TELEVISION IN SOUTH EAST EUROPE - THORNY PATH TO PROFESSIONAL, INTERESTING AND RELEVANT CONTENT
Case of Bosnia-Herzegovina: Television named desire
One winter evening in the wartime year of 1993, which is considered the hardest period in besieged Sarajevo, I was enjoying the comfort of having electricity. This “honor” was bestowed upon households once in 10 days for five or six hours in continuity. The devastated power distribution network, coupled with the fact that a considerable part of power production capacities were controlled by the Serb army, made electricity, along with gasoline and drinking water, the most important source of life (and of war). Only state institutions, military headquarters and, of course, the few media operating in town had continuous power supply. Although I was working for a private radio and access to information and electricity was not far, it was a special pleasure to watch television at home. And there was something to see. On one of the two televisions broadcasting within the Sarajevo circle, I watched a combined transmission of two top games of the Football League of Champions, immediately followed by the movie Bodyguard with Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston, which was filling cinemas in the peacetime world at the same time. Of course, this was all aired without buying copyrights, but in the whirlwind of war, when dozens of people were being killed in the city every day, creating this kind of program was the least possible violation. A little before that, on state television I watched the TV BiH primetime news program. Considering the wartime circumstances, it was pregnant with contents. It opened with several items from Sarajevo from the frontlines and about activities of state bodies related to calculations on whether another in a series of peace talks would begin, followed by telephone reports by local correspondents all over the Bosniak-controlled part of BiH, and then by familiar and unfamiliar correspondents, or better put, refugees abroad (New York, Paris, Zagreb, London), who were calculating who would help Bosnia and how.
I will take the liberty to state that residents of BiH had a relatively diverse and, if we exclude elements of propaganda in news programs, pregnant program. The only problem was that most residents, especially in Sarajevo, could not watch it. Television was perhaps the most distinct object of desire for normal life, for escape from the horrors of war, from the cold, thirst and hunger, to the Nou Camp stadium or to American glamour. “This was the best night in the past year for me, we watched movies all night,” a neighbor told me then. From today’s perspective, the statement shows reduction of life in war, but it also shows the power of television. I had practically never heard during the war someone declare as the best night of the year the night when they had a table groaning with food, a lot of cigarettes and drinks, good sex, or a night when shells were not falling.
The post-war years brought an unusual disciplining of media in B-H. The stand taken by the international community, which was essentially exercising a protectorate over BiH, was that the media had considerably contributed to generating the war and that resumption of inflammatory reporting, especially use of hate speech, could definitely set back efforts to stabilize the country. The international community invested huge resources to bring about the creation of a democratic environment in the country through media, especially radio and television. But the infection of media with warmongering speech and the distrust were too great for big results to be achieved in a short time. A part of the responsibility for achieving lesser effects than expected lay in the off and on work and insufficient reliance on local resources. In any case, the goal of these efforts was a noble one – breaking down communication blockades, coverage of the entire BiH, balanced information, and spreading trust among people.
At one point the international community did not refrain from an armed showdown with unsuitable media. Serb Radio Television, broadcasting from two studios – Pale and Banja Luka, in 1997 launched an aggressive campaign against the international community and against the peace agreement, reactivating warmongering speech. Under the influence of changes in the Republika Srpska (separation of President Biljana Plavšić from the Pale regime), Studio Banja Luka split away. In September 1997 SFOR, after several warnings to the editors and founder of RTV Srpska, took control over transmitters and practically terminated the program from studio Pale. By this action the High Representative actually started applying his new powers in the media field. This unpopular measure turned out to be more effective than all other media and political actions that had been taken. After that the media situation started to change in a positive direction. However, the deeply rooted servile behavior toward authorities on the part of all state televisions in BiH placed them in a completely devoted position toward then incumbent authorities.
The process of transformation of state-run televisions into a public service started in 1998. The Public Broadcasting System of BiH (today BHT), the joint public television for all of BiH, started broadcasting in 2002. The international community and local enthusiasts managed to break down numerous partitioning and nationalistic efforts to keep the most powerful medium under one’s own auspices. Despite the sea of problems it encounters, Bosnian-Herzegovinian public television operates with relative independence and tries to find a balance between the diametrically opposed political and ethnic views in BiH.
