Stabroek News poll coverage impartial- EAB media report
By Gitanjali Singh
March 30, 1998
Stabroek News has come out on top as the most impartial media house of those covered in the 1997 general elections, according to the Electoral Assistance Bureau's (EAB) final media monitoring report release last week.
The most qualitatively biased media houses were said to be VCT 28 and NBTV 9. The report was based on a survey of the media houses' coverage of the political campaign in the run up to general elections last year, in four periods between October 7 and December 14. The media houses covered GBC, WRHM, NBTV, GTV 11, CNS Channel 12, VCT Channel 28, the Guyana Chronicle and Stabroek News.
"Generally, while the extent of coverage by the Stabroek News was not equally balanced among all the contesting parties, the data indicates that the quality of coverage was impartial," the report by Mohamed Baksh said.
In its concluding remarks, the report said "all of the media houses monitored, excepting the Stabroek News, displayed varying levels of quantitative imbalances in coverage".
This newspaper was found by the watchdog body to have had coverage of the PPP/Civic in 39.3% of political references per day and 30.2% for the PNC with the coverage to the Alliance for Guyana (13.2%) and a Good and Green Guyana (5.8%) being within expectations. The other parties received less than 5% of total coverage.
Qualitative coverage of the PPP/Civic and PNC by the Stabroek News was found to be impartial with positive coverage given to the AFG and negative coverage to the GGG.
Stabroek News was followed by the Guyana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) for being the least biased in qualitative coverage, then WRHM, Capitol News and GTV 11.
Though the state-owned daily, the Chronicle, was positively biased towards the PPP, it was found to be unbiased towards the PNC and the AFG. The other parties were ignored by this media house, the report said.
Chronicle's coverage of the PPP/Civic decreased by about ten per cent since the preliminary media report by the EAB. Of its political coverage, 49% related to the PPP/C and 34% to the PNC.
VCT 28 was found to be positively biased towards the PNC and negatively biased towards the PPP/Civic in its reports. Coverage of AFG and GDP was found to be neutral. Positive coverage to the PPP/Civic by VCT was 22.8% compared to 75.6% to the PNC. Negative coverage of the PNC was 7.6% as against the PPP/Civic's 67.5%.
Of NBTV 9 coverage, the PPP/Civic received 32.1% and the PNC 63.7%. Positive coverage to the PPP/Civic was 10.2% against the PNC's 71.1%. Negative coverage to the PNC was 15% against the PPP/Civic's 87.5%.
"Unquestionably, NBTV portrayed a distinctly positive bias toward the PNC and an equally distinctive negative bias toward the PPP," the report said.
The other party covered, the GGG also, was negatively portrayed. WRHM was found to have moved from an impartial position (in the preliminary EAB report).
"They moved from being impartial to a position that we can easily view as positively biased toward the PNC and bordering on negatively biased toward the PPP," the report said.
Of coverage to the PPP, 53.8% was negatively biased as against the 14.8% negative bias to the PNC. Positive coverage to the PNC was 59% against the 29.4% to the PPP/Civic. The GDP received balanced coverage and the AFG positively biased coverage.
Analysing GBC's coverage, the report said while it positively favoured the PPP/Civic, it was unbiased in its treatment of the other parties.
The state-owned GTV 11 focused primarily on the PPP/Civic, PNC and AFG in the campaign and showed a positive bias toward the PPP/Civic and AFG. It was unbiased toward the PNC.
CNS 12's qualitative coverage showed a negative bias towards the PPP/Civic and a positive one to the Justice For All Party led by the owner of the television station. The PNC received coverage which bordered on being positive by CNS.
The EAB is of the view that the media is the next frontier in the pursuit of free and fair elections, noting that the atmosphere within which elections occur influences the quality of the elections.
It said that an electoral process will be deemed fair if each contestant is provided equal access to advance its cause. While "richer" political parties would have a notable advantage in procuring advertising space, media houses can strive to ensure that news and other information are accurate, balanced and objective.
It charged that in some cases the degree of imbalance in coverage implies an attempt to influence the outcome of the poll campaign.
It also drew a distinction between the responsibilities of the state-owned and the private media. The state-owned media are required among other things to offer voter education; be balanced and impartial in election reporting; to grant parties and candidates air time for direct access programmes on a fair basis.
While privately-owned media are not bound to comply with the same guidelines, they have a moral and ethical responsibility to the electorate to give it an opportunity to select its government in an informed manner.