სამშაბათი | 15 დეკემბერი, 2020

Georgian TV and the political framing of foreign actors

Note: This article first appeared on the Caucasus Data Blog, a joint production of CRRC Georgia and OC Media. It was written by Mariam Kobaladze, Communications Manager at CRRC Georgia. The views expressed in this article are the author’s alone and do not represent the views of the European Union, the United Nations Development Program, or CRRC Georgia. 

No matter their political stripes, TV channels in Georgia frame association with Russia as politically condemnatory and association with Western countries as praiseworthy. 

The preliminary statement of the OSCE/ODIHR international election observation mission, published on 31 October, assessed the Georgian media environment as ‘highly polarised’. The Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics came to a similar conclusion, highlighting that polarization in television news increased as the election campaign wore on.

CRRC Georgia’s media monitoring during the pre-electoral period shows that polarization carried through to the use and portrayal of foreign actors in Georgian media. While any affiliation with Russia was intended as damaging to the reputation of a political actor, the EU and the United States were mostly portrayed as respectful actors, whose support added credit and whose criticism cast doubt on politicians.

‘Russia’ as a dirty word

Politicians who commented on ongoing events in news stories would call their opponents ‘pro-Russian’ or acting in line with Russian interests, with the clear goal of diminishing their credibility. 

Both the opposition and the ruling party used this tactic. For example, in a news story on Rustavi 2, a pro-government leaning news outlet, a member of the ruling Georgian Dream Party said that after the Bolsheviks and Communists, the opposition United National Movement ranked next in fulfilling Russia’s tasks.

Meanwhile, TV Pirvelli, an outlet critical of the Georgian Dream government, informed their audience that Bidzina Ivanishvili’s cousin visited Moscow 177 times, while pro-UNM news channel Mtavari Arkhi aired a story on how Russia funds the ultra conservative Georgian March group and the conservative Patriots’ Alliance party, arguing that the lack of reaction from the Georgian government to these organisations demonstrates their sympathies with russia. 

An interesting example of using Russia to discredit a political actor was the coverage of the Davit Gareji cartographers’ court case. Opposition media covered it as a ‘Russian project’, suggesting the scandal was Russian commissioned in the wake of the tensions prior to the outburst of active conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. In contrast, pro-government channels used the story to discredit the previous authorities, claiming they had pursued Russian interests. 

The West is best

Unlike Russia, EU and US-affiliated actors were presented as having authority and respect. Yet, while covering the same statements, comments, and issues issued from Western actors, different television channels underlined western support or criticism of the government based on their editorial stance, instead of both support and criticism. 

While government-leaning TV Channel Imedi covered stories on US and EU representatives calling on Georgia to hold free, fair, and transparent elections and presented OSCE/ODIHR recommendations, they did so in a way that highlighted western support for Georgia, its government, and positive assessments from international observation missions (e.g. of Election Code reform). In another similar instance, Pos TV covered the EU parliament’s resolution on Georgia’s fulfillment of the Association Agreement as the EU’s unprecedented support for Georgia and a success to be ascribed to the ruling party. 

Channels with critical views of the ruling party and the government also covered the statements and recommendations of western actors. However, the emphasis was on criticism of the ruling authorities. TV Pirveli for example aired a story about an EU Parliament report on Georgia which they presented as a tough pre-election warning for Georgia. ‘Five-hundred and fifty-two EU parliamentarians write that there is a politicized court in Georgia, court cases against opposition leaders were political, and the country under Ivanishvili’s rule has political prisoners’, a TV Pirveli journalist stated on air. ‘All this was written in the annual report of the EU parliament.’

CRRC Georgia’s monitoring of television news suggests that when covering foreign actors, television channels tend to express their political sympathies. Russia is used to cast doubt on parties and politicians while Western actors are presented as figures of authority whose support is advantageous and criticism disadvantageous. The meanings ascribed to Russia and the West hold whether or not the channel is for or against the government. But, the coverage of Western statements does change, either focusing on praise or criticism of the government and little of the coverage is balanced.

14.09.2015 | ორშაბათი

The Georgian public on journalists

Over the last month, a number of scandals have emerged on the Georgian media landscape. On August 7th, Rustavi 2, a national television station often associated with the previously governing United National Movement (UNM), had its assets frozen in response to Kibar Khalvashi’s claim that he was wrongfully denied his ownership rights of the station during the UNM’s governance. More recently, cancellation of two political talk shows was announced on Imedi TV, another national station, owned by Badri Patarkatsishvili’s family.
24.08.2015 | ორშაბათი

Internet and social media usage in Georgia

In April-May 2015, CRRC-Georgia carried out a representative survey of the adult population of Georgia for Transparency International Georgia. The survey contained a number of questions on Internet and social media usage, and the results show us who is online, what people are doing online, who is using social networks, and which networks people use most.
02.06.2012 | შაბათი

How does press freedom in Georgia compare to Eastern Europe?

