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HOW DOES GEORGIAN MEDIA RESPOND TO THE PUBLIC INTEREST – THE CASE OF RUSTAVI 2

Maradia Tsaava

 

How does Georgian Media Respond to the Public Interest – the Case of Rustavi 2



Maradia Tsaava

Supervisor: David Sichinava




June 2017



Table of Contents:

Introduction ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------3

Literature Review ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------4

Method ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------8

Setting the Scene: Production Mode of Rustavi 2 ------------------------------------------------------------8

Appendix 1 ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------9

Data Analysis -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------11

Focus Group Data Analysis ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------12

Conclusion ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------15

References ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------17

Appendix 2 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------19








Introduction

Should media create or respond to public interest? In this paper, I look at the current state of Georgian TV media. The paper analyzes whether Georgian televisions aim at becoming medium in solving social problems or are they content profit-oriented. By the survey conducted in 2017 by NDI (caucasusbarometer.org), 76% of the population uses television as the main source of information. Therefore, I am focusing on the case of one of the largest private television network Rustavi 2. This TV channel has been on air for more than two decades. For this time, it strongly preserves the first to second place by the ratings retrieved from Nielsen Television Audience Measurement Official License (TVMR GE, 2017).

In terms of public good, production makers can choose from two options: to create the product which the audience is asking for and respond to its interest; or to try to educate the public. As Pickard (2014) argues, a journalist must serve the public interest in a socially beneficial sense. To allude to his theory, the ideal form of journalism and the media itself is a rich information source for important social issues, as long as it plays a role of an adversarial watchdog over the powerful and a forum for diverse voices and viewpoints Pickard (2014, p. 214).

Media should have a role of a watchdog and protect the audience from aggressive information. A content producer should aim at influencing the audience and cultivating interest in its product, in innovative, forward-looking forms of entertainment, rather than utilizing old scripts and forms favored by the audience, as according to Napoli (2001 p.226) mass media organizations have a public service obligation.

Considering this, I will evaluate whether Rustavi 2 responds the demand of the market or is more oriented towards public interest. Specifically, I will answer the following research questions:

  • RQ1 - How many educational and entertaining programs are broadcasted on Rustavi 2?

  • RQ2 – Is Rustavi 2 motivated to serve the public good?

  • RQ3 – Is Rustavi 2 profit oriented?

 

Literature Review

Social Responsibility theory of the press is the one which states that media is responsible to serve the public. The other three theories are concerned with authoritarian theory - media serving the interests of the government; libertarian theory - media without any restrictions regarding the content and soviet media theory - government controlling the total media. (communicationtheory.org, n. d.). The main principle of the social responsibility theory is to be a voice for all the people throughout the society. Instead media being totally free in creating and transmitting whatever the audience is asking for, media practitioners have a big responsibility. They are challenged to develop special ways of serving the audience.

Social Responsibility theory has much in common with libertarian theory. To address to Siebert et al (1956), libertarians assume that in a democratic society there would be a diversity of different voices which would not have the availability to reach the society. The idea of libertarian theory as Siebert et al (1956), has found is to “let every man who has something to say on public issues express himself, regardless of whether he has to say is true or false, let the public ultimately decide.” Siebert et al (1956, p.51) The point which differs social responsibility theory from the libertarian theory is that along with Siebert et al under the libertarian concept, the functions of the mass media of communication are to inform and to entertain.” (Siebert et al, 1956, p.51).While social responsibility theory charges media outlets for special responsibilities.

Nerone, (1995) explains the difference between the freedom of expression and the responsibility that media has. As the authors claim, freedom of the press made reasonably good sense as a natural right. They state that “individuals free to print their ideas would be better suited to self government.” Though further to their discussions, the freedom of the press is a right of an individual, a person and not the institution. As the press is understood as an institution - a collection of news organizations, resourced by different individuals, we should not talk about the freedom of the press, but the individual freedoms of its audience.