South East Europe: from serving the state to serving the public
Unlike BiH, in other South East European countries state-run radio and television stations took a more or less similar road of transition into public services. Following the fall of single-party regimes, national radio and television stations became one of the most important foundations for building state identity and protecting national interests. Non-democratic regimes used the position of radio and television to strengthen their power. In armed and political conflicts in some neighboring countries television especially became a tool of propaganda and instigator of hatred.
With democratization of society in these countries, with a lot of assistance and support from European institutions, the process of democratization of state-run radio and TV stations into public services started and was formally completed with the passing of relevant legislation. Legislation defined that the public service must present the full plurality of public interests and regulations were established guaranteeing that all media will be independent in their professional work and free from political pressure of authorities. Still, the road from legislation to successful public service is long. In some countries the authorities are still trying to diminish the public function of radio and television and to subject them to current political interests. Meanwhile, journalists and other television and radio program makers have not succeeded in fully articulating the program character and structure in line with the numerous public interests. The impression is that old practice is mixing up with new progress.
The starting position in the existence of public broadcasting stations is that the most diverse interests, i.e. the public, are best reflected in the non-profit, non-commercial public sector. In 1990 the European Parliament passed a resolution supporting the public broadcasting service as “support to informing the citizens” and an “agent of representative pluralism,” with a commitment to “maintain and support the cultures of the European nations and regions,” to “serve minority interests” and to “encourage understanding of non-European cultures and ethnic groups present in the Union. *1”.
The definition of broadcasting public service usually covers the following characteristics:
- universal service available to everyone irrespective of income or geographic location;
- striving for balanced program and balanced time slots which include different program genres;
- balanced and impartial political program; and
- certain degree of financial independence from state and commercial bodies *2 (Kuhn 1985: 4)
However, alongside public services, which in transition societies are supposed to have a major social role and truly carry out the immanent functions of media, across the region of South East Europe strong and creative commercial televisions have also developed. Some of them have already caught up with public televisions in terms of quality and quantity of news programs and the traditional difference in news between public and commercial media appears to be fading. One of the reasons for this project, that is to say analysis, is precisely to detect the public interests of the states and to examine the attitude of public and commercial media toward these interests. Media analysts have pointed out that public broadcasters are already ceasing to be “public” and that commercial media have more and more characteristics of serious media with diverse and credible information. But common to both is a struggle for market share, because in a considerable part of South East Europe the compulsory TV tax, due to the low collection rate, is not enough for serious TV production. It should come as no surprise that the market is gaining increasing control over the media and that the media field has been the most attractive field for public relations for quite some time. Media are controlled by a combination of private ownership, advertising strongmen, elite sources, state pressure and cultural dominance *3. The analyses from the different countries will show how much this is true.
There is no doubt that television is the most influential medium. Primetime news is the most watched news program. It is the best indicator of how public interests are mediated to the public through television, how the propaganda role is abandoned and how new forms of expression are applied which are supposed to ensure high viewer ratings and competitiveness on the air for public television.
