The telethon news component, standards violation, PR and black PR, toxic personalities, pro-Russian narratives and the topics, that has not still been highlighted in the broadcast.
Our United News telethon monitoring has celebrated half a year anniversary. So, “Detector Media” is summing the intermediate results up and trying to determine general trends in the telethon. Obviously, the telethon has undergone changes according to different parameters over six months. The biggest “tectonic” shift was, of course, the withdrawal of the participating Rinat Akhmetov’s channels, following his closing of Media Group Ukraine. There were also changes in content, both general and at some channels.
For the monitoring I have estimated just one day of telethon broadcast per week, so the monitoring shows a discrete, interrupted picture. But, at a greater distance of six month, even this picture is illustrative and provides solid grounds to define some tendencies.
In part one of these results I have analysed the telethon broadcast schedule and the way the TV channels dealt with guests.
The telethon broadcast news component
I suggest a simple comparison of the slots news component from the different telethon participants. Brand new and actual information about the events of the day can be broadcast in different forms and different ways. Certainly, there is a part of information about the events which is given in the news in short forms (oral informational messages, without voice-over, without voice-over with a synchronized video and just a synchronized video with a lead-in). To be honest, the lion's share of such information is actually taken by many newsrooms from the Internet (social networks, Telegram channels and online periodicals) and in many cases the reference to the source of information is simply being “disguised”. I believe that the value of such information is not very high; moreover, its reliability is always, to say the least, doubtful.
The truly valuable is only that information, which the newsroom has gained by its own effort, search and check-ups. For any news channel these are, first and foremost, both types of their own journalists’ play-by-play reports — events coverage videos and live feeds. And also — guests - newsmakers in the studio (it does not matter if they are in person or online). After all, a guest - newsmaker on the live broadcast can announce fundamental news about the events that are taking place, that is, provide fundamentally new facts, or make certain key statements (“on positions”, about intentions, express assessments or conclusions that are important for society, etc.).
To evaluate how the channels work in gathering real information, I suggest a conventional but still illustrative indicator for the news component of the telethon participant’s slots. This is the total amount of the guests - newsmakers in the channel’s studios, events coverage videos and live feeds. The following table shows the average indicators for each channel / media group per hour:
As one can see from the table, Media Group Ukraine, which had worked in the telethon till July, 22nd, used to be the most informative telethon participant. Suspilne was almost as informative and “1+1” and “Inter” were not so far behind. In ICTV and STB channels slots, the news component was much weaker. And it was shamefully low in the “Rada” channel slots.
If to compare separate items, it is observable that in Ukraine slots the news component was mostly achieved due to the invitation of many guests - newsmakers — 0.51 “guest per hour” more than the telethon average indicator (though, as I have already mentioned, the numbers here do not always stand for high quality), at the same time, the group did not make a lot of events coverage (—0.35 videos per hour).
At Suspilne, the high level of news component was made by, first and foremost, a large number of their own reporters’ high quality live feeds from the scene, in terms of the feeds number public broadcaster was way too far from other telethon participants (per +0.37). Instead, the number of produced events coverage videos was significantly lower that the average indicator (—0.19).
“1+1” channel focused on high quality events coverage videos (+0.14) and, at the same time, their number in the channel broadcast was considerably lower than the telethon average indicator (—0.35). The number of live feeds was close to the average telethon indicator.
In “Inter” slots, the number of events coverage videos broke the record among all the telethon participants (by 0.6 video per hour more than the average indicator), instead there was the lowest number of guests - newsmakers, by 0.54 less than the average indicator (often there were no guests at all in the formally organized studios for the guest and TV hosts were just presenting the videos). This “was balanced” by the higher than average live feeds number per broadcast.
ICTV and STB channels media group fell behind the telethon colleagues based on the news component only because it did not do live feeds very often (the lowest rate among all, —0.46). At the same time, they had an average rate per the invited newsmakers’ number and produced a lot of high quality events coverage videos (+0.44, more was produced only by “Inter”).
“Rada” channel was behind its telethon colleagues in terms of live reports feeds number. Alongside with that, the most of these feeds at “Rada” were not actually the reports, but attempts (most often clumsy ones) to create feature stories during live broadcast (i.e., the tool was not used as it meant to be). The ratio for average number of events coverage videos per one broadcast hour at the channel was the lowest among all the telethon participants, it was actually so low as it was not a news channel at all (—0.64 from the average). The situation was saved to some extend by the number of guests - newsmakers in the channel broadcast, a little higher than the average (for +0.3 per hour), but again, as in the case with Ukraine, the quantity did not necessarily mean the quality.
So, this is the general picture with the coverage videos production by the telethon participants:
Here, as we can see, at “1+1”, StarLightMedia group and “Inter, the proportion of events coverage videos was higher than the average indicator. For the first two, it was significantly higher. We can also add the fact that these three telethon participants had many reports from the front line and close to front line territories (all of them have a lot of good war correspondents, working in their editorial offices).
What puzzles me is the fact that the total amount of both events coverage and video reports in general was significantly lower in Suspilne slots. At the same time, Suspilne has almost the biggest network of its own reporters all over the country among all the telethon participants. So, the issue is not about the resources, it is more likely about the quality of planning.
The share of video reports was extremely low at Media Group Ukraine.
And 28 events coverage videos at “Rada” for 25 days of monitoring is extremely low number. Together with the fact that the most of live feeds, made by the channel, are also not reports, it means that it is impossible to consider the channel as a news one. We do understand that before the war the channel used to be only parliamentary, i.e. it does not have the production base, required for the real news channel, neither in terms of technology nor the staff. But we also know that in reality all the “Rada” channel broadcast production for the telethon is made by “Kinokit” LLC for the funds from the state budget. What types of tasks are being solved by this is, perhaps, a rhetorical question.
The standards violation during the telethon broadcast
I have not recorded all the standards violations in this telethon. Only the gravest ones and, most importantly, only those that substantially influenced or could influence the quality of the providing information to the viewers. That is why the aim of this monitoring was not the idealistic fight for some vague ideal of ultimate keeping all the standards, but an attempts to make a hint for the editorial rooms and reporters which standard violations in their job can lead to misinforming of people, i.e. impact the information content and distort it, that, undoubtedly, under war conditions can come at great cost to some certain people and the country in general. As far as I know, some newsrooms and certain reporters have made amendments to their work and disposed of some mistakes thanks to the monitoring but, unfortunately, not all of them and not in everything.
One thing more. Similarly to the telethon, this monitoring has started, in an “emergency” mode and then it has been gradually improved. Because of that, I have been systematically recording all the standards violations with the inclusion of their repeats only since May, 15th.
Let us see how the picture with professional standards serious violations in the telethon for a half a year looks like:
The number of professional standards serious violations in the United News telethon broadcast (the selections — 25 days in March — September 2022)
These numbers are really impressive, especially final 3.5 thd of grave standard violations, but the average rate of violations per one broadcast hour will be more illustrative. They go as follows:
A few things can be observed from this table. First of all, the telethon, aimed at provision of quality information about the events at war to the Ukrainians, does not work efficiently. As, during every broadcast hour of this telethon, the reporters make on average more than 8 professional standards serious violations and each of them to some extent is distorting the information or is misinforming the viewer. This happens under the war conditions, when such a message can cause extremely difficult consequences for the army, or for civilians, or for state defence matters or for its foreign policy affairs, etc.
I have all the grounds to tell this, as, sorry, but almost three credibility standard violations per hour — it is an extremely high risk of misinformation in the telethon broadcast. And almost three standard violations of the separating facts from opinions per hour is the ensured constant information distortion (sometimes minor, but sometimes major).
Different telethon participants are making different “contributions” to this Bacchanalia of low-quality information. The biggest one is, surprisingly, coming from StarLightMedia group, as the part of its journalists (TV presenters and reporters) are constantly and obviously ignoring the standard for separating facts from opinions (6.8 of similar violations per one broadcast hour on average!). Perhaps, they believe that, instead of information, the viewers will appreciate the journalists’ ad libbing and reflexivity. They also constantly trust the unreliable information sources or conceal these sources — obviously, unreliable as well — from the audience (4.4 violations per broadcast hour). 3.6 violations of the accuracy standard per hour can be also added to this list, this is mostly the misrepresentation of the picture, which does not correspond to the information given, to the audience.
The “contribution” of 19% of all the broadcast violation from “Inter” channel is considerably less, but it also does a lot to make the telethon broadcast unreliable. This indicator is, first and foremost, made of an enormous number of violations to the same two standards (4.4 violations for separating facts from opinions and 3.1 violations of credibility per broadcast hour), as well as 1.3 accuracy standard violation per hour on average.
17% is the “contribution” from “Rada” channel. Here we observe the most of the credibility standard violations (3.3), a lot of accuracy standard violations (2.7) as well as weak maintenance of the standard for separating facts from opinions (1.8 violations per a broadcast hour).
“1+1” channel with its “black contribution” of 15 % is also responsible for many violations to the standard for separating facts from opinions (2.6 per hour) and the accuracy standard (2.5). And 1.5 credibility standard violations per hour is also a way too high indicator for the broadcast.