As Bardoel and D’haenens (2017) explained, the social responsibility theory can be interpreted in terms of both responsibility and responsiveness. The first term refers for media having responsibility towards the society and the second one refers to the media as a listener to the society and taking the public into consideration. (Bardoel & D’haenens 2017 p. 6) The statements of this theory can also be used for entertaining programs. According to the study of Sunstein (2000, p.513) the idea that broadcasters should produce “what viewers want” is not the right statement. Producers have to think of innovative and new content and try to deliver it in the way that the audience finds great interests in it.  According to Sunstein, (2000) there is a large difference between the public interest and what interests the public. The author claims that the most ideal system is in which citizens are informed about public issues and able to make judgments on the basis of reasons. The audience must have the opportunity, to choose from variety of TV programs, sources, news and etc. If media offers various educational programs along with the elements of entertainment, the audience will approve the offer. Production makers create the audience. The degree of the audience is always equal to the level of the product.

As for the entertainment programs, Weinmann and Vorderer (2015) specified in their research that entertainment products, for example movies, may not only serve the reason of providing enjoyment to the audience as they provide pleasure through positive feelings, but they also may trigger various types of reactions among people. Entertainment products may cause users to think not only about pleasurable aspects of their own lives, their goals and aspirations, but also about their frustrations, and their sadness. This experience has been described as irritating, along with entertaining. This experience has also been found to be intense, and as something that is not simply enjoyed but rather appreciated.

Further to Weinmann and Vorderer’s work (2015), the audience needs different kinds of emotions. While watching TV or surfing the web, they need to find the content, which will satisfy this need. The product maker’s goal is to create the content consisting of the elements that they are sure to cause the reaction from the audiences.

As we discussed above, entertainment has different characteristics and therefore provides varying impact on the audience. That is why production creators always use some mechanisms implemented in their products, which influence on the audience in different ways.  Media often uses these tools while spreading the content especially for reacting on the audience in order to attract them. Lewis’s (2006) response to this approach was that the ideal positioning in professional standards of practice is when the very first precept and aim of the producer is to enjoin other members in serving the public interest. To lean to Lewis’s (2006) ideas, one can serve the public, beyond serving oneself. As he claims public interest is a conceptually never-ending process, which does not have an objectively identifiable end-point. “An elusive and sweeping obligation is a never-ending process that is made meaningful more by practice than by a product”. Lewis (2006, p.2)

The discussion represented above clarifies that the obligation of serving the public is not the opposite of serving oneself. In the same way, creating a product for serving the public good is not equal to creating educational programs only. To continue with MoyerGusé’s (2008) theory of entertainment persuasion, entertainment-education programming can be a very effective way to deliver the messages to the audience. As he discusses in his work, entertainment-education may even be more effective than standard, persuasive messages. To lean to MoyerGusé’s theory, entertainment-education is a very useful and popular strategy for inserting a health or other educational messages into popular entertainment media. The advantage of entertainment-education is having the possibility of transmitting the information and reaching the object in a very positive way.

Despite this, by the theory of MoyerGusé (2008), entertainment-educational messages foster involvement of viewers in the storyline. The viewers follow the events, which unfold the story and this makes them being totally involved in the story. Osborne et al., (2003) stated that television can teach the audience about the risks that accompany e.g. a sexual activity much better then books and classroom teaching can do. To lean to MoyerGusé’s (2008) entertainment-educational theory, the author stated that identification is an emotional and cognitive process when a viewer identifies oneself to the character and takes the role of the character. Cohen (2001) explained this process: The viewer forgets about his or her own, personal reality and temporarily becomes the character. She or he imagines being that character and replaces his or her reality with the role of a character. The Involvement to the story line and identification to the character makes the viewer catch and analyze the important messages encoded in the content without even understanding. This is why e.g. a soap-opera can be an effective tool to deliver the concrete messages to the audience.




