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Czech broadcast regulator says TV Prima must explain its manipulation of news reporting about refugees

3.11.2016 7:48
The web page of Prima TV's
The web page of Prima TV's "News" program in the Czech Republic, 2016.

The Council on Radio and Television Broadcasting (RRTV) has ascertained that the Prima television station manipulated its news reporting about refugees in at least four cases and has published an analysis of Prima's newscasts focused on the issue of migration between 28 March and 17 April of this year. The television channel must respond to the Council within 30 days of receiving its call for an explanation.

An analysis of the news during that time period was also elaborated by the RRTV for other media outlets, speciically, public broadcaster Czech Television, commercial broadcaster TV Nova, public broadcaster Czech Radio Radiožurnál and the commercial radio stations Frekvence 1 and Impuls. While for these other broadcasters the Council has merely noted the results of its investigation, TV Prima was the sole broadcaster found to have committed more serious misconduct.

Commentary instead of facts

"The broadcasts blended evaluative commentaries by the anchors and reporters with news content, during which the opinion and standpoint of the broadcaster was presented to viewers as if it were fact. Viewers, therefore, were not able to form their own, independent opinion on the basis of the content broadcast, as the biased editorial commentaries led to only one possible interpretation of the news being delivered by this media outlet," the analysis says.

As examples of biased reporting, the RRTV quotes passages from reportages in which the Prima channel defended itself against the accusations against its reporting made by other media outlets. Those accusations were that Prima had manipulated its news reporting about a group of Christians from Iraq who had been relocated to the Czech Republic.

Prima responded to those accusations through its commented news reporting as follows:

"Critics accused us of manipulating our own reportage or the statements made by [refugee] George Batty. Now it has been documented that the people [i.e., the refugees] actually were not 100 % satisfied [with their housing, just as Prima reported]."

"Are we to explain this by supposing that, at the time we filmed our reportage, the refugees were satisfied and that they did not change their opinion until now? Nobody has managed to answer that question for us."

"Our television channel became a target of attacks by other media and the HateFree initiative after we broadcast our original reportage in which we were the first to warn that the refugees were unsatisfied with their accommodation in the Czech Republic."

Ivan Krejčí, chair of the RRTV, said:  "These statements may have violated the principle that news information is supposed to be kept separate from assessments and commentary. Prima, in its series of reportages, 'documents' that its previous reporting was accurate and that they were the only media outlet that was objective, etc. We want an explanation from them of this reporting."

Negative image of migration

According to the analysis, Prima broadcast a strongly negative image of migration and refugees during the period monitored: "Migration was, as during the previous analysis, presented as an administrative-security problem in which the migrants appear to be a danger to stability and a burden on the country concerned. The station continued to operate with a 'catastrophic' scenario of an anticipated 'onrush' of migrants into Europe... The presence of migrants in 'illegal' camps was described as undesirable and as a bother to local residents. In other reporting the migrants were described as aggressive intruders or, at the very least, as ungrateful recipients of aid... In its news reporting, with the exception of a briefly-read news item about a visit by Pope Francis to the island of Lesbos, practically no pieces describing the humanitarian situation were included. This may be a permanent trend, because the station ignored that aspect of reporting during the previous monitoring period as well. The viewers were never familiarized with individual stories of migrants, neither through the magazine segments nor through the news reporting, that might have described them, for example, as competent, educated persons who could potentially benefit society, not just as suffering victims of circumstance. The news pieces mapping events around the departure of some Iraqi refugees from the Czech Republic and the halting of their relocation project inclined toward interpreting the situation as one of a general failure of the integration process...."

These conclusions of the analysis correspond to the instructions given by Prima's management to those editing the news reporting that they were to present the topic of refugee reception as a crisis, problem and threat. Recordings made of editorial meetings at Prima where that decision was taken have been published by news server Hlídací pes.org )("Watchdog.org").

"We are all employees here, we have an employer who has taken a certain position. If I accept it, the management of this program accepts it, then you will simply obey orders from the program producers," Jitka Obzinová, Editor-in-Chief of the news programming at Prima, says in the recording of a meeting on 7 September 2015.

 "If not, then you basically are not accepting the fact that you are employed here, which means there is no point in employing you here," Obzinová goes on to say. The RRTV has refused to respond to that information, saying that it will only review specific broadcast material.

This is not the first time that Prima has had difficulties with the RRTV. In July of this year the Council initiated an administrative proceedings against the station over its manipulative reporting about the Klinika social center in Prague.

František Kostlán, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Tags:  

Immigration, Média, Novinářská etika, Prima TV, refugee



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