This book is a result of Monitoring and Analysis of TV Prime Time Domestic News Programs in 10 Countries performed by Media Plan Institute, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and project partners: Albanian Media Institute, Albania; Center for Independent Journalism, Hungary; Center for Independent Journalism, Romania; Independent Journalism Center, Moldova; International Center for Education of Journalists, Croatia; Macedonian Institute for Media, Macedonia; Media Development Center, Bulgaria; Montenegro Media Institute, Montenegro; Novi Sad School of Journalism, Serbia. Monitoring and analysis are a part of the project Collision and Cooperation, Media Business Interests and the Public Needs in South East Europe performed by the South East European Network for Professionalization of the Media – SEENPM *4
In each of the 10 South East European countries, we monitored two media outlets – the primetime news program of the public service and the primetime news program of the strongest commercial station or station with the strongest news program. An exception is Serbia, where the primetime news program on Television Vojvodina (Serbian province) was also monitored, which has a series of specific characteristics and is also part of the public service. By monitoring and analyzing television contents we wanted to see what contents are presented by the different media and how, what they focus on, if they cover the same events, how much time they give them and what kind of approach they use, who appears in the reports…
These goals were viewed through two dimensions:
a. Professional dimension – treatment of events and developments – manner of coverage and sources of information, forms, completeness and accuracy of information, information balance, separation of information from commentary, abuse of information and commentary, is there any interference in someone’s private life (when and why), whether personal tragedies are approached sensitively and with feeling, are ethical principles observed with regard to protection of minors, victims, casualties…
b. Social dimension/representation of public interests – coverage of the country, potential impact of information on the community – information in the service of seeking the truth, reinforcement of trust between majority and minority groups, demystification of the past, fighting organized crime, building a state with the rule of law, looking to the future, attitude of the public service and private stations to issues lacking political consensus, development of positive social values and activities…
Monitoring was carried out between April 1 and April 30, using the principle of the same days of the week in each country. For two days of the week, the primetime news program of the nation-wide public TV service and the primetime news program of the most influential private TV station were watched. The programs were followed in real time in order to better view what was broadcast in them in the current informational and socio-political milieu. This is especially important for making comparisons with other media or own findings, because sometimes the problem is not only what is broadcast; the problem is also what is not broadcast. The following schedule was used for monitoring:
First week: Monday, April 2; Tuesday, April 3
Second week: Wednesday, April 11; Thursday, April 12
Third week: Friday, April 20; Saturday, April 21
Fourth week: Sunday, April 29, and one day of free choice
A partial exception from the above schedule was made in Moldova, where the private station TV 7 does not air a news program on weekends and the scheduled times from the third and fourth weeks were moved to work days.
The entire news program content was monitored. If the sections “Sport” and “Weather” were aired after the news program closed, they were not taken into account in statistical processing. The presence and structure of public interests were identified using content topic statistics:
The following main variables were used for monitoring:
- domestic political life
- country’s international politics
- world affairs
- war crimes
- economy, finance, business
- social protection and healthcare
- culture and art
- youth and children
- sport and recreation
Each country has its own territorial and political specifics and common categories could not be made. Each center developed categories suitable for its own country, observing the territorial, ethnic and economic characteristics.
- agency news item with the anchor in the frame or ticker
- agency news item with live footage
- journalist’s TV item with recorded statements
a) coverage of a day's event
b) thematic coverage of an event
- journalist directly calling in by telephone or link
Assessment of content – orientation to the subject:
This is the most sensitive analytical categorization and it often carries a degree of subjectivity. Therefore, we insisted on analysts being very skilled at assessing the overall social and media environment in the country and being familiar with news forms and customs. Of course, a precondition was that they were free of political or ethnic zeal, which usually creates irrational or manipulative preconceptions.
The orientation to the subject variable is a value judgment on the attitude in the item toward the subject/topic that appears in it. First of all, we analyzed the journalist’s attitude – the stand the author of the article took on the event written about. It is important to note that in the journalist’s stand, what was assessed was not the character of the particular event or article, but purely the journalist’s stand/attitude. Therefore, we made a complex qualification to differentiate negative/neutral/positive attitude of j o u r n a l i s t, but also of c o n t e n t. Hence, an article may have, for example, negative content with neutral journalist's attitude (e.g. speaking about increasing crime in Sarajevo, but presented objectively and impartially by the journalist). Or, positive content and negative attitude (e.g. reporting on rising living standard in Serbia, but the journalists comments that the country does not deserve this because of involvement in the war in BiH). Based on this, we formed a seven-degree scale, according to which a news item may have:
1. Neutral attitude – positive content
2. Neutral attitude – negative content
3. Neutral attitude – neutral content
4. Negative attitude – negative content
5. Negative attitude – positive content
6. Positive attitude – negative content
7. Positive attitude – positive content
Length of item content:
The length of each item (feature, news) is recorded in seconds. The categorization was the same as in the topic variable, but what is shown here is the length of the item, not the number of items that were broadcast. This is especially important to note because, for example, sometimes in the news section we have seven pieces of news and they are two minutes long in total, which is the same length as, for example, an item on domestic politics.
Monitors/analysts were also supposed to observe potential t r e n d s or lack of trends and to comment on them:
- gender structure of hosts/presenters
- selection of top news (headlines)
- hierarchy of news/features in the news program
- presence of protocol news
- advertising as part of the program open or structure of news program
- quality of presentation
- extreme deviation from ethical and professional norms
These characteristics were not followed statistically and these trends were only cautioned about.
