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Research of the media situation in Kharkivska oblast

26.04.2017, 15:14

Absence of funding and search for new ways and forms — this would be an accurate description of the trends of 2016 for Kharkiv media outlets. Since the time of our previous research (March 2015), in Kharkiv two TV channels, «Fora» and «Favoryt», ceased operating in the end of 2015, and in 2016 — several more regional TV and Radio Companies did so, too.

According to the data of the National Council of Television and Radio Broadcasting of Ukraine, in Kharkivska oblast, 27 TV organizations are conducting activities according to their licenses. Of them, one is state-owned — the National Public TV and Radio Company of Ukraine (logo «OTB»), three are community-owned (Kupianska TV and Radio Company, the TV and Radio Company of Chuhuyivshchyna «Slobozhanka», the TV and Radio Company of Krasnohradshchyna «TSENTR») and the rest 23 are privately owned. Of them, only the TV channel «OTB» has complete coverage of the territory of the region. All the others have only local coverage.

No new radio stations emerged in Kharkiv in the last year, so currently only one radio station is working properly — Kharkiv Oblast Radio, which now has its own page on Facebook. The radio offers news and programs on culture for 2 hours daily on the frequency of the Ukrainian Radio-1. The director of the creative union «Oblasne Radio» Roman Kryvko hopes to expand to 4 hours a day, but it will depend on the license they will receive in April of 2017.

The former Kharkiv Olbast State TV and Radio Company officially received the status of the Branch of the Public Joint Stock Company «National Public TV and Radio Company of Ukraine». Due to the new vision, it has launched several new TV projects oriented towards the local community and aiming to address socially relevant topics. The staff of the TV and Radio Company is working under the constraints of shortage of funds (for instance, they can allocate only several liters of gas per day for the news crew) and technical limitations (obsolete TV equipment). The news TV program «Kharkovskiye Izvestia», besides the traditional promotion of the local authorities, has begun to vigorously cover the activities of the new head of Kharvkivska Oblast State Adminsitration Yulia Svitlychna. Because of low salaries, during 2016 the communal enterprise «Kharkovskiye Izvestia» lost 22 employees, who, according to the director of the communal enterprise «Newspaper “Kharkovskiye Izvestia”» Mykola Kosyi, to higher-paying jobs elsewhere, in particular, in all-Ukrainian media outlets.

The situation with printed media outlets has not changed much. Since February 2016, the newspaper «Kharkovskaya Nedelia» (believed to have ties to «Samopomich») returned. Some changes happened in other media outlets: after the new year, the newspaper «Slobidskyi Kray,» instead of three issues a week, switched to two. The newspaper is actively participating in grant programs and developing its online version. It offers progressively more analytics, but still pays a lot of attention to the regional authorities, for instance, publishes congratulations from the heads of Kharvkivska Oblast State Administration and Kharvkivska Oblast Council. Since the new year, the newspaper «Vechirniy Kharkiv» reduced its staff: now it has two journalists instead of four.

The local online media were recently joined by several new media outlets. In 2015, a new website — «Gorod Х» (gx.net.ua) was launched; this website, according to our data, belongs to Mykhailo Dobkin’s former press secretary Victoria Marenych. It positions itself as independent from political forces, but differs from other news websites in offering significant numbers of «fiction» materials: according to the local journalists, many stories on it are plain fabrications.

In February 2017, the Kharkiv section of the website kharkov.vlast.ua was launched. It offers rewritten and original news as well as small journalist investigations.

The online news media outlet «Spravzhnia Varta» changed the website’s design, which, according to its editor’s data, improved its popularity (the number of views has gone up), and «Status Quo» expanded its geography — now the website offers news from Lviv and Poltava, too. The staff of «Nakipelo» (NGO «Kharkiv Crisis Infocenter») is actively experimenting with new projects and formats: they started publishing longreads, TV projects, caption videos, and articles on explanatory journalism.