Before its withdrawal from the telethon on July, 22nd, Media Group Ukraine has managed to “contribute” its 13% to the United News content distortion. It has mostly violated the standards of credibility (2.8 times per hour), separating facts from opinions (1.8) and accuracy (1.6).
Against this impressive background, 5% “contribution” from Suspilne can be viewed as something minor and even somehow “positive” (in contrast, of course). But do not be fooled by this. Even more than one serious credibility standard violation per hour and almost one accuracy standard violation per hour is a lot, even too many if we speak about the unconditional quality to such a product. At the same time, it is enough to just unknowingly drag some false or even dangerous information into the telethon air at some point. Also, the requirements to the public broadcaster are much higher than to the oligarchs’ owned channels. The purpose for the public broadcaster’s creation has been to secure at least one place for 100% reliable and verified information in the distorted media scene. As we can see, Suspilne has not managed this task within the framework of the telethon at all.
Now let us have a look at the situation with maintenance (more precisely, the lack of maintenance) of the each standard separately. In the following tables, all indicators for various types of particular standard violations are presented as a percentage of the total number of each standard violation.
As we can see, one third of all the credibility standard violations in telethon “general list” accounts for the information presentation without its verification and the videos, taken by the newsrooms from the social media and Telegram channels. The largest proportion of such violations to this standard was in Suspilne slots (almost a half of all the violations). The share of this credibility standard violation type also made up for almost a half of all the violations in “Rada” channel slots. The ratio in ICTV and STB and Media Group Ukraine slots was close to one third. Yet, “Inter” and “1+1” are not too far behind.
This systemic approach brings in enormous risks. To begin with, most of the channels are taking the information, among other sources, from Telegram channels, including anonymous ones. I do not know if I have to remind the journalists that Telegram is a Russian messenger which is liable to no objective control at all and no one knows for sure to which extend it is a subject to be controlled by the Russian Federal Security Bureau (FSB). And, apart from a very few insiders, no one knows who is behind the anonymous channels. For instance, behind the super popular among the telethon participants’ newsrooms channel “Trukha” (deriving from “True Kharkiv”) or behind all these “h@eviy” (“f@cking”) or “neh@eviy” (“not that f@cking”) Khersons, Mykolaivs (the names for popular Telegram channels — the translator’s note) and further down the list. Who can guarantee that the next information or the video are not going to be fakes? Including the FSB generated ones? («Detector Media» has thoroughly analysed the pro-Russian Telegram channels in Ukraine.)
Certainly, the telethon journalists can accuse me of spy mania, but they will not be able to give a certain response to my questions. And this means that they provide the information to the viewers, being blindfolded. There were hundreds of “narrow escapes”; so, the next one will be “a narrow escape” too. But it may not be “a narrow escape” this time and then it will be too late.
For 25 days during a half a year, the telethon happened to show some fakes, taken from the Internet. For example, on July, 31st, "1+1" channel reported with reference to "Mykolaiv publics" that businessman Oleksiy Vadaturskyi, who was actually killed by a Russian missile, “died of natural causes”. On September, 3rd, ICTV and STB falsely reported on the opening of McDonald's restaurants in Kyiv with a reference to unnamed Telegram channels. “Inter” presented the information that in Russia “a hundreds of lots for the funeral ceremony organization appeared at a state procurement web site” with a reference to Telegram channel “Mozhem obyiasnit” (“We can explain”), a Russian anonymous Telegram channel. Sometimes the news releases in the telethon can generally turn into some kind of “social networks and Telegram channels review”, as it was the case, for example, with the “Rada” channel on May, 22nd — 5 messages in a row contained references to Telegram and just social networks. On September, 11th there was a rather illustrative case at the same “Rada” channel, when the TV presenter informed, “A video with the remains of the Russian aircraft Su-34 was posted in the media scene”. While the guest, a spokesperson of the Air Forces Headquarters Yurii Ihnat, told that “this plane was shot down some months ago”. Of course, some Telegram channel or a Facebook page was called the “media scene”.
The “telethon people” are also taking a lot of information from Facebook, Twitter and Telegram accounts of the officials without any verification, not to mention the “official” pages and channels of state bodies. I have put the word “official” in quotation mark not without a reason. They also say that these pages are “verified”. Thus, any kind of the announced “official status” and any “verification” of those pages do not prevent them from being hacked by the Russians. It means that at a certain moment a fake, dangerous for Ukraine, can appear on “the most official” and a hundred times “verified” page. And it will for sure be used in the telethon broadcast. Because no one in the newsrooms is trained to do at least the most elementary verification before publication — to call, for example, the press service of the institution and confirm that the following important or even sensational message on their “official” Facebook page is true. Why to bother? This is just additional trouble.
It is a pity that still neither the numerous studies by “Media Detector”, the Institute of Mass Information and many other respected structures on this topic, nor this monitoring have managed to at least sow a healthy doubt about the “normality” of Facebook and Telegram rebroadcasting on the national air in the journalists’ minds.
But, in this context I would like to say a couple of words more about Suspilne, which used as many as 40 information messages from Facebook and Telegram for the six months of monitoring. If in March — August these violations were single cases, since August their number sharply increased, there was one day (September, 3rd) when there were as many as ten of them! As I can see, Suspilne does not even despise to “refer to such sources”, as “later the explosion was observed in the camp of the National Guard of Russia. Local social networks contain messages about it and the Russian propagandists inform likewise”. Or even something like this: “The air defence system has worked in the western Crimea”, posted Serhii Aksonov, a self-proclaimed peninsula leader.
There were times when taking of the information from the social networks of the broadcasts of “UA: Pershyi (the First)” and many Suspilne branches was an extraordinary event as there was a strict editorial requirement to air only verified information from a reliable source. I know this because for many years I also was taking part in editorial policy shaping for Suspilne. Unfortunately, after the newsrooms management change, this requirement has been cancelled in favour of so-called efficiency. This undermines the mission and puts Suspilne institutional authority at threat.
Almost one quarter of all credibility standard violations in the telethon broadcast was made up by generalized false referencing to the personal opinion authorship, i.e. when any assessment, conclusion of other observation is “attributed” by the journalists to an extremely vast group of people. That is hardly ever true because, as they say, many men, many minds and on every occasion. The journalists, who like to generalize the most, represent “Inter” (one third of all credibility standard violations is of this kind), Ukraine (31%), ICTV and STB (29%) and “1+1” (26%).
First of all, the distinguished journalists worship the following mythological generalized creatures as “experts believe”, “analysts advise”, “professionals convince”. Not to mention numerous “military promise”, “volunteers complain”, “psychologists advise”, and “the ecologists raise concerns” (it is not a joke) and even such unpretentious ones as “people say” or “people grumble”. Such references as “at Bankova they understand”, “at the National Bank they make hints” and even “in Kyiv they are convinced” sound very “persuasive”. The same applies to “all professionals agree” and “there are talks in political circles”.
Also, unfortunately, there were and there will be some immortal generalized and vague “references” to the sources of actual information, such as “officials say”, “in the Cabinet of Ministers they informed”, “in the Office of the President they emphasized”, “local authorities stated”. One cannot do without “some media report”, though; sometimes a more creative approach is used, as it was in case with ICTV: “the news was leaked to the press”. The news was leaked! First, “to the press” and from there — into the air of the national telethon.
The journalist use a big number of entirely abstract false references as a fig leaf to cover up either the absence of reliable information source for them (so, basically airing some rumours) or (it has to be said) all the same posts in social networks and Telegram channels. Abstract messages can be different, so I will list the most common ones, those that have been used in all telethon participants’ slots during these six months: “we have just received the information”, “information has appeared”, “we have been informed”, “we have managed to find out” and simply “we are aware”. These are the most widespread. The following mysterious ones are the constant “options”: “according to various data”, “preliminarily known”, “according to previous information”, “according to the latest information”, “according to official information”. Sometimes, to add more value, they can say something as follows: “there are some insides”, “there is certain information from certain political science circles” or in general “it became known from the “TSN” sources”. There are magical sources, where “TSN” takes the information, but they cannot tell the audience about them as the magical power of those sources will certainly be lost.
There are also abstract messages that are far beneath the bottom line (from the professional point of view!): “according to unconfirmed information”, or even “according to unofficial, unconfirmed information”, “they say” and “there are rumours”. So, the journalists are not even trying to hide the fact that they are spreading rumours in the telethon broadcast. That is indeed the highest professional level! At the same time, the TV presenters of all the channels and groups solemnly promise “only verified information” to the audience.
Despite all this colourful tool kit of abstract false referencing, 11% of credibility standard violations in the telethon broadcast were related to the information, aired without any references to the source. It was extremely interesting to listen to it when different statistical data numbers were given.
Two thirds of accuracy standard violations are made by an unprofessional and slapdash work of newsrooms and journalists with video “pictures” in the reports and without voice-overs. The worst situation with this accuracy standard violation type was observed at ICTV and STB channels (89% of all the standard violations) and in Media Group Ukraine slots (83%). It was not much better at “Inter” (77%) and “Rada” (64%). Such a standard violation type made up a half of other violations at “1+1”. The least number of such violations was at Suspilne.