We believe this gives us insight into the attitude of media to issues that interest us, issues that touch us and issues that feature in news programs thanks to the efforts of newsrooms and journalists. Also, recognizing the fact that media are a mirror of society, this media analysis also gives us feedback on the overall social context.
Public television stations have generally moved away from authorities, while commercial television stations, by how they cover events, have moved closer to ordinary citizens
State-run television stations in all countries where monitoring was carried out used to serve as levers of single-party systems, where news and political information, primarily in relation to domestic events, was reduced. News criticism generally concerned matters that did not question the existing government system and state organization. With the fall of communism and adoption of western values of liberal democracy, the media became more open and diverse both in terms of form and content. However, due to a difficult process of social transition, state-run television stations did not reach the theoretical or practical professional postulates to be of service to citizens in being freely informed and making free judgment. In Serbia, Croatia and BiH, during the wars in the 1990s, state-run television stations, using propaganda, hate speech and manipulative footage, served as generators of the starting and waging of war. Even in countries that did not go through the horrors of war, state-run television stations, later public televisions, were a strong lever of support for “democratic authorities.”
A general conclusion of this analysis, at least based on the monitored sample, may be that most public televisions managed to come out from under the cover of authorities and to produce impartial program with a strong distance. Peter Bajomi-Lazar and Borbala Toth from Hungary in their article make an excellent retrospective of conduct of the state/public MTV at the end of the last millennium and beginning of this one, showing that in the 1990s Hungarian public television was considerably biased in favor of the government. However, a clearly observed tendency in recent years was heading to full impartiality and independence, which this monitoring showed beyond doubt. The two authors conclude that neither the public MTV nor the commercial RTL Klub are biased in any way, which is not the case with some smaller TV channels. Croatian Television also made a worthy transformation into a public service. After the time of the so-called Tuđman era, characterized by strong prejudice toward the domestic opposition and also toward BiH and especially Serbia, it became, at least looking through the news program, a media outlet with less and less taboos. Even in Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose nation-wide public service has been broadcasting since 2002, the problem of state control does not exist. We have an opposite situation here: the authorities, especially in Sarajevo, have accused the station of bias in favor of the opposition. But this monitoring did not show that.
Serbian Television, as Dubravka Valić Nedeljković alleges, may still be considered a kind of promoter of state policies, rather than an independent outlet formed by citizens, funded by citizens and controlled by citizens. Although the primetime news program tries to appear calm, comprehensive and free of serious qualifications regarding anyone, a number of unprofessional qualities were observed. Precisely with regard to what ails Serbian society most of all. For example, when looking at coverage of Kosovo, the views that dominate are in line with majority Serbian public opinion. True, statements by local officials and analysts and international subjects, who do not share Belgrade's stands, were also covered, but the problem is that the news program had no place for any information or statements coming from the Albanian side, violating the fundamental professional rule of giving balanced, indiscriminate treatment to all relevant protagonists of an event or phenomenon. As if Albanians in Kosovo, their government, and their state, even if it is an octroyed one, do not exist.
However, at least based on the IJC Research Center report, the most difficult situation is present in Moldova. Reports on public television about Moldovan President Voronin opening a tractor station in a village, lasting exactly 6 minutes (April 12), seem almost tragicomic. News on how the president presents his economic initiatives to Parliament lasted 6 minutes and 26 seconds (April 20) and an item on a meeting between the head of parliament and students (April 23) lasted almost 4 minutes. Partiality in favor of the government is also reflected in completely ignoring certain events that throw a bad light on the Moldovan government, which the commercial broadcaster TV7 regularly reported on.
Still, globally looking, extreme deviations from ethical or professional norms were not observed, although examples of emphasizing or ignoring various events with political, economic or ownership significance from a media point of view were observed on both the public and the commercial station. As David Vitkov writes, the commercial A1 television in Macedonia promoted events organized by the “Ramkovski foundation.” Ramkovski is the owner of A1 television and his foundation is involved in activities that mainly concern culture and philanthropy. News on this organization was not covered by other channels, including the public broadcaster MTV1, in the monitored period. What was observed on the commercial NTV Hayat from BiH are items promoting individual companies in the form of news reports, which may be considered concealed advertising, but is not always easy to prove.
