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Oligarchs’ best friends. Whom of politicians do money bags' media support ?

03.03.2020, 20:02

De-oligarchization of mass media, this was a priority axe the president Volodymyr Zelensky proclaimed in May 2019. During the press marathon, the head of state explained what he meant.

"De-oligarchization of mass media means that all owners of TV channels, of all media, Internet platforms have to be businessmen, not politicians. That is, they should not influence the editorial line of one or another mass media," Zelensky told journalists in October 2019.

However, there is no progress towards de-oligarchization. Owners go on to employ their mass media for their own political purposes.

This is the conclusion of the research of NGO "Institute of Mass Information" into the content of nine web-based editions: segodnya.ua, fakty.com.ua, unian.ua, prm.ua, strana.ua, 112.ua, podrobnosti.ua, obozrevatel.com, 24tv .ua.

On January 12-24, we identified 1215 political news items in the news feeds of these sites. Almost every fourth news item (26.6%) was related to the president Zelensky, 11.2% was to the Prime Minister Honcharuk. Also among the front-runners are Petro Poroshenko (4.3%), David Arakhamia (3.5%), Dmytro Razumkov (2.8%) and Viktor Medvedchuk (2.3%).

If Zelensky is the leader as to number of mentions in the news, then institutionally, the president's position is at disadvantage to both coverage of the Cabinet of Ministers and the Verkhovna Rada. 26.7% of news items covered the government activity (324 news items out of 1222), 28.0% covered the parliament (341 so-called "parliamentary" news). And only 14 news related to the President's Office.

Volodymyr Zelensky is the leader on each of the websites by number of mentions. And the Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk cedes ground to Petro Poroshenko in the news of the TV channel Pryamyy TV channel  and to Viktor Medvedchuk on the website of "112 Ukraine" TV channel.

A similar pattern is observed as to political parties. On websites of Pryamy Channel (prm.ua), 112.ua, and podrobnosti.ua, the news cover the most frequently activities of MPs and parliamentary parties that are associated with the owners of these mass media.

"European Solidarity" on Pryamyy site is mentioned in 89.3% of "parliamentary" news (this is part of not all political news, but only those concerning MPs and parliamentary parties, the so-called "parliamentary" news), the "Opposition Platform - For life " (OPFL) is mentioned on the sites 112.ua and podrobnosti.ua respectively in 64,4 and 79,2% of the total number of" parliamentary "news.

Indicators of mentioning of politicians and parties in the news. For parties, the figures are calculated as a fraction of "parliamentary" news

Two parliamentary factions – Batkivshchyna and Holos - are missing at the infographic. The reason is ordinary: they are almost non-existent in the news feeds. All sites in total have mentioned these parties or their officials only five times, representing 0.4% of all news, or 1.5% of "parliamentary" news.

As to OPHZ and the EU factions, the overwhelming part of news covering these political parties spoke of the incident involving Ylliya Kyva and subpoenas for Petro Poroshenko to questionings by the State Bureau of Investigations (SBI) that took place within the monitoring period (January 20-24).

Akhmetov’s "Sehodnya": Zelensky, Honcharuk and Lyashko

The most of political news on the Sehodnya website concerned the President and the Prime Minister. Both top-level politicians are mentioned in more than half of the news : 69 items out of 131. Actually, only one news item can be considered as criticism of Zelensky.

On January 23, Sehodnya gave criticism of the head of state voiced by by the administration of  the Israeli memorial complex Yad Vashem [1].

Among non-top politicians, in defiance of all expectations, this was Oleg Lyashko they mentioned the most often: in six news items. The leader of the “hard-core politicians" was mentioned more often than, for example, the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada, Dmytro Razumkov. Instead, Lyashko's indicator is equal to the frequency of news coverage of Akhmetov's charity fund activity.

Six news items on the Sehodnya web site covered the parliamentary party "Opposition Platform - For Life", with representatives of which the Akhmetov's allies broke up in the previous Verkhovna Rada. But this news does not relate to the activities of the Medvedchuk’s Party (OPFL- n/tr). They are about an incident involving the OPZL MP Ylliya Kyva, who came to blows at a restaurant. Thus, interest of Akhmetov's mass media to this event is obvious. More about this incident came out only on the site Strana.ua 

Pinchuk's "Facty": Zelensky and Honcharuk

Victor Pinchuk's mass media also paid the most attention to the President and the Prime Minister. Even more, the critical news about Zelensky from Israel on Facty website has been softened. Other words were used here - "confused and upset."