In general, the lack of ability to work with the video in the Ukrainian television is a major issue, “typical disease” of the Ukrainian (and all the post-Soviet) journalists, as the text is dominating in the news on TV. And the video is just added for more “attractiveness”. In most cases, it is taken from the archive, following the principle “something, that is related” to any topic, mentioned in the text. During peaceful time it was not of such a great importance, everybody got used to it. But, under the war conditions, the usage of some video to “illustrate” certain text results not only in the fact that the video does not match the things that are being told by the presenter or the reporter as a voice-over. Under the war conditions people are looking at the images more attentively and they start to see, for instance, that, while talking about their native Kramatorsk, they are being shown Luhansk. The typical situation is when the whole list of the inhabited settlements under shelling is mentioned in the message, but they only show one or two of them. It can be even worse: some of the viewers can actually see a relative, who died a month ago, in telethon video about today’s event. And we could have been aware of that but a viewer does not have access to the national broadcast to inform us that the telethon is deceitful.
Most channels “cover” the reports on various military operations with random hostilities video cuts, which often do not correspond to the text in terms of geography, and even more often — in terms of content, for instance, they report about the destruction of six drones, but show tanks, they inform on missile shelling consequences but show the explosion of lighting shells, they tell about the work of our artillerymen and show jet fighters. The video of submarine was especially “appropriate” while talking about the combats in Kharkiv region.
During the reports on the consequences of artillery or missile shelling, completely different destroyed buildings were often demonstrated. In the “telethon people’s” interpretation, a destroyed psycho neurological hospital can look as a cattle barn in one report, as a five-storied apartment building in the second one and as a ten-storied block of flats in the third. Besides, the video of some destroyed buildings became a universal picture that the journalists randomly apply to “illustrate” any topic — from money for the restoration to the international statements on the Russian crimes condemnation. They show Bucha while talking about the liberation of Zmiinyi Island; while talking about Kherson region, they demonstrate Saltivka, etc. And I do not think it is normal when, for example, numerous reports about the events at the Zaporizhzhia NPP, occupied by the enemy, were “illustrated” in the telethon by various newsrooms with totally outdated ZNPP shots from peaceful life, before the beginning of the large-scale war. They could at least caption those shots as taken from the archive!
There are also more “innocent” and sometimes even funny situations. When they say something about Joe Biden, they show the Capitol. The messages about originally blocked, but later unblocked grain export in spring was illustrated by the video of grains harvesting and in summer — by the images of grain sowing. Occasionally, some winter shots were included in summer videos and they could at least caption them as taken from the archive! But hell no!
Generally, if they are talking something about the EU or some certain EU countries, they will show archive shots of Brussels views, if they are telling something, related to Russia, the views of the Kremlin will be demonstrated for sure. If they report something that contains the word “gas” at least once, the pipes and the valves will be shown.
At first, such nonsense looks rather innocent, but it undermines the trust from the part of the audience, capable of critical information perception. Also, such an “illustrative” video is an informational spam, visual white noise, preventing from the perception of actual information, as it distracts the viewer's attention. At the same time, it does not contain any useful information on the reports’ subject.
18% of all the accuracy standard violations in the telethon broadcast were caused by the channels’ massive usage of a “trendy innovation” — they were trying to “illustrate” the conversations with the guests by some video footage. I emphasize, exactly by “some” video footage, as it is always inaccurate, has nothing to do with the guest or certain events and has just been taken from the newsroom video archive, following the principle of "something on this topic". As the journalists mostly cannot foresee the future, all these “illustrations” always do not correlate with the guest’s words, sometimes more, sometimes less, but they always do not.
I saw such a wonder for the first time in my life on April, 18th, in “Rada” channel slot, then later on April, 25th, at “1+1” and in May this nonsense reached Ukraine and (that has stricken me in the most painful way) Suspilne. As I watch the telethon just for one day per week, it does not necessarily mean that this silly “trend” was first used at “Rada” channel. Perhaps, the others were among the first and it had just happened during the broadcasts that I did not watch. The only cautious conclusion I can draw is that Suspilne was not the first, but rather borrowed the silly trend from its telethon colleagues (as always, they borrow some ultimate nonsense). The only ones, who do not yield to this epidemic (at least, during the broadcast that I have seen), are StarLightMedia media group and “Inter” channel. And that is right thing to do.
First of all, it is clear that numerous talks on grain export are certainly “illustrated” by either a sowing or a harvesting campaign, and in many cases they do not correspond to the season. In addition, the ports, ships (sometimes these are container ships, although they talk about wheat) and burning wheat fields in the south of Ukraine are also popular. At "1+1", Minister Chernyshov talks about alternative energy and coal unloading is shown. At the same channel, city mayor of Kharkiv says that shops are already opening in the city and the subway is starting to work, and they show destroyed houses at Saltivka. The expert is talking about the solar panels and they are showing the fire wood. “1+1” has made numerous attempts to illustrate the military experts’ words by its dynamic map of hostilities and it has always (as someone has put an evil eye on it) happened so that when the expert was telling about the combats in Kharkiv region, the map was showing the hostilities in the south, and vice versa. Once there was a complete cognitive dissonance on June, 6th, at “1+1”. A journalist Tsymbaliuk had live communication with the presenters, and they showed some plans of Russia and the same Roman Tsymbaliuk who frantically shouted something directly into the TV camera; at the same time, there was no inter sound, so, in the end, Tsymbalyuk was “shouting in a calm voice”.
“Rada” channel also was not behind some “innovations”. Among the findings on July, 10th, there were the following: they cut some random hostilities video, put it “on the loop” and showed while talking to various guests, both military and civil experts — when an expert Snehyrov talked about the HIMARS advantages, and when an expert Hrabskyi talked about an attack probability from Belarus, and when an expert Nedzelskyi talked about the Russian army exhaustion, and when a political commentator Hladkykh talked about the change of the Ukrainian ambassadors in several countries, and when an adviser to the Ministry of Internal Affairs Denysenko spoke about the situation at the eastern front, and when the former Ukrainian Ambassador Levchenko spoke about Ukraine's accession to the EU.
Also, at “Rada”, the expert's words about the conflict between Serbia and Kosovo were for some reason “illustrated” by some fighter jets over the sea. Neither Serbia, nor Kosovo has ever had an access to the sea.
There was another case, very instructive for the “innovative” TV staff. In “Rada” slot, they spoke to a spokesperson of the Air Forces Yurii Ihnat and “illustrated” their conversation with some archive video of missiles launch. The guest saw it and said that there were some shots from the Ukrainian air defence trainings before the war at Yahorlyk firing ground, which at the moment was actually occupied by the Russians.
On September, 9th, “Rada” surprised me with another director’s finding: the words of an MP Bakunets were “illustrated” by the text with quote from an advisor to the Head of the Office of the President Podoliak and it was obvious that the quote was about one thing and the guest was talking about completely different thing. Later the same quote was used “to illustrate” the TV presenter’s questions to another guest.
At Suspilne they were totally predictable when they were “illustrating” the words of a member to the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Agriculture Dmytro Solomchuk by the archive shots of wheat and silos and the guest was actually talking — can you imagine — about the meat. They were talking to the Head of “Ukrzaliznytsia” Managing Board about the managing of the grain export by rail road, though they showed both passenger and cargo trains, and the cargo ones were somehow loaded with coal and oil.
One more type of the accuracy standard violation is an attempt to somehow “illustrate” own reporters during the live feeds. Here they are supposedly taking the video, previously shot by the reporters at the events scene. But, at the same time, the video still does not comply with the reporter’s words in the voice-over, as they say something on their own and the video lives its own life. For instance, the journalist from “Rada” during the live feed told that “at the moment there is an air alert in Kharkiv and we are inside the first sheltered public transport stop, installed in the city”. But, alongside with that, they were actually showing the same sheltered public transport stop from the outside and some people with baby cots were slowly passing by.
The attempts to “illustrate” live feeds with an archive video are even worse. For example, at “Rada” they “illustrated” the reporter’s live feed from Odesa. The video of explosions and destroyed buildings was shown, but that day there was not any shelling in Odesa.
Some reporters still try to follow the video and comment on it. The best attempts were made by the journalists at Suspilne and ICTV and STB channels.
But there is one flaw, related to live feeds “illustrations” that I am constantly observing at “1+1”. There such own reporters’ live feeds are typically captioned as “live” and, in parallel, “illustrated” by the previously made video, so, it looks like telling a lie to broadcast the previously shot video, captioned as “live” because it is not. Especially bizarre these “live” captions seem when it is already twilight outside and “1+1” is broadcasting the bright day.
I have a little warning as for factual inaccuracies. I believe it is clear that one person (that is, me as this monitoring author) is physically unable to check all the hundreds of facts, as well as dozens of quotes that are aired during the telethon day, which is prepared by hundreds of people in the newsrooms of more than half a dozen powerful national TV channels. That is why, for this monitoring I can catch not all the factual inaccuracies, but only the most obvious ones. But even they are enough to speak about 12% of factual inaccuracies among all the other violations of this standard. It is way too much for the telethon, claiming for the information accuracy.