We have a very evident relationship between ownership structure and selection of information in the news program in Albania. Ilda Londo writes that recent attempts to adopt a bill on telecommunications inspired a dynamic discussion, involving practically all television stations, especially Top Channel, a subject of this monitoring. The reason why Top Channel is particularly sensitive is that the station owner is also the founder and one of the main shareholders in Digitalb. This motivation is reinforced by the fact that this period coincided with repeated visits and financial controls by the tax office in the premises of Digitalb and Top Channel. These events led to an open clash with the Government, with claims that the Government was trying to shut down the television station because it speaks the truth and criticizes all Government mistakes. Consequently, this kind of atmosphere significantly shaped practically all reports in the Top Channel news. As could be expected, the tense relations between Top Channel and the Government did not affect only sports, culture and world affairs. The way this channel covered the issue reveals a lot about news editing when direct interests are threatened. What is interesting, states the author from Albania further on, but perhaps not surprising, is that the public broadcaster gave almost insignificant attention to this issue. A more flagrant and ethically questionable practice in this regard is a story about a family with three sons who are paralyzed by a genetically inherited disease, which was broadcast on April 11. Among other facts, the story mentions that despite the poverty of the family, the ill children’s only entertainment is watching Digitalb (the same company as Top Channel), so their family buys a subscription card every month.
In most countries, a different approach is noticed between public and commercial broadcasters toward the stories covered. Viktorija Car from Croatia keenly portrays the relationship between the two monitored television stations. As she states, by popularizing and personalizing the news program, Nova TV succeeded in attracting that part of the audience which had found the HTV news program “too serious,” “boring,” “just politics.” Although perhaps covered in a simpler way, more accessible to the audience, the Nova TV news program covers the most important information and thus contributes to keeping informed that part of the audience that had earlier been deprived of this. As the Croatian author writes, comparing HTV and Nova TV’s present primetime programs, we may conclude that their approaches to reporting are very competitive and different. Bearing in mind the principles of public television, the HTV news program keeps a more serious, we might say more conservative form, which relies on many years of tradition as a guarantee of credibility, concludes Viktorija Car.
The situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina is similar. As Davor Marko writes, despite technical and structural inferiority, news items on the commercial television Hayat considerably deviate from the strict protocol form that dominates in the public service. Hayat’s items are more interesting, livelier, and their messages are more accessible and interesting even to the most ordinary citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina. There was not a single NTV Hayat news program without at least one thematic item. On the other hand, as far as the number of original items is concerned, the public service news program excels in items made by its own journalists. More than 90 percent of items were accompanied by authentic picture or covered with live or archive footage. Most of the items broadcast had a protocol character and their occasions were press conferences or an event on the day’s agenda. They were often dryly done, leaving out the human dimension and journalistic creativity. The reason for this, writes the author, may be that BHT is a nation-wide service and the editors are “afraid” that potential comments by program hosts or journalists may hurt one of the constituent peoples.
Elaboration in the report from Moldova is along the same lines. While TV7 sometimes uses common people as a source of information in dealing with everyday issues, TV Moldova 1 has no items about common people. The commercial station also polled ordinary people on local elections and candidates for the local administration in Chisinau; Moldova 1 did not have a single poll involving common people. The public service did not ask any independent experts to comment on official documents and decisions. Non-governmental organizations and political parties are rarely present in the news on the national station. As a concrete suggestion, the IJC research center says Moldova 1 should redirect its focus from state officials to ordinary people. Events should be approached from the viewpoint of those watching the news and items should start with the consequences that events, phenomena and decisions may have on ordinary people. Critique is an essential part of the process of making and implementing decisions – the opposition, independent experts and non-governmental organizations have a lot to say and should have a place in the news program of the national station, says the Moldovan report.
The author from Serbia points out that the commercial television B92 fosters civil activism in its news programs, which the other two monitored public service do not. For example, during a campaign for building a safe house for women, there were many items which welcomed and commended other social campaigns and civil activism (for example, a TV package about residents who are not allowing green areas in their neighborhood to be turned into a business space), i.e. campaigns which are not organized only by bodies of governance.