Besides the top-level politicians, any abnormal commitment to other politicians failed to ber revealed here. The same is wih the political parties. In no news, did Fakty mention the Svyatoslav Vakarchuk's Holos party. And Yulia Tymoshenko was mentioned only in the news speaking of her dispute with the MP David Arachamia, which aired live on "Freedom of Speech" on ICTV.

All news speaking of the OPFL faction were also related to the incident involving the MP Ylliya Kyva.

Kolomoisky’s UNIAN: Zelensky, Honcharuk, Dubilet and "Servant of the People"

Like the above-mentioned Akhmetov’s and Pinchuk’s mass media, the UNIAN also covered activities of first state officials in its news. At the same time, the UNIAN site became front-runner among all monitored mass media, by number of mentions of Oleksiy Honcharuk and the Cabinet of Ministers in general. Each fifth news items (33 out of 172) concerned the PM, each third one covered the government

UNIAN is also the leader among all monitored news sites by covering “Servant of the People”. For example, they put in the news line the announcement of the press briefing of Oleksander Dubinsky and his prognostics as to resignation of the Prime Minister, as well as the video blog of Oleksander Tkachenko about the problems of the Kyiv heating networks.

Among the non-top politicians UNIAN spoke of the minister Dmytro Dubilet : seven news items. The incident with Kyva got to five news.

Poroshenko's Pryamy: Poroshenko and friends

The site of Pryamy TV channel became the only one among all monitored media, where after Zelensky this was Petro Poroshenko who took second position by number of mentions in the news.

Also, by number of news, the Prime Minister, like other top politicians, cedes grounds to the party allies of the former president : MP Irina Gerashchenko, Oleksiy Honcharenko and Rostislav Pavlenko.

Thanks to it, the Verkhovna Rada appears more frequently in the political news of the site, than other government institutions. And almost all "parliamentary" news speak of party fellows of  Poroshenko.

Another singularity UNIAN has: every fourth news item (24.8%) is quotation of various experts. The leading expert is Andriy Smoly: 5 news. And almost all "expert news" are critical of the authorities.

The most (36 news) of criticism deals with Zelensky. That is, of all the news about Zelensky on the Pryamy site, 78.3% have criticism of him.

Whose Strana.ua is?

This site is the only one from the list of mass media we have been monitoring that we do not name the owners. We are not sure that the ultimate beneficiaries of Lasmak LLC - Igor Guzhva and Anna Solntseva - are real owners and investors of the edition. Previously, Igor Guzhva worked in the media as employed manager. Thus, in the infographic we do not indicate the businessman who owns the site.

In general, on the site "Strana" there are a certain number of mentions of Poroshenko. This is due to the fact that the editorial office pays more attention to the subpoenas of the former head of state for questionings to the State Bureau of Investigations. The State Investigation Bureau is mentioned in 23 news items, which is atypical for other sites.

The most of news among all the mass media we monitored, "Strana" issued about the incident involving the MP Illya Kyva(OPFL). And the difference from other sites is that in Strana.ua presented the incident mainly for Kyva’s part. In particular, "Strana" spoke about the altercation based on the party's press release. The editorial board also published a news item based on Kyva’s Facebook appeal with threats against the former MP Arthur Palatny.

Often (compared to even top politicians), the head of the National Union of Journalists, Sehiy Tomilenko, appeared in the political news of Strana.ua. The site actively posted his comments on the media and misinformation bills.

Only on the site "Strana" we have recorded news about  the MP from "Servants of the People" Maksym Buzhansky. Some news were about his draft bill on ban of heroism of the Nazis and his post in Telegram messenger for delaying pension payments.

Strana.ua also reprinted a post from Telegram signed by Andriy Portnov saying that the Soros Foundation allegedly paid to investigators in the Maidan case. The site 112.ua made a reprint of this news as well.

Medvedchuk’s 112th: Medvedchuk and friends

On the site 112.ua Zelensky appeared only in 16,8% of news. This is the lowest share for the President among all the sites we analyzed.

The second after Zelensky, by mentions on the site of the TV channel "112 Ukraina" was Putin's ally (Putin is godfather of Medvedchuk’s daughter) Viktor Medvedchuk. Instead, his "Opposition Platform - For Life" is a leader in "parliamentary" news. Two-thirds of the "parliamentary" news features Medvedchuk's party fellows. The most often 112th spoke of Yuriy Boyko.