Georgia’s media was once again ranked the most free in Eurasia in Freedom House’s 2015 Freedom of the Press report, released on April 28, 2015. On Freedom House’s scale, in which countries receive a score from 0 (the most free) to 100 (the least free), Georgia’s rating of 48 places it firmly in the ‘partly free’ category.
03.11.2014 | ორშაბათი

The recent history of the South Caucasus as seen by the world’s media – Part 1, Armenia and Azerbaijan

History has been a qualitative discipline and has often been considered part of the humanities, well, historically, but the emergence of big data is likely to extend the use of quantitative methods in historical research in the long run. Big data projects have aimed at everything from finding out where to pick fruit in your city to mapping the prevalence of AIDS in the United States, but a recent project, Global Database of Events, Language, and Tone (GDELT) has compiled a massive database of print media coverage in over 100 languages including Armenian, Azerbaijani, and Georgian. Originally created by Kalev Leetaru and Philip Schrodt at Georgetown University, the GDELT database contains about a quarter of a billion uniquely coded units starting from 1979.
06.11.2014 | ხუთშაბათი

The recent history of the South Caucasus as seen by the world’s media - Part 2, Georgia

In Monday's blog post, we looked at a snapshot of Armenia and Azerbaijan’s representation in the global media from 1979 to present. Today, we take a look at the third South Caucasus state, Georgia. What are the events that have popped up in Georgia and made international news over the last 35 years?
22.12.2015 | სამშაბათი

No, Putin is not winning Georgia away from Europe. Here are the facts.

[Editor's Note: This post was originally published on the Washington Post's Monkey Cage on Monday, December 21, 2015. The original post is available here. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of CRRC-Georgia or any of the sponsors of the survey which this article is based on. The data on which this article is based is available here.]

By Dustin Gilbreath

Last Friday, after years of diplomatic wrangling over the course of two administrations, the Republic of Georgia received a report from the EU green lighting visa free travel within the European Union in the near future. Yet, media accounts from earlier this year suggested that Georgia was undergoing a “Russian turn”.
27.07.2011 | ოთხშაბათი

Rule of Law in Georgia - Opinions and Attitudes of the Population

As a part of the Caucasus Barometer Report Writing Competition held by CRRC in the spring of 2011, we would like to present the second report (the first report was published recently) written by Salome Tsereteli-Stephen. The report deals with the rule of law in Georgia and here is a short summary of Salome’s findings and an analysis of the subject.
14.11.2010 | კვირა

The Media in Armenia and Azerbaijan: Effective or Affective?

Many academics argue that the influence of the media is especially strong in environments where citizens depend on a limited number of news sources. In contrast, when citizens have alternative sources of information they are less subject to the potential effects of media.
25.12.2017 | ორშაბათი

Gender (in)equality on TV

Stereotypes are an inseparable part of every society, and present in many parts of everyday life. Georgian society is no exception in this regard. For example, some professions like teaching are stereotypically thought of as “women’s professions” while others like being a soldier are considered “men’s professions”.  The media is considered one of the strongest means through which stereotypes are strengthened or broken. In Georgia, TV is the most important media, given that according to CRRC/NDI data, 73% of the population of the country name television as their primary source of the information. In order to understand the dynamics around gender-based stereotypes on TV, CRRC-Georgia monitored the main evening news releases and political talk shows broadcast during prime time (from 18:00 to 00:00) on five national and three regional channels from September 11 to November 12, 2017 (Channel One of the Public Broadcaster, Adjara, Rustavi 2, Imedi, Maestro, Trialeti, Gurjaani, Odishi) with the support of the UN Joint Program for Gender Equality with support from UNDP Georgia and the Swedish government.
05.03.2018 | ორშაბათი

პარტიული კუთვნილება და ტელეარხებისადმი ნდობა საქართველოში

მსოფლიოში მედიასაშუალებების პოლარიზაციის შედეგად ადამიანები ახალ ამბებს უფრო მეტად იმ წყაროებიდან ეცნობიან, რომლებიც ყველაზე მეტად ეხმიანება მათ იდეოლოგიურ შეხედულებებს. კონკრეტული იდეოლოგიის გამტარებელი მედიასაშუალების მოხმარება კიდევ უფრო ამყარებს მაყურებლის შეხედულებებს, რაც აუდიტორიის მეტ პოლარიზაციას იწვევს. მნიშვნელოვანია, რომ მედიის მკვლევრები ამას ისეთი განსხვავებული კონტექსტის მქონე შემთხვევების მაგალითზე აღწერენ, როგორებიცაა ამერიკის შეერთებული შტატები და ლიბანი. როგორც ჩანს, ეს ტენდენცია არც ქართული მედიისთვისაა უცხო. 2017 წლის დეკემბერში „CRRC-საქართველოს“ და „ეროვნულ-დემოკრატიული ინსტიტუტის (NDI)“ მიერ ჩატარებული კვლევის შედეგებიდან ირკვევა, რომ საქართველოს მოსახლეობაც შერჩევითად ენდობა იმ მედიასაშუალებებს, რომლებიც მათ პოლიტიკურ შეხედულებებს შეესაბამება.
21.05.2018 | ორშაბათი

Disinformation in the Georgian media: Different assessments for different media sources

In Georgia, supporters of the government and opposition often express contrasting opinions about the independence and reliability of specific news outlets. Based on the CRRC/NDI December, 2017 survey findings, this blog post looks at whether people think or not that the Georgian media spreads disinformation, which groups tend to think so, and how this opinion differs by type of media. “Disinformation” was defined in the questionnaire as “false information which is spread deliberately with the purpose to mislead and deceive people,” and the questions about it were asked separately about TV stations, online media, and print media.
04.05.2021 | სამშაბათი

How different are people who trust different TV channels in Georgia?

The Georgian media landscape is often described as pluralistic but ‘extremely polarised’. But does the media merely reflect the prevailing political polarisation or cause it?

The majority of sizeable TV channels in Georgia are politically biased. At the same time, for seven in ten Georgians, TV remains the main source of information.

While this is a classic chicken and egg problem, arguably, causation flows both ways. Nonetheless, it has been documented that partisan media can polarise consumers and radicalise partisan voters.