‘Journalists are Heard’

Nune Hakhverdyan

Art critic, journalist

Natalya Ligachova, founder and chief editor of Telekritika.ua, is sure that television criticism is a quite specific, but prospective and very interesting genre. She emphasizes that their reports, first and foremost, are necessary for journalists, since “to criticize” means to turn attention to.

The site, which constantly turns its attention to Ukrainian television programming, is a reputable media monthly comprised of several sections (video library, media tabloid, media market, media grammar and so on). Initially, it was a print magazine, but later evolved into an online publication. It is the largest compact, multi-functional site in Europe addressing the TV industry.

Recently, Natalya held a training session in Yerevan for Armenia TV critics, pointing out that acquiring authority in the media sector is a long and difficult task — almost as difficult as not criticizing television. 

Criticism is usually not warmly welcomed, particularly by TV employees. 

To tell the truth,  Telekritika was established to help journalists best carry out their civic mission. We pay great attention to keeping contact with journalists. Journalists who turn their attention to and criticize our site in their work regularly respond to our articles.

Generally, journalists working in the media community cannot be compared to top TV station managers, who measure everything by ratings. Journalists have a completely different role in society. And when we get feedback and comments from TV journalists (it makes no difference whether they agree with us or not, whether they love us or hate us) a dialogue takes place. Our site is a platform for debate, where journalists, experts, critics and the ruling authorities can dialogue. Here, journalists are heard.

“In any case, we represent the media industry and not the interests of the authorities.”

And do they hear them?

They do. A different question is whether by listening, do they perceive? But, in any case, we represent the media industry and not the interests of the authorities. 

But isn’t it difficult to criticize colleagues?

We try to consider the internal rules of the media space, the so-called “behind-the-scenes” — we’re not guided solely by the audience’s opinion. More valuable to me are those articles the authors of which consider the unique characteristics of putting together a TV production.

There are cases when TV employees accept our criticism very painfully, but I think that’s excessive. I advise them to remember that quality criticism is usually earned by a quality production. 

In any case, media criticism has elements of a game — as does all of television. 

For many years television was perceived as the only source of information. In your opinion, has the situation now changed?

The mass nature of television shouldn’t be ignored. Of course, in the near future, the Internet will play a greater role, but television will continue to remain a powerful tool and entertainment platform.

“The existence of a single TV station allowed those messages that later became the axes of the revolution to be conveyed to a huge TV audience.”

I can cite a very striking example: many are sure that the 2004 Orange Revolution in the Ukraine wouldn’t have happened if there wasn’t the opposition Fifth Channel, which was the only station in the entire country broadcasting alternative information. The existence of this TV station allowed those messages that later became the axes of the revolution to be conveyed to a huge TV audience.

A website or online channel definitely couldn’t have played the same role. The information broadcast by the Fifth Channel across the entire country united people and, in a certain sense, assumed the role of an organizational link, since only this channel broadcast the heated debates that eventually incited the public’s protest. So television shouldn’t be underestimated; it has an enormous impact.

Armenia doesn’t have an opposition station — the authorities succeeded in creating exclusively uniform and “toothless” stations.

The opposition station TVI in Ukraine today likewise has many problems. The authorities aren’t giving it a broadcast channel, forcing it to shut down. There’s one reason: the authorities understand what television can do. The Internet, in any case, is a platform for those with leading opinions; while television, for the masses, the electorate. 

How does your site respond to elections topics?

We regularly monitor news in the TV industry, talk shows, and analytical programs, surveying content (including also hidden content). Thus, we get a grasp on all instances of manipulation of information — this is considered important by journalists, who discuss our findings in their station’s meetings. This allows them to stand up to station managers, who often force them to violate TV laws. 

For journalists, our site is a platform to voice their concerns. Often they’re the ones who call us and ask us to pay attention to some issue or another. For example, they say that a terrible news broadcast is to be expected and they ask us to address it. On the other hand, our analysis is also needed by observers, who monitor how democratic the elections are. We look at elections information and freedom of expression from the perspective not of politics but of the rules of journalism. And every political conflict is covered through the prism of media.

Interview conducted by Nune Hakhverdyan

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