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Silvia Radu and Chisinau Arena – in the Top of Positive News from Mesager Newscast

25 April 2018
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Aneta Gonta, media expert

Moldova 1 public TV channel continued to cover faithfully the work and statements of the authorities in April as well. Easter has diluted the formalism and rigidity of press releases, promises or unconcealed statements, but has not reduced their number in the newscasts. April also was marked by the electoral process for the new local elections, and the public TV broadcaster managed to cover several events related to the candidates and their electoral campaign. Thus, between 1 and 22 April 2018, at least two interesting elements could be observed in Mesager’s 22 editions: 1) the massive (and positive) coverage of the Mayoralty’s and interim Mayor Silvia Radu’s activities, and 2) the strong promotion of the Chisinau Arena project (in most cases the news items lacked the features of novelty or public utility).
The viewers are to decide whether this happened in a local or parliamentary electoral context. Being the information user myself, I notice an abundance of news related to the activity of the Mayoralty – the institution, the services and interim head of which enjoy both a generous broadcast time and a positive and approving approach from the public TV broadcaster Thus, in 22 days the Mesager newscast of Moldova 1 showed at least 26 news items (out of ± 307 national news), reporting the successes of the Mayoralty and the interim mayor. Silvia Radu and/or the specialized services of the institution were missing in (only) 7 editions, including on Easter and on several other days. At all other times, at least one news story was focusing directly or indirectly on the achievements of Silvia Radu and the Mayoralty she leads. Maximum Mobilisation for the Spring Cleaning (1 April), Silvia Radu Issued an Ultimatum to the Heads of the Cemeteries (4 April), After 25 Years, the Municipality Managed to Illuminate the ‘La Izvor’ Park (13 and 14 April), Silvia Radu Ordered to Evacuate Booths from the Rascani Park (2 April) – are some of the topics broadcast and covered in details in the main newscast of Moldova 1.
The broadcaster introduced the ‘New Local Elections 2018’ category to disseminate the information on the electoral process, candidates, potential candidates, etc. However, several items of an indirect electoral character have been broadcast outside this category. Indeed, Silvia Radu has not been registered for the electoral race yet, but the public TV channel let the obvious electoral elements leak into the newscasts without warning the viewer of their character. For example, on April 12, after Silvia Radu announced her intention to run for the new local elections, Moldova 1 broadcast the news about the floral carpet in the Metropolitan Cathedral square. The novelty aspect is obvious, however, at the 13th minute, after the reporter announces that ‘the initiative belongs to Silvia Radu, who wants to start a tradition in Chisinau’, the interim mayor says the following: ‘Whoever is going be the mayor in the future, he or she will have to develop the city, make it look nicer, turn it into a city where people would want to live, create points of attraction, and such traditions will unite Chisinau citizens in these beautiful spaces and attract tourists, thus developing the city’. The reporter concludes that ‘Chisinau residents were pleasantly surprised...’ followed by the opinion of some people impressed by the flowers in the centre of the capital. The material is of electoral nature and the form it was broadcast in should have been avoided.
The subject was of public interest, since the public money was used, and the mayor could be asked, for example, about the cost of the floral arrangement, about the procurement procedure, or about the need to bring the flowers all the way from the Netherlands. Regrettably enough, Silvia Radu had an electoral speech outside the official campaign instead. The news item of April 13 (where Silvia Radu, dressed in a traditional embroidered shirt and jeans, was planting trees along with the inhabitants of a house in Chisinau) was presented in a similar way. The news, also broadcast by a private TV channel owned by a party chairperson, was about a construction company’s initiative to plant trees around a newly built house. Mesager told us that the initiative was also supported by the Chisinau Mayoralty in the person of... the interim mayor, who declared: ‘It is very important to plant green areas, because a modern European city implies a higher quality of life. As many such green areas as possible will allow the inhabitants of the capital to improve their quality of life and to have the most clean air’. This declaration has a clear electoral character and resembles a campaign speech, presented, however, as a news item.
In addition, in two consecutive newscasts (13 April and 14 April) we were informed about the fact that after 25 years the municipality MANAGED to successfully illuminate the ‘La Izvor’ park, that the roads were being constantly repaired, that the pedestrian crossings near schools would be signaled, that a lot of potholes were patched, or that Silvia Radu signed a partnership contract for a cycling race FOR THE FIRST TIME, etc.
All these had an indirect electoral character and it would have been preferable to deal with them (if they could not be avoided) more delicately. While the candidate Silvia Radu is not officially registered in the electoral race yet, she is already unevenly positioned against the other candidates by the public TV channel.     
Another topic awaking curiosity that was regularly covered in the second half of April concerns the project submitted by the Democratic Party – ‘Chisinau Arena’. During the reporting period, the Mesager newscast of Moldova 1 broadcast at least 7 news items directly referring to this topic. These touched upon the announcement of a contest of slogans for the future complex (11 April), summing up of this contest (21 and 22 April), the opinions of certain officials about the idea (Chiril Gaburici – 11, 14 April, Stauceni officials – 14 April, Monica Babuc – 15 April), or the statements of some categories of professionals (sports personalities – 17 April). The novelty aspect does not justify the declarative and advertising nature of the information, although the subject is of public interest. Journalists talk neither about the money, nor about the area of the future complex or the transparency in amending legislation. Instead, they faithfully and repeatedly promulgate the authorities’ promises on the construction and operation of the multifunctional arena.
We know nothing about the extent of the ‘ordinary’ Moldovan citizens’ access to the Chisinau Arena and about its direct benefits for them, while the public channel has given it generous space in the newscasts during 1-22 April 2018. You should ask yourself, dear viewer, if there is a link between this type of media coverage and the autumn election, and see if you can find the answer...