The singularity of the site 112.ua is a large amount of news, which is made based on statements of various experts. Every fourth news is from the experts. Among them, the most news for "Medvedchuk's site" was from Dmytro Spivak, who failed to enter the parliament on the list of the party "Servant of the People" at the last parliamentary elections, and Andriy Palchevsky, who may run for the post of Kyiv mayor.

Two more news on the site of the 112th were based on statements on the air the pro-Russian blogger Anatoly Shariy made in studio.

Firtash's "Podrobnosti": Boyko, Medvedchuk and OPFL

At the same level with the Prime Minister as to the number of news on the site "Podrobnosti" ("Inter Media Group") was found out to be the MP from OPFL Yuriy Boyko. He even bypassed his party mate, Viktor Medvedchuk. Like the site 112.ua, OPFL leads the parliamentary news list.

More than top politicians Razumkov, Arakhamiya and Poroshenko in the news of the site "Pordrobnosti" mentioned ex-MP Serhiy Kaplin. Three news reports that he is chairman of the Trade Union Confederation.

The site also reported of arson of the office of the Shariy’s Party in Kherson and dwelling for orphans in Kharkiv that have been organized with the help of a deputy of the regional council of Yulia Svitlichna. The latter is the head of the Kharkiv Regional State Administration of the time of Poroshenko and associate Igor Rainin, who after completing his work in the administration of Poroshenko headed the Kharkiv branch of OPFL.

Brodsky's "Obozrevatel": Poroshenko and Filatov

If on the site of 112 TV channel Zelensky got the smallest share of all news (only 16.8%), then on the site "Obozrevatel", he got the least amount of news. The president appeared in only 24 news items (23.8% of all political news of the site). The Prime Minister also has low rates - only nine news items, almost equal to the mention of Petro Poroshenko (eight news items).

Besides Poroshenko, the "Obozrevatel’s news spoke of his party fellows Arthur Gerasimov, Irina Gerashchenko and Oleksiy Goncharenko. Thus, Zelensky and Poroshenko's parties received almost the same attention in the news: 16 and 14 news items, respectively. And the coverage of the incident with involving Kyva "improved" indicators of OPFL here. The only news with the mention of Medvedchuk was the revealed lie of Medvedchuk about rising gas tariffs.

Besides the top politicians, the editorial board of the "Obozrevatel" followed the statements of Dnipro Mayor Boris Filatov. In the news, he explained , offered , told , promised , called . He appeared in seven news items in total. 

24th Sadovyi: Ze-total

Among the top politicians on the site of the 24th TV channel, all the representatives of Zelensky's team have good figures. These figures are comparable to the UNIAN Kolomoisky site. As with the latter, Dupilet stands out on 24tv.ua, though it has a more modest result - only four news.

But in coverage of the Zelensky parliamentary team, the site of the 24th channel was even surpassed UNIAN. Representatives of the "Servant of the People" appear in 83.9% of "parliamentary" news. This is the highest rate among all the sites studied.

It is curious that Andriy Sadovyi himself did not appear in political news during January 24-24.

Conclusions

Despite the promised deoligarchization of the media, monitored mass media remains a political tool in the hands of the oligarchs. From the news feeds of their sites, one can determine precisely what political sympathy any oligarch has, which politicians he promotes. At the same time, this link “the oligarch and the politician” is being manifested neither by the first, nor by the second.

The study showed that as of January 20-24, oligarchs such as Akhmetov, Pinchuk, and Kolomoisky demonstrated their sympathy towards the President and the Prime Minister. Also in the news domain, the site of the 24th TV channel, which is associated with the mayor of Lviv Andriy Sadov played into the Zelensky team.

Instead, the site of the Pryamy TV channel related to Poroshenko was absolutely critical of Zelensky. And it provided ground for arty fellows of Poroshenko and related experts. To a lesser extent the same can be said about the site "Obozrevatell" of Mykhaylo Brodsky.

The pro-Russian sites of 112 Medvedchuk TV and “Podrobnosti” of Firtash’s Inter channel actively covered the statements and position of the Opposition Platform - For Life party. They also provided information support to related politicians and experts. Instead, the site "Strana", while playing in this field, paid more attention to the negative stories about Petro Poroshenko and the activities of SBI.

The research was conducted within the framework of the project of the NGO "Institute of Mass Information" with the support of the Media Development Fund of the US Embassy in Ukraine. The views of the authors do not necessarily coincide with the official position of the US Government.

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