NON-POLITICAL PROGRAMS AS METHOD OF PROPAGANDA
So media content and the coverage of political candidates is the key to the election campaign process. Even non-political, entertainment broadcasts are a chance to propagandize andcreate the best image for candidates.
Elections 2017 – Politicians in non-political programs
Narrative and pathos for many programs are the same: family life, memories about childhood, culinary skills and even stories about first loves. Sometimes media outlets draw the people's attention by coverage of non-political issues in a political manner. Special caution is necessary about programs which are not covering news affairs, but can form voters’ opinions --especially night chat-shows, cartoonish serials and comic shows.
The Code of Conduct for Broadcasters, which is based on the Georgia Law on Broadcasting, lists requirements for coverage of elections. Election subjects on non-political programs shall not be permitted except for Article 23, paragraph 1: “unless the negotiations about participation in the program were held prior to the election period, that is when the respondent was not an election candidate
According to Media Checker.ge, There were 12 cases during the 2017 Tbilisi municipal election campaign when political candidates were guests on non-political shows. Seven shows dedicated to mayor candidates were on Rustavi2,. four on Imedi TV and just one on “Tv Pirveli”. As for candidates, National Movement politicians were invited three times, three shows were devoted to an independent candidate, and three to a woman candidate from European Georgia party. New Georgia party and Democratic Georgia party were covered just one time in the entertainment programs.
“Vano’s Show”, a Rustavi 2-night comedy chat show, invited Nika Melia, a candidate for Tbilisi city council from National Movement, although most of his talk was about political plans. The anchorman was joking in a political way. “Another guest on “Vano’s Show” was independent candidate Aleko Elisashvili. He also was invited to “Nanuka’s Show” and voters could learn everything about his family life or personal interests. The show was made in his house and his parents talked about his childhood. The host asked Elisashvili about the cost of the apartment and his credit debt. Viewers could learn that one of the candidates lives in poorer conditions, and could be manipulated as a result.
The same day candidate Elene Khoshtaria was on this show and her husband, parents, and children were talking about her family life, describing her as the best wife, best mother, and daughter. This would give viewers a sympathetic feeling. “Gugava will come” was the slogan of the Labour Party and its candidate, Giorgi Gugava. “Nanuka’s Show” used this catchphrase and Nanuka Zhorzholiani called him when they switched off the lights in the studio. Gugava came and "fixed "the problem.
“Rustavi 2” and “Nanuka’s Show” was the place for mayor candidates to speak about their private life and sensitive issues about their childhood or family members. National Movement mayor candidate Zaal Udumashvili was invited to “Nanuka’s Show” three days beforethe election. He was talking about his parents' illnesses and the childhood troubles when he didn’t have a well-paid job. During this conversation, sentimental music was in the background. “I’m your fan forever,” was the last words of Nanuka Zhorzholiani for this candidate. On the same day, she also invited the National Movement mayor candidate from Kutaisi, Grigol Vashadze.
On TV Pirveli, the show “Narrative of Women” had as their guest Elene Khoshtaria, who talked about her past life, the beginning of her career, and also about political plans.
According to media expert professor Tamar Belkania, the media knows how to present people in a positive and negative context. “Maybe someone has not decided who to vote for, and television can create their opinion. This is a fight without rules. The main thing is to appear on the air, even food, entertainment, sports and culture shows. Family is a popular topic and humor is the most positive influence on the audience. The best PR is on food shows."
Tbilisi city mayor candidates were also invited on entertainment programs at Imedi TV. The comedy show “Friends” invited New Georgia candidate Giorgi Vashadze. Aleko Elisashvili also was a guest of this show. Because of its content, the candidates participated only humorously. The non-political show “It’s No-SleepTime” invited candidates Kakha Kaladze and Elene Khoshtaria. Voters saw former international star Kaladze playing football with his children and dog. His family members praised him. Kaladze had a chance to make political statements. “Every district, every region should feel the progress,” he said.
The Georgian National Communication Commission asks the media to pay special attention and follow the Code of Ethics by limiting the invitations of candidates to non-political programs.
The Code of Conduct for Broadcastersreads:
“Candidates or party representatives’ participation in a program, which is not political, is permissible only if the negotiations about the participation in the program took place before the start of the election period. Candidates should not be allowed to express political opinions or to advertise their own candidacy in any other way.”
In all of the above-mentioned programs, election subjects expressed their political opinions.
Salome Achba, editor of MediaChecker.ge, thinks violations of the Code of Ethics are difficult to enforce. “In essence, you can invite a candidate to an entertainment program if the agreement was made before the candidate's nomination. Since it is difficult to know when the agreement was really reached, broadcasters always say the agreement was made before the candidate's nomination, so this Article 23 is unclear and inefficient.”
Political scientist Grigol Gegelia thinks thesetypes ofshows on childhood memories or charity football matcheshave a great impact on voter choices. “In our country, politics is concentrated on people and not their political program. This is most noticeable in the case of Kakha Kaladze.It is important to strengthen the law because we need more equality in the pre-election campaigns The law should be transparent, short and not vague. Legal uncertainty is the enemy of democracy.”
The tendency to invite candidates to non-political programs also was evident during the 2016 parliamentary elections. There were 18 cases, 10 on Imedi TV and eight on Rustavi 2.