (14 November).
Lastly, it’s worth noting that the telethon did not report on many topics of domestic politics, including those that are controversial or subject to debate. Nevertheless, these topics are undeniably socially significant. Some of the unreported topics include:
- The head of the Mejlis, Refat Chubarov, proposes to change the autonomous status of Crimea to national-territorial autonomy (24 October), and this is despite the fact that the Crimean Platform summit itself, where Chubarov made this speech, was covered by the channels quite actively that day.
- A petition to block the pro-Russian Strana.ua website received the 25,000 votes required for consideration (24 October).
- Following the publicity, the deputy head of the President’s Office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko decided not to use the car that Ukraine had received for humanitarian purposes (31 October) – this was a development of the controversy of the previous days.
- The SBU searched the leadership of the UOC-MP in the Kirovohrad region for spreading Russian propaganda (31 October).
- Ombudsman Lubinets appeals to Defence Minister Reznikov over canceled accreditations for Western journalists (14 November).
- IMI and other media outlets called on the authorities to return the accreditations taken away from journalists for reporting from Kherson (14 November).
- Zaluzhnyi: Ukrainian military will not accept any negotiations or compromises (14 November).
- The US imposed sanctions on the head of the Ukrainian District Administrative Court (9 December).
- In Odesa, three deputy mayors of Trukhanov were served with suspicion notices (9 December).
- The court placed Metropolitan Joasaph of the Moscow Patriarchate under nightly house arrest (9 December).
- Law enforcement officers conduct searches in the Moscow Patriarchate Cathedral near Kyiv (9 December).
- The SBU served a notice of suspicion to the rector of the Pochayiv Theological Seminary of the Moscow Patriarchate (9 December).
- The Venice Commission recommends changing the draft law on the Constitutional Court of Ukraine to the version supported by experts (19 December).
- MP Yanchenko resigns from the Servant of the People party because of a showdown between party head Shuliak and a wounded soldier over the law on urban planning (19 December).
- A priest of the Moscow Patriarchate was detained at the entrance to Kyiv (19 December).
- The investigation into the case against Yanukovych and Azarov over the Kharkiv agreements is completed (19 December).
- NABU to continue investigation into the case against National Bank ex-chairman Shevchenko (19 December).
Many of the topics on this list were certainly uncomfortable for the authorities. This raises the question of whether internal censorship or self-censorship among the marathon’s journalists is at play. However, the last list provides some insight into why there are few violations of the balance of opinion standard in the marathon. By avoiding controversial topics, there is no need to balance opinions. Otherwise, the marathon would feature more genuine opponents of the current government, who are scarcely heard on the airwaves of United News telethon.