Manuela Preoteasa says a trend of news tabloidization is present in Romania and that this may be observed on the commercial Antena 1 in relation to world affairs, most of which are about anything but politics, business and economy. Along with information on Iraq and other hot spots, what makes the news, according to the analyst, are unusual facts and events across the world. A several-month-old baby in the United States received a recruitment letter from the army, two pensioners traveled several thousand kilometers to find a new house, a cat traveled 800 km to find its masters, etc. Such infotainment items are present to a considerably lesser degree on the public channel, but they do not bypass it entirely. TV Romania 1 devotes the foreign affairs section to hard news and usually at the end of the program airs several colorful items.
In Montenegro, IN television’s program is oriented to providing as broad a range of information as possible in its primetime news program, while TVCG in the Dnevnik 2 program follows the concept of a smaller number of items, but covered thoroughly and usually through its own items. As researchers from the Association of Young Journalists of Montenegro say, both televisions in primetime news programs similarly report on events such as roundtables, sessions of Parliament, committees, press conferences. Differences can mostly be observed in thematic items, in defining priorities and in the way they cover and present information. Lack of criticism is evident in both primetime news programs, i.e. lack of a critical approach in coverage of the day’s events. Promotion is present much more than criticism, especially in items about tourism which on both televisions are entirely deprived of any critical stand. The public television news program visibly excels compared to the commercial television in coverage of events concerning foreign visits by Montenegrin delegations because, unlike IN TV, TVCG sends its own crews to such events. These items, as a rule, are very affirmative for Montenegro’s state policies and completely deprived of any kind of critical examination.
A certain laxness in content in the commercial television news program is noticeable in Bulgaria, too. As Danail Danov says, the number of news items on domestic political life considerably differs among the two televisions. While on the public BNT they make up 21% of the total program, on bTH there are almost half that, 11%. This fact may be explained by the preoccupation of public television with the situation in the country, conditioned by its dependence on the state budget and tendency to include a lot of protocol news in its program which often does not reflect the agenda of events, while bTV relies on airing more human interest stories in its news program.
The authors from Hungary stress that there is a clear division of labor between the leading public service and the leading commercial broadcaster: while the former covers public interest issues in detail, the latter focuses on human interest pieces. This is reflected in the fact that headlines and top news on MTV are related to hard news and on RTV Klub they are related to soft news, although the line between hard and soft news is sometimes slippery.
Speaking about the very content of news, it had been expected that news with negative contents would prevail, because the media naturally have an affinity for tragedies, scandals, crime. What greatly contributes to this is the still unstable social situation in most of the monitored countries, producing a large number of events with a negative context. As for journalists’ stand, i.e. their approach in covering events, what gives pleasure is the expected result that a neutral stand is the most present. This should mean that the monitored television stations foster professional journalistic coverage of events. Viktorija Car states that HTV’s positive approach to coverage of more than one-fourth of the news is commendable. Namely, in the overall social context which is negative by itself, starting from the quality of life of most of the population to news from the crime section, what the public essentially needs is focus on positive values, states the author from Croatia. As for neutral coverage, which is dominant in Croatia, the author says this is commendable. However, she points out that the effect of urging public passivity must not be forgotten. In this context, I will take the liberty to make the comment that sometimes a journalist’s motivating approach, even if it is no longer neutral, may be welcome if positive social values are urged and if solutions to problems are sought. However, in societies with deep antagonisms, values and achievements are interpreted in different ways and an active approach on the part of some is often interpreted as bias towards others.
In Macedonia a general observation is that MTV, compared to A1, to a big extent presents news with positive content and news with positive attitude of journalists (this is very evident in presentation of news about domestic politics and news about economy, business and finance). On the other hand, A1 mostly presents news with negative or neutral content, accompanied by neutral journalistic attitude. This is a reason why viewers consider A1 a much more objective and independent media outlet with high journalistic professionalism and neutral news, states David Vitkov.