Some really blatant error can be spotted. For instance, in one news release “Rada” TV presenter said, that as a result of Donetsk region shelling, five civilians died and four were heavily injured during the day. And, during the next news release, the presenter told otherwise: four people died and five were injured. Or, for instance, Media Group Ukraine presenter said, “Today, on May, 9th, the whole world celebrates the Victory Day against the Nazi in the Second World War”. In reality, the whole world celebrates it on May, 8th.
Occasionally, there are mistakes in location captioning at ICTV and “Inter”. They show a certain event from one place and caption it as a different location.
Here dominated the journalists’ personal subjective opinions (assessments and conclusions, assumptions, etc.) in the news (this is 53% of all the standard violations in the telethon). This is despite the fact that in the news, the journalist has to present only the facts and give the floor to the events participants, who, in their turn, can express their subjective opinions on the facts. The “leaders” in such standard violations were channels “Inter” (66 %), Media Group Ukraine (63 %) and StarLightMedia media group (62 %).
It is notable that the news of the latter carries the proud name “Facts”, although, in fact, it largely consists of the presenters’ and correspondents’ assessments and conclusions. As an example of a serious standard violation, I will just cite a couple of “speeches” by ICTV news presenter Olena Froliak, “Multifaceted Ukrainian patriotism. Sometimes we cry “give us weapons” at territorial defence checkpoints, then we hide from military summons and are indignant when they are handed out in public places. First of all, we need to realize — no one is going to protect our land instead of us... Of course, motivated warriors are needed at the front line but we can run out off the motivated ones and there may not be enough of them for the entire front line. That is why we need to be patient, grit our teeth and fight if we don't want “Russian world” here”. Or even something like this: “The architects, reconstructors, physicists, engineers will be needed to rebuild Ukraine. The academics will become the drivers but this is where the trouble is. Exact sciences are not respected here, and the state did not contribute to this either. We have constant lack of applicants to critically important majors. Soon we will not have anyone to support the nuclear energy. We barely admit the nuclear physicists to the universities every year. And those, who are available, are often tempted by the possibilities abroad”. There is not a single fact here; instead, the presenter expressed her constant assessments as facts. Then she even started giving some instructions, “The state should take care of this and start improving the situation radically”. It worth noting, to my mind, that later all this was almost word-for-word repeated by the other news presenter Orest Drymalovskyi. So, whose thoughts are those?
There is an example for the lead-in at “Inter”: “The myth that was destroyed on the very first day of the war. The Russian army is not as terrifying as Putin's followers have told it would be The equipment is outdated, there are not so many new weapons, the fighting tactics are still Soviet, and the soldiers equipment can hardly withstand any criticism. The impression is that they came to us from the fronts lines of the past. Why the second army in the world is literally naked, barefoot, wild and hungry? The reply is obvious: the thicker the generals, the thinner the soldiers. For many years both the Russian army and the society were robbed by the corrupt people with enormous appetite. Though, we have to thank them for this”.
The lead-in by Tetiana Honcharova at “Rada”, “And the light will win the darkness. And the rear is also the war, only with its own weapons: love, support, understanding and compassion. The secured rear is now at Prykarpattia where they keep excepting the internally displaced people”.
There were less standard violations in unauthorized subjective opinions by the presenters and the journalists of some author's components (guests in the studios, videos, captioned as author's ones such as “Pohliad” (The Look) at “1+1”, leads-in and videos in weekly programme “The Facts of the Week”, etc.) but still it was too much (29% of the standard violations). Here again “the leaders” were the channels “1+1” (46%) and “Rada” (40%). Again, author's programmes journalists should have know that their own opinions should be clearly marked for the viewer as their own opinions but not to be presented as a fact. The author's programmes also cover the documentaries, which were shown a lot in the telethon broadcast, but there the situation with personal opinions was and is good. Due to the fact that in all these films there were either no author's texts at all, or they were very laconic and had rather an explanatory nature, they did not contain evaluations and conclusions.
Here are some examples. A TV presenter Nataliia Moseichuk at “1+1” said, “Our fifth column. They told Putin that they will be welcomed here “with bread and salt”, you see. And here they were beaten hard in Kyiv, Hostomel, in Bucha, in Irpin”. The one, who personally fought and drove the invaders away from Kyiv with his own hands, has every right to say this. Here we do not see any authorization. Or, when at “Inter” the host Oleksii Fadieiev, while delivering the message about ammonia leakage as the result of “Sumykhimprom” production facility hostile shelling, started giving advice to the audience as an expert but without any authorization, “The main thing right now is not to panic! Ammonia is a light gas, so, do remember— to protect yourselves, you need to go down to the basement or the ground floor of the apartment buildings, etc”.
At “Rada” Nazar Dovhyi, without any authorization, proposed such an “interpretation” of the President’s brief statement “This winter will be the most difficult one for all the years of independence”, “Because of the war the winter will be difficult both for us and for the EU. To paint a full picture, to understand the message, this statement should be formulated as follows: This winter is really going to be the most difficult one for the all years of independence, but everything is normal. We have to live through it in such a way that people would feel the state normal functioning. And it is going to be like this. By the way, the key message is that everything will be normal. So, when Europeans complain that the municipality of, for instance, their city turns off city lights at night, or reduces the hot water temperature or are nervous because the fuel price has risen by 15-30 percent, let them remember the Ukrainians, who, even in war conditions, do everything to live through the winter season”.
The percentage ratio does not indicate this, but the flow of groundless generalizations has been observed in the telethon broadcast (I have recorded as many as 164 over this period). And they have been made by the journalists from all the channels / media groups without any exception. This is when the journalists extrapolate one person’s thought or, in better case, the thought of some people onto a bigger group of people, that is absolutely not true,
“The legendary Coldplay and a street musician gig created a sensation in Poland. And now everyone is talking about that” (“1+1”).
“The residents of Kharkiv are worried and they start to believe in Russian fakes that Kharkiv is allegedly unprotected” (ICTV and STB).
“The whole civilized world was appalled by the report from the international human rights organization “Amnesty International” (ICTV and STB).
“The residents of Mykolaiv are steady in their wish to live in a free country” (“Inter”).
“The people do not hurry to the shelters when they hear the alert signal. There are those who do not actually ignore it and they go down to the bomb shelters. But we can state the fact that, unfortunately, they are in minority” (“Rada”).
“But, until there is a war in the country, no expert can tell for sure what is going to happen with the employment” (“Rada”).
“Every resident of Chernihiv dreams of watch the football game at the reconstructed stadium” (Ukraine).
“And also it is obvious for the world that Russia is a not only a terrorist state, but also a looter, who is stealing and trying to convince the world and itself in its own strength” (Ukraine).
The biggest problem for almost all channels in meeting the completeness standard was the belief, which I did not understand, that any of their guests or speakers in the video reports / synchronized videos were somehow automatically getting the status of “competent on the subject” by the very fact of being invited to the air. 52% of all serious violations were the conditional indication or complete absence of indication for the competence of the guests or speakers in synchronized videos on the issue that they were discussing. In most cases, this was true about the experts, among which there were a lot of “non-public” figures. I beg your pardon but I seriously doubt that the audience was aware of an “orientalist” Andrii Buzarov, a “military expert” Mykhailo Zhyrokhov, a “political scientist” Ihor Petrenko, a “political scientist on international affairs” Anton Kuchukhidze, an “expert in international politics” Iliia Kusa, an “expert in international economics” Ivan Us, a “political consultant” Dmytro Vasyliev and so on, and so forth.
In addition, often even for media personalities, more or less known by the audience, there should have been an introduction, corresponding the context of the conversation, but this has not also been done. For instance, at “1+1” they did not comment on the competence of an MP Halyna Yanchenko on the issue of the corruption scandals in relation to the Asset Recovery and Management Agency. Instead of introducing her as, for example, a member to the National Council on Anti-corruption Policy under the President of Ukraine, the presenters introduced her as a Deputy Head of the “Servants to the People” parliament group, which had not relation to the context of the conversation. At “Inter”, the guest Oleksandr Alforov was presented as simply a “historian”, while for the context of the conversation about the renaming of Kyiv streets it was important that Alforov was the Head of Kyiv Expert Toponymical Commission. At “Rada” channel, introducing the guest Ihor Kozlovskyi only as a “specialist in religion studies and a PhD in historical sciences”, the presenters forgot to tell that Ihor Kozlovskyi had been a political prisoner in Russia for almost two years. They were discussing the topic of the political repressions, so what religion studies had to do with it? Or even something like this: At Suspilne Mark Feihin was presented as “a politician and a human rights activist”. At the same time, it would have been vitally important to remind that Feihin is a Russian “politician and human rights activist”, because they talked to him about the attitudes in Putin's environment, among the Russian generals and in Russian society.
One thing more. At “1+1” they often did not caption the people in synchronized videos and video reports. So, the viewers were playing the guessing game as for who was talking and what his strength was in terms of the “expertise”. I do not even mention that the studio guests were often not captioned in this channel’s slots, so the viewer who turned on the telethon after the presenters’ introduction of the guest did not know who he was listening to.