Method

The research used both quantitative and qualitative analysis methods. For quantitative method the research analyzed one week program of Rustavi 2 (22 – 28 of May). First, the timekeeping of each program was calculated; then multiplied to the quantity of the same program during the whole week. Finally, the timekeeping of the concrete program throughout the whole week was transferred into percentages.  

For qualitative method 3 focus groups were conducted.  The groups were completed by 7-8 people each. People were united by the age but they all were representatives of different professions. Respondents were asked following questions: whether they watch TV channel Rustavi2, what is the main purpose of watching the channel, what are their favorite programs, what are the criteria for choosing a specific program to watch and what would they like to see on this channel.

 

Setting the Scene: Production Mode of Rustavi 2

According to the Media survey conducted in 2011 by the Caucasus Research Resource Centre (2011) 75% of the population from capital and 85% from non-capital area watch TV in their free-time. 64 % percent of capital residents and 78% of non-capital residents watch comedy-shows at least once a week, while only 11% and 14% watch educational programs once a week. Nearly the same share goes for science and art programs. To analyze this data, it is obvious that the population watches TV quite often and biggest interest of those watching TV goes to comedy shows.

The data of Europe Foundation (formerly Eurasia Partnership Foundation) reports from 2012 states the same - the population of Georgia is watching the news on the first place; Comedy Shows on the second place; Movies on the third place and afterwards the series and political talk-shows. The reason of political talk-shows being on the fifth place is explained by the fact that a few years ago the number of talk-shows has reduced, while the number of comedy shows has increased – the report says.

To narrow down the focus of the research we have to analyze one week program of Rustavi2.  The program of seven days consists of news programs throughout the whole day; 11 entertainment programs; 8 soap-operas (one of them is Georgian production); 2 political talk-shows; 1 in-depth reporting, 1 documentary film, 1 business-based news program and 1 educational program.

During the analysis of one week (22 – 28 of May), news program “Kurieri” takes 3 hours and 10 minutes of each day from Monday until Friday; on Saturday, the duration of news programs diminishes to 3 hours and on Sunday “Kurieri” is replaced with in-depth reporting “Kurieri P.S.” In total 20 hours and 05 minutes is dedicated for transmitting news information, which is 12.2% of the whole week and 28.57 % of the prime time (from 20:00 to 23:00).

Turkish (2), Indian (3) and Brazilian (1) soap-operas are screened every day from Monday until Friday and for total, these series take 7 hours and 35 minutes of the whole day program, which holds 36 hours and 75 minutes of the whole week. This means that these 6 soap operas take 21.88 % of the whole week programming and 23.81% of the prime-time.

Morning and midday shows hold 3 hours and 50 minutes of each day from Monday until Friday. In the whole week calculation, these shows take 17 hours and 05 minutes, which performs 10.42%.

Entertaining shows consist of 9 different programs (see the Appendix 1).

 

Appendix 1: Time Code Calculation of Entertaining Programs during One Week.
Unit:  Hours

 

X-Factor

Lotto & Europe-Bet

Nanuka’s Show

Profile

Laugh and Win

Vano’s Show

Comedy

Show

Barley Block

Lucky wheel

Renovation

04.00

00.50

01.30

02.00

02..00

02.00

02.40

01.00

01.00

01.05

 

These programs altogether take 17 hours and 55 minutes of the whole week of the programming of Rustavi 2, from Monday until Sunday. This quantity of the hours takes 10.45% of the whole week programming and 35.24% of the primetime.

Rustavi 2 shows 14 movies a week. Exact calculation of the total hours dedicated to the movies is impossible, as each movie has different timekeeping. To calculate the time that movies are holding throughout the week, it is possible to take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes for each. In this case, the time that movie screening takes is approximately 18 hours and 2 minutes, which represents 10.83 % of the whole week approximately. Movies are never shown in primetime.

TV series “The Homeland” is screened 3 times a week (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) representing 2 hours and 15 minutes of the whole week, which is 1.28% in non-prime time period. Georgian sitcom “My Wife’s Girlfriends” is screened on the same days, for the same duration taking accordingly the same percentage of the whole week.  

