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Czech broadcast regulator: Prima TV news creates a negative image of migration

14.6.2016 7:00
George Batto, an Iraqi refugee in the Czech Republic whose interview with the Prima television station in 2016 was grossly distorted when an interpreter failed to provide an accurate translation of his words. (PHOTO:  TV Prima)
George Batto, an Iraqi refugee in the Czech Republic whose interview with the Prima television station in 2016 was grossly distorted when an interpreter failed to provide an accurate translation of his words. (PHOTO: TV Prima)

On 7 June the Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting (RRTV) in the Czech Republic issued its statement on the manipulation of news broadcasts alleged to have been done by the Prima television station (news server Romea.cz is publishing the statement below in full translation). Council chair Ivan Krejčí said that an analysis of the news reporting by Prima from 24 August to 13 September 2015 has revealed several contentious moments in specific broadcasts that indicate a tendency to create a negative media image of the issue of migration.

The Council also expressed its view of the allegations published by news server HlídacíPes.org ("Watchdog") that the management of Prima had given clear instructions during a meeting with its editors on 7 September 2015 as to the position the station was to take in its news reporting about the refugee crisis. Those instructions were to depict refugees as a risk and a threat and to de facto ignore the principles of balance and objectivity.

According to the Council, issuing such internal instructions does not in and of itself break the law, but "Whether those instructions actually resulted in or are resulting in a violation of the principles of balance and objectivity in the broadcasting of Prima's programs can be ascertained only through monitoring the news and feature content broadcast and assessing it analytically," the Council's statement reads. The Council also officially objected to Prima's recent assertions that the RRTV had found Prima's broadcasting to be balanced and objective.

"The Council, however, decidedly never stated that these broadcasts were balanced and objective, and the Prima television station has attempted to misinterpret the conclusions of our analysis in its own statements on the matter. The doubts prompted by the analysis have, on the contrary, led the RRTV to decide to continue its monitoring of the news and feature programs of Prima from 28 March 2016 to 17 April 2016," the RRTV statement reads.

The conclusions of that analysis will be submitted to the Council during September. Should it reveal that the law on broadcasting has been broken, it will be possible for the Council to warn the station of that fact and eventually launch an administration proceedings through which to financially sanction the station, according to the RRTV statement.

News reporting by TV Prima on the refugee crisis became the center of attention this spring due to the way the station reported on the arrival of Christian refugees from Iraq to the Czech Republic. This primarily concerned the issue of whether one the refugees in Prima's report actually had compared the accommodation offered to the group to a "cow shed" and whether his words had been interpreted correctly or had been twisted.  

RRTV Statement on Alleged Manipulation in the News Broadcasts of TV Prima

Prague, 7 June 2016

Last week the news server Hlídací pes published a recording that was meant to document that employees of the newsroom of the Prima television station had been instructed by management to depict the migration crisis in their reporting as a risk and a threat and to de facto ignore the principles of balance and objectivity.

The RRTV finds that a violation of the relevant regulations of the law on broadcasting, of course, cannot be considered to have occurred through the issuing of any kind of internal instruction. Whether those instructions actually resulted in or are resulting in a violation of the principles of balance and objectivity in the broadcasting of Prima's programs can be ascertained only through monitoring the news and feature content broadcast and assessing it analytically.

The Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting tasked its expert apparatus, the media analysts, last summer with monitoring the news and feature reporting of the the Prima program for three weeks, specifically, from 24 August to 13 September 2015, and with analytically assessing that material. The aim of that monitoring was to ascertain whether, when informing the public about the migration crisis, the law on broadcasting had been broken, as well as how the media image of the current events was created.

The RRTV familiarized itself with the results of that analysis on 15 December 2015, which revealed several controversial moments in specific media content and also indicated a generally problematic tendency in Prima's news reporting to create a negative media image of migration per se. This finding, based on particular content analysis methods, would, of course, not be able to successfully serve as sufficient background material on which to conduct an administrative proceedings and to fine the station within the framework of administrative sanctions.

The Council, however, decidedly never stated that these broadcasts were balanced and objective, and the Prima television station has attempted to misinterpret the conclusions of our analysis in its own statements on the matter. The doubts prompted by the analysis have, on the contrary, led the RRTV to decide to continue its monitoring of the news and feature programs of Prima from 28 March 2016 to 17 April 2016.

The conclusions of that analysis will be submitted to the Council during September 2016. If that analysis reveals violations of the law on broadcasting, it is possible to warn the operator that the law has been broken and eventually to financially sanction the operator through an administrative proceedings.

The operator is not in immediate danger of its license being revoked. By law the RRTV cannot move to revoke a license until an operator has repeatedly violated its legal obligations in an especially grave manner. 

Ivan Krejčí
Chair
Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting
Lenka Jandáková, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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refugee, RRTV, stížnost, Prima TV



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