In 26% of cases, the completeness standard was violated by the absence of the event date at the archive video background. And this, no matter what journalists say, is extremely important for a large part of the audience, which takes any image in the news “as today’s events”. And then a picture, dating back to a month or a year ago, misleads them.
Also, the journalists from different channels sometimes (and this is 16% of completeness standard serious violations in the telethon) forgot the “classical” questions, which should have been addressed under the war conditions, if possible: “what? where? when?” For instance, in “1+1” slot, there was a good video report about the saving of a mother and a daughter, blocked in the house, targeted by a missile but neither the report, nor the lead-in contained the information, in which city and region it was taking place. Though, judging from the information itself, it did not look like a military secret.
In “Rada” channel slot, they showed a video without voice-overs with different information about the terrorist attack at Olenivka four times. This is about the answer to the question “where?” They informed about the satellite images as a proof of the terrorist attack, about Podoliak’s opinion on this matter and on the facts that Azov Regiment promised to find all who was guilty of the attack and that the Red Cross was not given access to the attack site. In the video itself, in addition to the footage of the colony in Olenivka, they also showed the shots with campaign of the Azov Regiment participants’ relatives in Kyiv, but the presenter did not say a word about it and did not explain those shots. This is in relation to the question “what?”
In Suspilne slot the presenter reported about the hostile shelling of Mykolaiv at 11:00 pm, which occurred the same day before the sunrise. He did not mention the shelling time at all. So, could the viewer take the information about the shelling without any specification as something that had just happened during the evening? This is in relation to the question “when?”
As for the backgrounds, there were the notions, which had to be explained. For instance, at “Inter”, being a guest in the studio, the chief executive of “Gas Transmission System Operator of Ukraine” company was using a term “LNG” and the presenter did not explain its meaning to the audience and did not ask the guest about it (this is the English abbreviation for liquefied natural gas). One could have also mentioned the captions during the synchronized video in “Rada” broadcast: “Oleh Pustovhar, the regional representative of UINP in Poltava region”. What is “UINP”? Or “the executive director of Ukraine Invest”. What type of enterprise is that?
Another example from Suspilne slot: in the background video coverage, it was told in details how Kyiv was destroyed by the Nazis during the Second World War (as a comparison with the current destruction of Ukraine by the Russians). And they did not mention such an important for today thing that a significant part of the buildings in Kyiv, including the Assumption Cathedral of the Lavra, were blown up by the Bolsheviks during the Soviet troops retreat.
There were not so many violations here, even in the total amount. But some of them were serious.
The standard for the opinions balance was seriously violated in the telethon for several times. In “1+1” slot, on May, 28th they were talking with the guest in the studio for almost an hour about Medvedchuk’s accusations against Poroshenko. The TV channel hosts jointly with the guest (a “political scientist” Valentyn Hladkykh) were acting the prosecutors for the ex-president. Zero chances were given to the latter to say something in response. The same happened while discussing the topic of Zelenskyy’s removing Iryna Venediktova and Ivan Bakanov from their posts when both TV presenters and the guest, the Deputy Head of the Office of the President Andrii Smyrnov, demonstrated solidarity. They forgot to invite Iryna Venediktova and Ivan Bakanov to have this conversation. The experts’ opinion on this staff management story was not asked for as well. At “Rada” channel this topic was reported in the same unbalanced way.
In ICTV and STB broadcast on May 15th, they talked about how effectively the government was solving the fuel crisis, and accused fuel sellers of being nearly “looters” and only the Minister Yuliia Svyrydenko was given a floor on this matter. All the other interested parties (the fuel sellers and the drivers) did not get a chance to speak, as well as the experts, who could have assessed the government actions efficiency impartially.
On May, 15th, in the video about the scandal with the Ukrainian jury votes to the singer from Poland at Eurovision, they quoted the harsh accusations from the social networks against Suspilne but the representatives of NSTU (the Public Broadcasting Company of Ukraine) were not given the floor. At the same time, NSTU works as the colleague of “Rada” in the telethon! On August, 20th, the channel showed the video report about “Poroshenko’s bot farms” with harsh accusation, addressing Poroshenko, his companion-in-arms Herasymov and the whole “European Solidarity” party. It goes without saying that none of the “European Solidarity” representatives were given a chance to react. There were also lack of balance in terms of the guests in the studio — a “political strategist” Petrov and an “expert” Birkadze. Both were also accusing Poroshenko, thus, creating unbalance.
One-sided (i.e., manipulative and unbalanced) blitz polls appeared in the slots of “1+1”, “Inter” and Suspilne on the number of occasions (increasing food prices, the ban on displaying exchange rates at the display board of the currency exchange points, the parents’ attitude to full-time education for schoolchildren, etc. ).
The information accessibility standard was often violated, but I did not pay any attention to it for a long time and recorded only a couple of cases, though, rather typical ones. As, for instance, the usage of the words, which could hardly be understood by the majority of the viewers, by the journalists: “The signing of the “Grain Agreement” in Istanbul has become more or less successful case for the UNO in the Russian-Ukrainian war” (“Inter”).
The promptness standard also was not specially monitored, but there were illustrative moments, recorded by me. “1+1” channel was often “guilty” of “super promptness” artificial imitation. For instance, in “the latest news” at 8:48 am the TV presenter said, “The missile strike at the military firing ground in Rivne region occurred a few minutes ago”. It was reported in the previous hour slot, so it had happened an hour before the broadcast (so, one cannot say about “minutes ago”). Or, when reporting the news about the shelling towards Odesa from the Russian ships, the presenter at 10:09 am said: “Something has just flown there now” (towards the Russian ships). But it was not “now”; it had been an hour and a half or two hours before that. At 10:10 am the news presenter told, “The missile strikes in Rivne region occurred a few minutes ago”. But at “Ukrinform” the same news was published at 8:05 am, while at “Ukrainska Pravda” it had been even earlier, at 7:45 am.
At “Rada” channel a TV presenter told at 2:15 pm, “Now we have the latest information from Kherson, but we will go back to it a little later”. The presenters recalled about Kherson region at 2:54 pm and even then the mention started with some general estimation, but not with “the latest information”: “The situation in Kherson region is intense. The explosions have been heard in the region since the morning and the air alert signals are heard in the city of Kherson”.
On June, 17th, at 11:15 pm, “Rada” channel reported the visit of Macron, Scholz, Draghi and Iohannis as the news, though the visit itself had taken place more than a day before.
Another example: On July, 31st the first messages on the civil unrest at the border between Serbia and Kosovo started to appear in the news feeds around 8:00 pm, when it was Suspilne slot in the telethon broadcast and, moreover, it was time for the news summary. This information was aired by Suspilne only the next day. This is an extremely serious question on how the work of the newsroom is being organized. The riots in Kosovo have certain connection and bear importance for the war in Ukraine. I believe that, first of all, any information about the unfolding of events there (and there was a lot of this information from 8:00 pm till the midnight on that day, everything was developing really fast) had to be promptly reported in the channel / telethon broadcast (irrespective to the fact, if there was a news release or some guests were in the studio at the moment of every new information reporting) and, secondly, in the slot, where Suspilne was having guests in the studio (from 10:50 pm), there should have been guests to discuss this matter or, at least, some experts. And the newsmakers would have been even better. But, unfortunately, nothing of this happened in reality. The newsroom totally failed to cover the topic.
In Media Group Ukraine slot on May, 9th between 9:30 a.m. and 12:00 p.m., there was no news release, and the guest studio failed to report that the Russians managed to cross the Siverskyi Donets River by pontoon bridge and made evacuation using “the road of life” impossible. Most news resources reported that at about 10 in the morning. And in Media Group Ukraine slot it was reported only at the very end of the 12-hour news release. Also, the presenters in the guest studio did not inform on the missile strike at Odesa region with four missiles (for instance, at “Ukrinform” this message appeared at 11:35 am). This was only mentioned in the news release.
The most of the journalism ethical norm violations were observed in “1+1” channel broadcasts — six of them. The ethical norms were violated three times in the slots of channels ICTV and STB, “Inter” and “Rada”.
At “1+1”, in four cases they broadcast the rudest swear words (once it was not “beeped” in the synchronized video and three times it was not “blurred” in the logo of the famous Telegram channel name). In another case, a text about sexual crimes committed by the occupiers against Ukrainians was "illustrated" with archival shots of recognizable people. There was one coverage video where a channel journalist pretended to be the other person and was involved in pranking.
At “Inter", in one coverage a resident of the occupied Kherson region was exposed to serious danger by channel’s presenting a fully identified synchronized video with a frank comment about the occupiers. In one of the reports about the bodies’ exhumation in the liberated villages of Kharkiv region, there was too much naturalism and close-ups of half-decomposed dead bodies. In another case, the words about sentencing to torture and executions were “illustrated” by the archive video with recognizable prisoners.
At “Rada”, two close-ups twice showed suspects of treason and sabotage, in particular, men, detained in Bucha district, who were later found not guilty by the law enforcement officers. In other case, a journalist pretended to be a refugee.