Two political talk shows, “The Choice” lasting for 2 hours and “Exceptional Accents” lasting 1 hour and half are shown once a week and only in prime time. These 3 hours and a half are 1.96 % of the whole week and 10.95% the prime time.

“Business Kurieri” – a business-based news program is screened on Saturday at 12:30 and lasts 1 hour and 20 minutes, calculating 0.71 % of the whole week programming. One educational program “The Doctors” also screened on Saturday at 11.00 lasts for
1 hour. The time which this program is holding for the one week programming is
0.6 %. A documentary film at 15:30 on Sunday is taking 0.71% of the whole week and one in-depth reporting program “Kurieri P.S” which is shown on Sunday in prime-time takes 1.19 % of the whole week and 9.52% percent of the prime-time.

Finally, the programming of Rustavi 2 looks as follows: the majority of the airtime is dedicated to Indian, Turkish and Brazilian soap operas (21.88 %), followed by news programs (12.2%), movies (10.83%), entertaining shows (10.45 %), morning and daytime shows (10.42%), Georgian sitcom “My Wife’s Girlfriends”  (1.28%), American TV series also (1.28%) (2.56%), political talk-shows (1.96%), in-depth reporting (1.19%), documentary film (0.74%), business program (0.71%) and educational program (0.6%).

Timing calculated and awarded to the specific programs includes the commercials within themselves, as the duration of the ads vary depending on the program and time of the day. Also, the percentage may not be precise and exact. Some programs may last longer, or the commercials may take more time. In the same way, the night period (from 04:00 to 06:00) is supplemented in different ways from time to time. This makes impossible to count the specific timing. By this reason the calculation of percentage may not be totally exact.

 

Data Analysis

It appears that Rustavi 2 puts the most of its resources to the news and entertainment. Meanwhile, the programs to which Rustavi 2 is dedicating the biggest part of its time, even more time than the news programs have, are not the production of the channel itself (Indian, Turkish and Brazilian series). These TV series cover 21.88 % of the television airtime, the highest proportion, while series of Georgian production (“Formula Creative”) take only 1.28%. Moreover, one Turkish soap opera “Magnificent Century Kosem” gets one hour in the primetime, while Georgian series “My Wife’s Girlfriends” start only after the prime time ends (23:00).

The television produces only one educational program (“The Doctors”, discussing public health issues), which is straightly delivering educational messages to the audience. It means that Rustavi 2 is not focused on creating the product which will combine entertainment and the education.

The primetime of the television is filled with entertaining shows and news. The fact that the largest share of the primetime is dedicated to comedy and entertaining shows (35.24%), not including educational elements means that the television uses its prime time to catch the audience by broadcasting only entertaining content. And on the other hand the channel produces only one educational program, which is the last in list of programs for its percentage of holding the broadcast time. (0.6%) This fact indicates the decision which the channel producers make – paying less attention to the educational shows and spending fewer budgets to its creation.

Focus Group Data Analysis

The first and the main point displayed from the research conducted around 3 focus groups is huge interest towards Georgian TV series “My Wife’s Girlfriends” (Formula Creative). The data from three focus groups revealed that the main purpose of watching Rustavi 2 is to watch this series. The definition of this huge interest was explained by different elements combined: good actors; good script; newsworthy of the stories; good humor; illustrating the existing reality in Georgian society; broadcasting problematic themes with humor and cynicism; developing story and the chance to accompany the series whenever they wish and decide; the opportunity to link the characters and the story to the real facts happening around them in real life, analyzing social problems and motivated to create public interest and working for public good.

One of respondents (Lawyer, 25) even discussed this series as a project, not oriented on the income, besides being very popular. Respondent explained this idea with one case. One of the heroes of the project which was a negative character illustrating Georgian society was valued as a positive hero by the audience. The character became enormously popular and the icon for young people. After this, when this reaction was increasing, the production makers eliminated this hero with all his background; he died in a car accident. Even though deleting this character was unprofitable step for the project, producers decided to make a step serving the public good and stop the reaction, which they themselves caused incorrectly.