The predominant majority of Kharkiv media outlets is Russian-speaking, and the Ukrainian-speaking ones are few: traditionally, it is the TV channel «OTB», Kharkiv Oblast Radio, the TV news «Kharkovskiye Izvestia», the newspaper «Slobidskyi Kray», the news website «Spravzhnia Varta»; also, the TV project from ATN «Otrazheniye-Viddzerkalennia» is conducted in two languages, depending on what language the program guests speak. Also, «Hromadske. Kharkiv» in communities and public groups in social networks publishes its news in Ukrainian. The online media outlet ‘Informational Agency Kharkiv Today became rather active; this one is believed to have ties to the political party «Samopomich» and businessman V. Kozhemiaka.

A lot of editorial offices are currently discussing new projects and opportunities to escape «poverty». We are of the opinion that examples of other successful local media outlets give reasons to believe that regional media outlets do stand a chance.

Topics of news in local media

During the monitoring period, the largest share of news about crime was observed in online (33%) and television (22%) media outlets, in the printed outlets this share was 7%. Local politics, like decisions of regional and local significance, implementation of orders of the head of Kharkivska Oblast State Administration and his reporting, was most often addressed by journalists on TV channels — 16%, while in online outlets these news constituted 6% and in printed media — 4%. Materials about national politics were most often observed in TV news — 7%, less often in printed news outlets — 5%, and the least this topics was addressed in online media outlets — 2%.

Economic news enjoyed a similar degree of interest from all kinds of media outlets, with TV journalists getting somewhat ahead — 13%, in online outlets — 10%, and in newspapers — 9%. The monitored media outlets differed greatly as to their attention to international news: from 0% in TV news and up to 10% in newspapers, and 1% — in online media outlets.

TV news had no news from Russia whatsoever. However, the online media outlet «057» did have two materials (about refugees from Russia), and printed media outlets published several materials about Russia — 1%, which covered the issue of refugees and cultural events. The topic of public health and the system of health care was covered on the same level on TV and in printed media outlets — 5% in each category, online media outlets paid less attention to this topic — only 2% from the total number of materials.

The topic of the war still stays relevant for Kharkiv editorial offices. Journalists addressed the issues of the military draft, the army armaments, news from the front line, as well as the after-war life of the veterans. The largest share was recorded on TV and in online media outlets — 7% in each category, and in printed media outlets — 2% (but here these are usually extensive materials, portraits). During this period, there were no materials about internally displaced persons, although the topic of IDPs is still relevant for Kharkivska oblast. There were no news from the occupied territories, either.

The monitoring has shown for the second time already that the topic of the environment is of little interest for Kharkiv media outlets. On TV, this topic was not addressed at all, and barely mentioned in newspapers — 1% and online media outlets — 2%. Local cultural events, like exhibitions or theatre performances, enjoyed most attention in TV news — 7%, online — 6%, and in printed press — 3%. Although, the sheer number does not equate with quality. In newspapers, unlike in other media outlets, these are extensive interviews with artists, reviews of performances, and art critique. During the monitoring, show business was the topic of only one material. Sports news most often appeared in printed press — 10%, while in online media outlets is was 3%, and on TV — 4 %.

In the media outlets we monitored, the topic of education was addressed on a similar level: in newspapers and online — 3% in each category, in TV news — 4%. Corruption and anti-corruption efforts appeared in all monitored media outlets on the same level – in 1% of materials in each category of media outlets. All types of media outlets also featured the issues of civil society: printed press — 2%, online — 3%, and television — 4%.

Kharkiv is traditionally called the capital of science but science here rarely makes news: 1% of materials about science and technology was observed both in TV news and in online media outlets, and 2% — in newspapers. The weather, which due to the frosts and heavy snowfalls during the monitoring was popular among the local residents, was addressed in the news in all monitored media outlets: 3% from all materials — both in TV news and in press, and 2% — in online media outlets. We classified a large number of materials as «Other» — these included advice, announcements, notifications, historic retrospectives, and special events from the editorial offices. Such materials appeared most prominently in printed media outlets — 32%, in online outlets — 18%, and the smallest share of them was observed in TV news — 6%.