In ICTV and STB channels broadcast slots, two different videos of identified suspects of treason were shown. They showed the archive video of the Ukrainian prisoners, where they could be recognized in one coverage.
Manifestations of political and business promotion in the telethon broadcast
A few precautions: In the evaluation process, I did not consider some materials as PR manifestations when I had doubts. From a half a year distance, some of these doubts were gone. For example, in relation to the new method of “Rada” channel to cut the president's video address or speech into pieces, and then present them during the broadcast as “news”. I saw this for the first time on September, 9th and wrote about it simply as a fact. But now I have checked those video cuts as containing the features of promoting and there is nothing of a news nature in them, just the president’s oratory. It is one thing when the channel simply shows full video address (which as a whole contains some actual news, the president’s important evaluation of events and circumstances). The other thing is when a fragment, containing no news, is broadcast for many times, claiming to contain the news. In reality, this is additional promotion for the president, who is more often shown in telethon that any other newsmaker due to some objective reasons. I decided to consider similar artificial expansion of the president’s presence in the telethon broadcast as the attempts of “Rada” newsroom to ensure additional promotion for Mr President.
The statistics includes all the broadcast repeats of the promotion manifestations, as one and the same material is viewed by different audience in different broadcast time, so the repeat greatly expands the contact of the promoting material with the audience.
While making the counter claims to the monitoring, the journalists, in particular, criticized the fact that the mentioning of the guests’ political affiliation in case when it was not related to the context of the conversation was recorded by the monitoring as a political promotion. One of the most illustrative arguments against the critics can be the fact that, as you can see, at certain channels they never forget about the guests’ affiliation to some political groups / parties, while totally forgetting about this affiliation for the others. The most illustrative one is the case with “1+1” channel, where the necessary information to be reported is the affiliation to “Za Maibutnie” parliamentary group. Or when all the appearances of Ms Shuliak and Mr Hetmantsev at “Inter” were for sure captioned as the “Servants to the People” while all the other MPs in the channel slot “did not have” any affiliation. And vice versa, a few single cases at Suspilne did not obviously look like a system. But they were single cases in June and July, but in August three of such introductions were made in one broadcast and later such introduction disappeared. Also, as we can see, these manifestations at Suspilne related to the biggest political opponents at the same time (both the “Servants to the People” and “European Solidarity”). I believe these were just mistakes, the lack of understanding for the guests’ contextual introduction tool by certain broadcast editors. But, just because there were the mistakes and not someone’s requests, this did not stop them from being political promotion manifestations. That is why these manifestations are reflected in this report.
One thing more is to be mentioned. For the first weeks of monitoring, I was evaluating the appearance of “Bayraktar News” in the broadcast as a manifestation of the ruling party political promotion for two good reasons. First of all, the product by “Kvartal 95 Studio” for most part of the voters is strongly associated with Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the “Servants to the People” party. Secondly, it is clear that political jokes in this “Bayraktar” are positive for the authorities and, undoubtedly, negative for their political opponents. But in these results, I will not include “Bayraktar News” releases based on the reason that I have an intention to evaluate mainly the promotion manifestations, generated by the telethon participants and “Bayraktar News” is aired in the broadcast slots of different channels when there slot coincides with the fixed time for the show, established by “the telethon generals”, so it does not depend on the channels.
Apart from unjustified mentions of the political group / party affiliation of the guests (or the speakers in events coverage or some synchronized videos) during the conversions, political promotion in the telethon broadcast also appears in other, more common forms. First of all, they were, of course, some “advocacy journalism” materials, that did not contain any actual news but were focused on some routines. Where a politician / an official “is visiting” some place, “is negotiating” or “is having a meeting”. In such a report this politician / official should also “claim”, “state” or “emphasize” something. Even when the “advocacy” material hero was interacting with other real people, he remained the only “lead”, other people were subordinate there. The journalists report on them as they were a circumstance, they were not given a floor. Such news is phrased as follows: “The president has spoken to...”, “the Prime Minister has given...”, “the Minister has awarded...” or “has held a meeting”, “has given an instruction”, etc. All the rest (to whom he has spoken, to whom he has given and what, to whom he has awarded and what, what is the outcome of the meeting and if the instruction is implemented) is subordinate.
The promotion manifestations can occasionally appear inside full event coverage videos. Usually it happens as the appearance of some “unnecessary” politician / official, expressing some comments. Or in the form of a “casual” mention in the background of a circumstance that is not important for this event, but reminds of some ancient actions of a certain politician / official.
Another way is the direct speech from the guests in the studio, who can praise somebody / something in an unjustified manner or, on the contrary, scold or accuse somebody / something. In such cases, if there is no presenters’ response to the guest’s words or there is even some support shown, this is also the promotion manifestation. And, finally, the presenters can be promoting somebody / something on their own, without guests’ assistance.
For the sixth months of monitoring, the picture goes as follows:
As one can see from this table, the basic tools for promotion were so-called “advocacy journalism” materials. More than that, “Rada” channel was using this form the most often. Though, both “Rada” and “Inter” channels were applying this form as the major one. The mentions of the MPs - guests political affiliation dominated mainly at “1+1” and ICTV and STB. The appearance in video coverage or videos without voice-overs was mostly used at Ukraine and StarLightMedia. At Suspilne, there were no other manifestations (another proof of their unintentional nature) of “hand-made” promotions, apart from the guests’ political affiliation.
The total amount of political promotion (“pure” business one was identified only in 5 cases from this list) in the telethon broadcast for a half a year was 596. In my opinion, this is way too many, indecently many. Everywhere (both from the high stands and in the telethon broadcast itself) the high mission of “unbiased information” for the Ukrainians is declared, and these Ukrainians are occasionally being fed with public promotion in the guise of information — mainly from the authorities, but they also do not shy away from “black publicity” against their opponents. Also, certain political forces or other institutions can be promoted, based on the preferences and opinions of particular oligarchs’ channels owners. From time to time they do not avoid broadcasting materials, clearly promoting certain business. If we take the average values of the promotion amount per broadcast hour, then viewers who happen to view “Rada” broadcast slots are almost guaranteed to receive one PR manifestation per hour of watching; in Ukraine broadcast slots, they received not much less; in ICTV and STB broadcast slots, they had a chance to receive some promotion once every 3 hours of watching; in the “1+1” broadcast slot — once every 4 hours, at “Inter” — once every 5 hours. The broadcast slots of Suspilne public broadcaster were the only more or less free from the promotion materials.
The indicators deviation from the average value for different telethon participants can also be indicative (the last line in the table). “Rada” channel and Media Group Ukraine exceeded them greatly. For other channels, the indicators were lower than the average.
Now let us have a look at the personalities in these promotion materials manifestations. Here I present the “top” part of the list of those, who were positively mentioned in promotion materials (starting with four mentions, as the full list is too big):
As this table shows, the Office of the President was the key “positive” figure in terms of promotion manifestations for these six months, as its representatives (from the Head to the advisors) often appeared in the broadcasts in positive context. “Rada” channel made the biggest contribution into such popularity of the Office — 48 mostly “advocacy” materials with the presidential office employees as “leads” were aired. Notably, the parliament here is obviously “loosing” to the executive power (and even to such a non-constitutional body as the Office). Even the parliamentary channel “Rada” ensured the absolute domination of the Office’s employees’ promotion (48 manifestations in general) over the parliamentary representatives’ promotion.
The “individual competition” was, of course, won by the President Zelenskyy (44 manifestations in general and a half of them were made at “Rada” channel). The next one personality in the rating is, surprisingly, the advisor to the Head of the Office of the President Mykhailo Podoliak (by efforts of two telethon participants — mostly “Rada” and some contribution from Ukraine as well). The third position is taken by the Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal. The fourth place, taken by Rinat Akhmetov, is simply explained by the fact that his media group promoted its owner (perhaps, “for the last time”) more often than it used to do it before the beginning of the big war and, correspondingly, the telethon. It mentioned the owner every single time in purely promotion materials about his business group or the Fund named after him. As for “personal” indicators, I want to once again emphasize the fact that the Office’s employees Andrii Yermak, Mykhailo Podoliak and Kyrylo Tymoshenko were far ahead all the other politicians in terms of the promotion amount they got in the telethon broadcast.
In “parties’ competitions”, of course, the single leader was the party the “Servants to the People”. In most cases, there were the political affiliation mentions for its MPs mostly, so it only proves my point that it is not a mere coincidence: at most channels, when the hosts are talking to the deputies from the ruling party, their political affiliations are almost always mentioned, unlike other parliamentary groups. But this statement does not apply to “1+1”. There they will certainly mention the other party — “Za Maibutnie”, which is not far behind the “servants”, and, thanks to the efforts of “1+1”, it takes the second position in this list. I am a little surprised by the third position of “Holos”. It was actually ensured by the broadcasts at ICTV and STB with the political affiliation mentions. And one more observation: two telethon participants — ICTV / STB and “Rada” — were often giving a floor to Ms Yulia Tymoshenko and they did not forget to mention All-Ukrainian Union “Batkivshchyna” align with that.