In Romania journalists’ attitude is mostly neutral and reporters apply the rules of balancing information. However, respect for private life and presumption of innocence are neglected from time to time. The tone of Antena 1 reporters becomes emotional when reporting about common facts in an attempt to make them more attractive and, as the author says, ‘sexier,’ while reporting on TVR1 tends to be a bit dull due to sometimes stereotype footage.
In Serbia the public RTS devotes a lot of content to wartime events from the past – plight of Serbs during NATO bombing, displaced people from Kosovo and during Croatia’s Operation Bljesak, where journalists take a pronouncedly negative stand on those responsible for these events (primarily other policies, never Serbian), feeling for the victims and their dearest. The situation on NTV Hayat in Bosnia-Herzegovina is similar and it has a much more emotional approach to the Bosniak plight during the war than the public TV service. This is especially noticeable in NTV Hayat’s CD Dnevnik program on Saturdays, which the well-known journalist Senad Hadžifejzović greatly personalizes and shapes by his comments.
In several countries significant differences between public and commercial televisions were observed in a visual sense, too.
As the author from Bosnia-Herzegovina observed, what characterizes the primetime news program on the public service BHT, compared to Hayat, is better technical design, dynamic presentation, better coverage of issues of public importance and large number of original items. Another characteristic of the BHT news program is that it is hosted by a male-female pair of presenters. The commercial television Hayat’s “News at 7” is hosted by just one presenter. This, in combination with a small number of original items and large number of news items read out by presenters without any accompanying picture, lessens the audience’s visual empathy.
In Serbia presenters on B92 are a male and female, i.e. parity is provided, while the public RTS and RUV have only one presenter per program, but presenters of both sexes change during the week. In Croatia the private Nova TV has a male-female pair of hosts who experiment with new forms and host the program in a leisurely manner. On the public HTV the anchor has been a male for quite some time. It is difficult not to resent this fact regarding public service television which is supposed to promote gender equality not only in terms of issues covered in its shows, but also by its own example, writes Viktorija Car.
In Moldova the most obvious difference between the public and private monitored stations is that of picture quality. Clear, very well framed and shot images are the rule at TV 7, while dark picture, unclear images and lack of focus can often be seen on Moldova 1.
In Romania TVR1’s news program closely follows the day’s agenda, but lacks authors’ items, meaning original, in-depth reports. Strong in information, the Jurnalul lacks powerful images and a bit of color. Watching many editions of the evening news, some will have the impression of a well-organized program, but with some stereotypes, especially in shooting.
With regard to Montenegro, reporting in the Dnevnik 2 program on TVCG is accompanied by footage that is more dynamic than in the case of INpuls, primarily thanks to the fact that in most cases the footage is from the scene, while footage or still pictures that keep being repeated dominate in INpuls.
After this flash review, we may say that the boundaries between public and commercial television are slowly being rubbed out. In most of the monitored countries, in the harsh market-driven conditions, television stations are trying to please their target groups. Fortunately, this is done by presenting a larger number of good items more than by using various manipulations and uncritical ingratiation. A noticeable trend is that public services still have respect for high-ranked social events, even the government, while private stations respect their own ownership interests and commercial advertisers. However, this is not too obvious and in any case it is a step closer to professionalism. But the question is how much “professionalism,” with regard to acclamation of this kind, is present even in countries with a much longer democratic tradition.
*1 BRIGGS, A., COBLEY, P. (2005): Uvod u studije medija (The Media: An Introduction) 353 (Silvia Harvi), Belgrade: Clio
*2 KUHN, A. (1984): Public Versus Private: The Case Of Indecensy an Obsenity 147, Leisure Studies 3
*3 BRIGGS, A., COBLEY, P. (2005): Uvod u studije medija (The Media: An Introduction) 141 (Karan), Belgrade: Clio
*4 The South East European Network for Professionalization of the Media (SEENPM) was created in February 2000 with the aim to raise journalism standards, improve media environment on the national and regional levels, encourage cooperation among media professionals, and in this way, to contribute to the mutual understanding and stability in SEE region. It builds on the regional resources and capacities of its members and partners from Europe and USA. SEENPM unites now 15 media centers and institutes from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Slovenia and Serbia. Its activities are based on the belief that joint commitment and intra-regional cooperation are essential both for the sustainable development of the media in individual states, improvement of relations among journalists from neighboring countries, and the overall progress in the region.