Mostly all the participants watch the channel for getting news information and entertaining oneself. From entertaining programs this focus groups revealed “X-Factor” (musical show) after “My Wife’s Girlfriends”. As respondents affirmed, these entertaining programs make them relax, forget reality and entertain. For “X-Factor” the main point for delivering the feeling of pleasure was caused by music, well-produced show and the new talents of new generations.

The point which also united all participants was the lack of social, investigative and educational programs. Respondents agreed that the producers of the humoristic and comedy shows should gather and create a project, which they would themselves like.  To the question, what they would like to see on Rustavi 2 they replied: documentary films; programs about cognitive issues;  sport programs; educational programs; high-quality humoristic programs; shows about ordinary people and their problems; journalistic investigative programs; objective news; programs about social issues; public lectures of professionals from different fields; travel programs about Georgian nature and fauna; scientific programs about Georgia; charity programs and art programs.

To the question, what is the public good all respondent’s replies were mostly of the same idea – not to perform under the interests of the government and to broadcast the information based on exact facts. Mostly all respondents affirmed that private televisions, especially those who have huge audience are obliged towards the society. Mostly all the participants agreed that private television company should always think about the public good. Being private do not give the right to production makers to transmit subjective information and propaganda – the respondents agreed. They also obliged the private television for creating the product for various types of people of the society at most as it is possible for them, as the televisions with high ratings and on air for about 20 years are obliged to serve the public.

The research conducted around three focus groups of three different generations showed that these people more or less watch Rustavi 2. Mostly they watch this television to get information and entertain. All of them lack educational and cognitive programs and wish to see the shows about social issues and documentary films.

The programs which Rustavi 2 is broadcasting, is not very interesting for younger generation. They are only interested in “My Wife’s Girlfriends”, giving them updates about their own society and showing all the problems which this society has. They wish to see investigative, social, objective programs and modern shows about the stories from Georgia, which they do not know yet. Adults appointed to different issues: humor, actors work and script; music, singing, show (the elements which make the audience relax) and good storyline, which helps them to easily engage with the series. These people wish to see more documentary films; sport and art programs and the TV shows about poor people social problems and charity.

The most important point revealed by this research is that all three focus groups appointed to one concrete TV series “My Wife’s Girlfriends” as their favorite one. This TV show was praised by all three generations, which include different positions and also the attitudes of those, who do not watch Rustavi 2 at all. They mostly evaluated this TV show with the same arguments: telling the story of real life and real people with humor and sending important messages to the public.

The research showed that the people with different age and professions, living in the city Tbilisi are amused by “My Wife’s Girlfriends”. This means that this TV show has different elements, which interests all the members who took part in the research. With these different elements the series accomplish the main goal – to entertain and serve the public at the same time.

Conclusion

Entertaining show including educational messages is the easiest and fastest way to reach the audience (Moyer-Gusé, 2008). When the audience is placing his/her self in the position of the character, they forget about their own reality and receive the important messages, encoded in the storyline (Cohen, 2001). “My Wife’s Girlfriends” has this kind of influence to the society. Some people love to watch the series to understand that they get important messages about the society they live in. Others do not cognitively understand what messages are they getting, though they love to be entertained and involved in the story line, while some people enjoy watching their favorite actors and living the life of the characters.

To conclude, that Rustavi 2 is profit-oriented television, broadcasting entertaining programs, which bring income to the television. This television gives much more time (including prime-time) to the shows, which do not include educational elements and educational programs take infinitely little time (0.6%).

But on the other hand, the channel is producing a TV show, which is entertaining and serving the public at the same time. The series reflect the faulty parts of the society appealing to the changes and development and this is all transmitted with humor and entertaining structure. This fact shows that the TV channel has the potential to mix the two: educate the public in a way that gives the organization profits. But this series take only 1.28% of the non-primetime of the whole-week program, while non-educational series occupies 21.88% (the biggest amount of time).