Now a couple of words about negative publicity. Here is the list of subjects to it in the telethon broadcast:
Everything in it is completely predictable. The political opponent to the ruling party Petro Poroshenko is the leader in terms of the negative publicity that he got (and without any chance to respond to it, of course) in the telethon. The opposition in general, as well as Poroshenko’s “European Solidarity” party, also got their share. The same applies to his closest allies — Ihor Kononenko and Artur Herasymov. Negative publicity was recorded in the broadcasts of only three telethon members. The “Poroshenko issue” was dealt with at “Rada” and “1+1”. On August, 20th at “Rada” channel, they organized “Five Minutes Hate” towards Poroshenko, that lasted for almost a half an hour, with an “expert” but, in reality, a “black” spin doctor Volodymyr Petrov as a leading actor.
“Inter”, Suspilne and Ukraine did not demonstrate the negative publicity manifestations. StarLightMedia could have also avoided it, but, to achieve that, Ms Tymoshenko should have been invited to the telethon broadcasts less, as she was acting as a “professional opposition leader” who enjoyed nothing better as to criticize the authorities what she actually did, being the guest of the media group. Though, it was the miracle of all miracles but as a guest at “Rada”, Ms Tymoshenko did not criticize the ruling party (my assumption is that it was specially agreed with her when she was invited to the broadcast). She was only mocking at “Naftogaz of Ukraine” National Joint Stock Company and its Head Yurii Vitrenko. It was done without the presenters’ reaction and without a chance to get some response to it. This is very convenient.
Now let us talk about the channels in particular. “1+1” was mostly busy promoting “Za Maibutnie” party, inspired and sponsored by the channel owner Ihor Kolomoyskyi, but they also did not forget about their owner’s closest allies — two video reports were dedicated to the Foundation of Ihor Palytsia. In June the channel spend a lot of resources to send the crew to Vienna and Budapest to cover “Kvartal 95” concerts.
In ICTV and STB channels slots, the most of promotion manifestations were beneficial for the “Servants to the People” and “Holos” parties (6 cases per each) and they were mostly presented as mentions of political affiliation for the guests, representing these political forces. The Head of the party Olena Shuliak was the most welcomed guests, representing the “Servants to the People”, in the media group broadcasts (5 times). 6 different reports were positive towards the second president Leonid Kuchma (the father-in-law of the media group owner). Yulia Tymoshenko was involved in the broadcast three times and she skilfully promoted herself and her party and in one case she was giving a hard time and some instructions to the government. The President Zelenskyy was portrayed in promotion materials in a modest way — just twice. There were two particular occasions of business promotion manifestation for Сomfy trading network and Nissan Motors Ukraine Company in the media group broadcast. I can understand that in peaceful life the channels are constantly making money on the business promoting videos in the news, but they could have quit this bad habit for the telethon broadcast. It does not look honest: the money is taken by StarLightMedia and all the telethon participants have to broadcast it.
Though, the similar situation also occurred at “Inter” where they aired the video about the advantages of RGC Production Company. But, it is highly unlikely that the channel was paid for this, as the company belongs to its owner Dmytro Firtash. Among the politicians, “Inter” preferred to promote the Prime Minister Shmyhal (8 “advocacy” manifestations, the President Zelenskyy was hopelessly far behind (only 3 manifestations), as many as for the Deputy Head of his Office Kyrylo Tymoshenko and the Head of his party Olena Shuliak.
“Rada” channel, as I have mentioned above, was mostly promoting the President (22 manifestations) and his subordinates Podoliak (17), Tymoshenko (13) and Yermak (12) and, alongside with them, the whole Office of the President of Ukraine. The “Servants to the People” party got 19 promotion appearances in the channel broadcast. The rest was represented by the parliamentary leaders and MPs from the “Servants to the People”, some officials (the Prime Minister Shmyhal, the Minister of Healthcare Liashko, the Minister of Culture Tkachenko, the Minister of Internal Affairs Monastyrskyi), etc. Only Ms Tymoshenko was allowed to visit “Rada” broadcast from the group of “non-insiders”. Most notably, it happened twice. But in general the “outsiders” were not invited there. By the way, Ms Tymoshenko was so convincing in her criticism towards “Naftogas” that the TV host — the former presenter from the channels, owned by Medvedchuk, Maksym Zborovskyi — could not help telling the guest, instead of balance maintenance, “Yuliia Volodymyrivna, you say totally logical things”.
At Suspilne, all 6 promotion manifestations, as I have already mentioned, were the unjustified mentions of the MPs political affiliations (four “Servants”, one from “Holos” and one from “European Solidarity”).
The group owner Akhmetov (18 manifestations) and the President Zelenskyy were main beneficiaries of the positive promotion in Media Group Ukraine broadcasts. The third position as for the positive promotion amount was given to Akhmetov Foundation (8) and the fourth one — to the Office of the President (7). The latter was possible due to “advocacy materials”, dedicated to the images of Mr Podoliak and Mr Yermak. But even these gentlemen were left behind by the channel owner’s “Metinvest” and DTEK group of companies
Russian propaganda narratives and toxic media personalities
The number of toxic media personalities and Russian propaganda narratives in the United News telethon broadcast (the selection — 25 days during March — September 2022)
As this table obviously indicates, the state-owned (!) channel “Rada” is the most toxic one among all the telethon participants. First of all, it allowed yesterday's propagandists from presently closed pro-Russian channels, owned by Medvedchuk and Derkach, to work as presenters in the broadcasts. There are as many as four of them at the channel — Maksym Zborovskyi, Nazar Dovhyi, Olha Niemtseva and Tetiana Honcharova. All of them are, of course, “patriots” now. But, as for me, their presence in the telethon broadcast undermines its reputation. After all, the main broadcast of the country under the war conditions against the Russian invaders is presented by those who have been working for the enemy for many years, thereby preparing his attack on Ukraine. I do not even mention the ethical side of the matter and the information hygiene. As there is a lot of these collaborators (almost a half of all the current channel presenters) at “Rada”, so every channel broadcast is almost for sure hosted by one of them. And sometimes there are occasions (as, for instance, on July, 18th and 30th) when all four of them are in the broadcast.
Also, another toxic media figure, a “black” spin doctor Volodymyr Petrov, was acting as an “expert for any issue” in “Rada” channel broadcast for three times. In August he was going to “Rada” broadcasts as people go to work (he was there on August 8th, 20th and 27th for sure and I only watch it for one day per week).
There is one toxic presenter at “Inter” — Anastasiia Dauhule. But she appeared in telethon six times: as news presenter, during live feeds or the video reports. There were no toxic guests at “Inter”.
In March, I once saw Tyhran Martyrosian, the former host and even the head of the TV channel NewsOne, owned by Medvedchuk, and later the Muraev’s TV channel “Nash” (Our), acting as a presenter in Media Group Ukraine broadcasts. But later he was removed from the broadcasts (at least from those, which I have seen).
Instead, Karina Orlova, an employee of the Russian radio “Echo of Moscow”, who for some reason acted as an expert on international relations, visited the media group twice (June, 6th and 27th). If to leave the value of such an “expertise”, which is very questionable in my opinion, behind, then the main question remains: why did the media group journalists invite the representative of the Russian propaganda team, even if she belonged to its so-called “liberal” wing, to the broadcast in the first place? It is also typical that the hosts introduced Orlova simply as a “journalist” but they somehow forgot to mention that she was from Russia.
In “1+1”, ICTV and STB and Suspilne slots there was not a single media toxic personality at all.
The Russian propaganda narratives in the telethon broadcast has not been the widespread case — I have recorded only 9 of such cases. But, if you think about the telethon declared missions and its purpose, it seems strange to me that such a thing is even possible on its air!
The “leader” in the matter of promoting enemy narratives to the national telethon broadcast was again “Rada” channel. If some isolated incidents, that were recorded at other channels in this monitoring, could be treated as a coincidence, 4 cases at “Rada”, I beg your pardon, looked more like a system (and I was only watching 1/7 share of all the six months marathon and I can only guess what was happening in the remaining 6/7).
In one case (on August, 8th), the toxic host Dovhyi claimed with an abstract reference to “even international publications” that Ukrainians were returning to enemy-occupied territories because they could not find jobs at the free ones. On August, 20th the toxic presenter Niemtseva claimed, without citing any sources, of course, that the occupiers were allegedly withdrawing their military equipment from Enerhodar (misinformation, beneficial to Russia against the background of the events surrounding the Zaporizhzhia NPP). On August, 27th the toxic presenter Honcharova tried to demonstrate a video of some fight as a tendency that Ukrainians did not want to fight against Russia, and the state was forcibly sending them to the front line. The same day another channel’s toxic presenter Zborovskyi, while talking to the toxic guest Petrov, claimed (without reference to any sources, of course) that there were allegedly long lines of people, seeking to get the Russian passport in the occupied Kherson. And toxic Petrov was confirming that, again without any references to any sources.