Covert advertisement in local media

Despite absence of any elections in the near future, we still observed covertly commissioned political materials as well as commercial ones. The largest share of such materials was found in printed media outlets and in TV news «Kharkovskiye Izvestia» — 2% in each category, and in online media outlets — 1%.

Patrons of political dzhynsa were: MP from «Opposition Bloc» Oleksandr Vilkul, MP from the group «Volia Narodu» Oleksandr Feldman, political parties «Batkivshchyna» and «Vidrodzhennia», the project on preparing a new political force «Novi Oblychchia» (‘New Faces’), members of Kharkivska Oblast Council from the party «Vidrodzhennia» Volodymyr Skorobahach and Oleksandr Tkachenko, members of Kharkiv City Council from the party «Vidrodzhennia» Habriel Mykhaylov and Maksym Museyev.

Among those who commissioned commercial dzhynsa, were: café «Krystal», «Megabank», services of a Kharkiv-based make-up artist, services in design («PopArtBox») and financial services (company «FreshForex»).

Such materials were not tagged as advertisement, covered the events or the story protagonist one-sidedly, had no socially relevant information or were tagged «Company News».

Sources of information for local media

The main source of information for printed media outlets is their own correspondents and their own sources — in printed and online media outlets, their share constitutes 42%, and 33% — on TV. Unlike other online media outlets, each material on «Status Quo» is signed with the journalist’s name and surname.

The sources are not referenced most often in printed media outlets — in 9% cases, in TV news — in 5% of materials, and least often (3%) — in online media outlets. Under this category, we also counted reprinted materials in newspapers, which did not specify where the material was reprinted from. The anonymous sources are quoted most often in online media outlets — in 10%, in printed press, only in 3%, and never on TV. As anonymous, we categorized the materials, in which the journalists do not name a concrete person or organization and instead quote some unspecified persons, for instance: «as we were told at the station», «on the plant », «according to the employees», «in the tax agency».

The national-level media outlets are quoted equally often in printed and online media outlets — at the level of 2% of all materials, and on TV we encountered zero such references. Most often, references to local media outlets were observed among online outlets — 1%. Eyewitnesses as a source of information were quoted in printed (2%) and online media outlets (3%). Official sources (they are predominantly press services of police, the prosecutor’s office, the water service company, etc.) appear as the source most often in online media outlets (28%), TV news (26%) and least often — in printed press (22%). Only 4% of the materials quote eyewitnesses, and 2% — anonymous sources. The largest share of materials to quote an expert as the source of information was recorded in TV news — 9%, in press, it was — 6%, and in online media outlets — 4%.

As other sources of information, we classified event participants, who are neither official sources or experts. This category was most often observed on TV — in 27% of materials.

Although in disputes among journalists as to using social network as the source of information, the jury is still out, some media outlets do reference them, and do so regularly. This happens both with textual information and with photos. We observed such materials, where social networks were the sources of information, at the level of 1% of all materials in printed and digital media outlets. On television, they don’t use social networks as a sources of information — we found no such materials during the period of the monitoring.

The monitoring was conducted in January 2017 in such media outlets: the newspapers «Vremia» (number of copies 20,007, issued three times a week), «Slobidskyi Kray» (number of copies per week 8882, issued twice a week), «Vechirniy Kharkiv » (number of copies per issue 10,002, issued three times a week); the online media outlets 057.ua (approx. 29,144 views a day), Sq.com.ua (approx. 13,620 views a day), Dozor.kharkov.ua (data from counters not available), Glavnoe.ua (approx. 29,663 views a day); TV channels «Channel 7 » and «A/TVK (ATN)».

The monitoring was conducted by the experts of the Institute of Mass Information with the support of the Ukraine Confidence Building Initiative (UCBI), funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The methodology is explained in more detail on the IMI website.

Material was prepared by Anna Prokayeva, Kharkiv 

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