Some special groups of the society lack social, documentary, cognitive and investigative programs and wish to see more programs with educational purposes. It is also evident that Rustavi 2 can produce programs earning profits along with the opportunity to serve the public, and work for public good, by the example of “My Wife’s Girlfriends”. But these days Rustavi 2 gives most of its airtime to foreign (Turkish) series, rather than its own one, which has the potential to serve for public good.













References

Bardoel, J., & d'Haenens, L. (2008). Reinventing public service broadcasting in Europe: prospects, promises and problems. Media, Culture & Society, 30(3), 337-355.

 

Cohen, J. (2001). Defining identification: A theoretical look at the identification of audiences with media characters. Mass Communication & Society, 4(3), 245-264.

 

Lewis, C. W. (2006). In pursuit of the public interest. Public Administration Review, 66(5), 694-701.

 

MoyerGusé, E. (2008). Toward a theory of entertainment persuasion: Explaining the persuasive effects of entertainment‐education messages. Communication Theory, 18(3), 407-425.

 

Napoli, P. M. (2001). Social responsibility and commercial broadcast television: An assessment of public affairs programming. International Journal on Media Management, 3(4), 226-233.

 

Nerone, J. C. (1995). Last rights: Revisiting four theories of the press (Vol. 117). University of Illinois press.

 

Osborne, J., Simon, S., & Collins, S. (2003). Attitudes towards science: A review of the literature and its implications. International journal of science education, 25(9), 1049-1079.

 

Pickard, V. (2014). America's battle for media democracy: The triumph of corporate libertarianism and the future of media reform. Cambridge University Press.

 

Siebert, F. S., Peterson, T., & Schramm, W. (1956). Four theories of the press: The authoritarian, libertarian, social responsibility, and Soviet communist concepts of what the press should be and do. University of Illinois Press.

 

Sunstein, C. R. (2000). Television and the public interest. California Law Review, 88(2), 499-564.

 

C. Weinmann & P. Vorderer (2015). Deliberative Democracy and Entertainment: Bridging Two Separate Theoretical Traditions. Conference Paper 65th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association (ICA), At San Juan, Puerto Rico

 

Communicationtheory.org (n.d.) Social Responsibility Theory. Retrieved from http://communicationtheory.org/social-responsibility-theory/ June 12, 2017

 

TVMR GE, 2017: Nielsen Television Audience Measurement Official License. Retrieved from http://www.tvmr.ge 2017

 

Transparency International Georgia (2011). Georgian Advertising Market. December 2011 – Retrieved fromhttp://www.transparency.ge/sites/default/files/post_attachments/TI%20Georgia%20-%20The%20Georgian%20Advertising%20Market_0.pdf June 7, 2017

 

Eurasian Partnership Foundation (2012). Georgian Media: Evaluation of the population and the perspectives of development. Retrieved from http://www.epfound.org/files/media_report_final_geo_print_3.pdf. 2012

 

Caucasus Research Resource Centre – NDI - Public attitudes in Georgia, April 2017 -http://caucasusbarometer.org/en/na2017ge/INFSOU1/

Appendix 2: Distribution of Informant in Focus Group Discussions


Focus Group 1

Age

Profession

Gender

27

International
Relations

Female

19

Literature (student)

Female

26

Lawyer

Male

25

Artist

Male

24

Economist

Male

28

Singer

Female

20

Sociologist

Female

22

PR specialist

Female

 

Focus Group 2

Age

Profession

Sex

38

Director

Male

36

Footballer

Male

32

Dentist

Female

35

Architect

Female

30

Economist

Male

37

Housewife

Female

35

Mathematics

Female

33

Technician

Male

 

Focus Group 3

Age

Profession

Sex

46

Music Specialist

Female

41

Housewife

Female

48

Engineer

Male

43

Merchant

Female

47

Biologist

Male

41

Teacher (Geography)

Female

43

Actor

Male