At “1+1” one of the cases seemed as they did not give it enough thought when they were planning the broadcast. On May, 28th they showed almost the whole video from the Russian propaganda channel about an assassination attempt for someone from the occupying force. So, the Russian narratives were shown in the channel broadcast “in pure forms” and in an emotional way. This was done, of course, to mock all of it, but several narratives (about the “Ukrainian Nazis authorities”, about the fact that “the Ukrainians can terminate their own civilians, including children”, and about the “legitimate power” over the occupied territories) as a result were aired in the telethon. And in one more case (broadcast on July, 22nd), the presenter Moseichuk cited a lengthy quote by Russian director Konchalovsky about the large number of elderly people, who have living children, but live in shelters and the large number of homeless children in Russia. And she tried to make an analogy (that it is the same way in Ukraine). And she was portraying Konchalovsky as a “good Russian”.
On May 22nd, at Ukraine channel the Russian expert Vladyslav Inozemtsev expressed some strange opinion that there was no global food crisis, only some poor countries would suffer from food shortages, and their own governments were to blame for their problems (it is not that Russia had blocked the Ukrainian exports of agricultural products — the latter was not mentioned, but implied) And the hosts did not try to disavow his opinion. And in the broadcast on June, 6th, the above-mentioned Karina Orlova was discussing the possibilities for peace treaty negotiations between Ukraine and Russia, as well as the idea of dividing Ukraine into two parts with the hosts.
On July, 5th in “Inter” slot, a very emotional video address of a woman, who blamed the Ukrainian authorities for allegedly placing the Western arms depot close to the shopping centre, was taken from the social network for the video coverage of the missile shelling consequences at “Amstor” shopping centre in Kremenchuk.
I have not recorded any actual pro-Russian narratives in ICTV and STB channels slots. But I have some comments. The channels constantly broadcast propaganda films of the “Anti Zombie” and “Civil Defence” projects (once such a film was also in “Inter” broadcast slot), which constantly use fragments of the Russian propaganda channels broadcasts. All this, of course, is later “broken” by the authors of the program, or serves as an illustration for the propaganda inadequacy.
I have already written more than once that these films are clearly superfluous in the telethon, because they are aimed at the Russian audience, which does not watch the telethon. Meanwhile, the Russian narratives, used in them, are aired in Ukraine.
No Russian propaganda narratives at all were recorded in Suspilne broadcast slots.
Events / topics, that were not reported in the broadcast (at least, on daily basis)
I will start with two precautions. First of all, the telethon, originally produced by six different media market players and with five of them who continue the production, is not so illustrative in terms of missed (or intentionally omitted) events / topics, as it used to be with separate daily broadcasts from each of these participants. The so-called “aggregate selection” effect for the broadcast topics works for the telethon. If some of the topics are neglected (or intentionally ignored) even by four out of five, the fifth participant can still report it. According to my observations, there were cases when a certain and probably taboo topic for one channel was reported by other channels. If the subject was “dangerous” for the calm life of the oligarchs’ owned channels, it was reported by Suspilne.
Also, no one can discard the possibility that even the most experienced editors can make a mistake by not paying adequate attention to some topic. But again, an important topic that has been “forgotten” by the newsroom today can appear on the telethon the following days as events unfold. And the audience will find out about it, though not that promptly. For instance, it was the case on July, 31st, when the civil unrest at the border between Serbia and Kosovo was not reported in the telethon. But, in the following days, the topic found its spot in the broadcast. Thanks to this “aggregate selection” effect, as well as “postponed highlighting” effect, in reality there were not so many situations in the telethon when some event or topic, vitally important for the society, was completely missed.
Secondly, it has to be kept in mind that two different experienced issuing editors will plan two different sets of topics to be highlighted in the broadcast. Of course, these two sets will match to a great expend, but some topics on them will still differ because there is a factor of subjectivity at evaluation of any topic importance. In this case I was hard for me to be one hundred percent sure that all those events / topics, which I had marked in the section of supposedly “omitted” in this monitoring, were one hundred percent important and “necessary to be highlighted”. I cannot exclude the fact that the editors, working for the telethon, could disagree with me on some of those topics.
So, judging from all this, I cannot say that there is a total censorship at the telethon. But, judging from many years of experience in observing the broadcasts of all the telethon participants and also from the inside information, that I have, I know that there is a set attitude to different topics and different players of the Ukrainian politics at different channels. There are unwritten “rules’, as well as “white” and “black” lists. So, the journalists’ self-censorship is secured in following them.
The total number of events / topics that I marked in weekly monitoring as conditionally silenced during the observation period (this option did not appear in monitoring immediately, but from April, 18th) was 130 in 22 days. On average, there were approximately 6 topics per one telethon broadcast day. It is way too many, taking into account the above-mentioned “aggregate selection” effect and considering the fact that the telethon is actually 24-hour news channel, where the time for all the important topics can be found, at least in form of the short message about an important event.
Which topics have not been discussed in the telethon?
First o all, surprisingly enough, it is not an uncommon thing that the telethon, where different channels presenters are constantly saying that “the channels have gathered together to inform you about the events at war”, often misses the spot for the extremely important messages in the context of war events highlighting itself. For instance, in the telethon there were no timely (i.e., the same day) messages on the following:
- American intelligent service is warning about the Russian troops’ concentration for the offensive at Zaporizhzhia and Kherson region (May, 22nd).
- Belarus claims about “the Ukrainian sabotage groups” and is moving “Iskanders” closer to the Ukrainian border (May, 22nd).
- Russia hit Chornobaivka in Kherson region with missiles, one person died and six injured (May, 28th).
- The enemy hit the plant in Kryvyi Rih with missiles and destroyed it (May, 28th).
- In Zaporizhzhia the enemy destroyed the boarding school with 5 missiles (August, 27th).
There was almost complete silence after the “Azovstal” defenders were captured. The channels did not often mention this topic until the terrorist attack at Olenivka.
The telethon often did not report war-related information that was actually important to very large groups of people, such as:
- Field engineers completed the check of Irpin (May, 9th).
- Zelenskyy refused to consider the petition about going abroad for the men (August, 16th).
- The curfew time was changed in Luhansk region (May, 22nd).
- Kyiv authorities named the city districts, mostly contaminated with mines and shells (May, 22nd).
- In Odesa region it was decided not to open beaches for summer season (July, 5th).
- The education establishments, operating distantly, will be used as accommodation for internally displaced persons — the Ministry of Integration (August, 27th).
They did not find some room to report on foreign events directly related to the war, for example, on September, 3th, they did not report at all about the large (70 thousand people) anti-Ukrainian rally in Prague. Or some topics were uncomfortable for the Ukrainian authorities, as on July, 10th there was no indication of the following:
- Congresswoman Spartz urged the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine to take her statements seriously and listed the claims to Yermak (July, 10th).
- The Ukrainian Diaspora in the USA declaimed the statements of Spartz about Zelenskyy and his team (July, 10th).
- Congresswoman Kaptur, responsible for Ukraine in the Congress, accuses Spartz of “incautious assistance to Putin” (July, 10th).
There was also war-related news, even if not mandatory to be covered (for the completeness of the daily information picture), but, I think, interesting for the Ukrainian audience, for example:
- Putin awarded a title of the “guard” to the brigade, responsible for extreme atrocities in Bucha (April, 18th).
- The petition for introduction of visas for the Russians got 25 thousands of signatures (May, 2nd).
- The Ukrainians gathered 300 million UAH for the Ukrainian Armed Forces via “Diia” (Action) application (May, 9th).
- Javelin manufacturer doubles their production due to high demand (May, 9th).
- Bayraktar manufacturer claimed that he would never sell them to Russia (July, 18th).
- The Russian propagandist from Russia Today was killed by mine explosion in occupied Donetsk.
There were also some other uncomfortable and silenced topics. For instance:
- A petition has been registered on the website of the Cabinet of Ministers for the return of TV channels “Priamyi”, “Channel 5” and “Espresso” to the broadcast (April, 18th).
- TV channels “Priamyi” and “Channel 5” requested to join them to the participation in the national telethon instead of Media Group Ukraine.
- The digital broadcast of “Espresso”, “Priamyi” and “Channel 5” was suspended due to NSDC decision.
- Korban asks Zelenskyy to look into the “misunderstanding” with his citizenship (July, 22nd).
On July, 16th, the telethon did not report the following:
- The Washington Post published new data in relation to Putin’s secret plans for invasion.
- Zelenskyy explained why the authorities had not warned the Ukrainians about the Russian invasion.
May be, this information was not too beneficial for the President’s image?
Summarizing this section of the six-month monitoring results; I can say that usually the telethon, with the combined efforts of all its participants, painted an informative picture for the audience every day. The topics, omitted in the telethon, were different. The omission for the majority of them can be hardly explained by the reasons of censorship. But there were also some topics, uncomfortable for the authorities (Poroshenko’s TV channels, the case with congresswoman Spartz, the article in the Washington Post, Korban’s statements, etc.) I cannot exclude the chance that most newsrooms ignored those topics because of “typical self-censorship”. And I cannot also exclude the possibility of getting some “advice from the top”. There is no actual evidence for this or that.
Video screen shot: Suspilne