Between two pre-election campaigns - assessments of media experts

Christian Spahr from Konrad Adenauer foundation
Photo: BGNES

The campaign of the elections for European Parliament has just finished and Bulgaria heads towards the next elections-this time for a National Assembly. The role of the media in the pre-election campaign is just as important as the messages of the political parties. “It looks like the media has been losing control over the elections which is a huge problem, because anything that remains hidden from the local media lacks transparency”, contends the President of the Council of Electronic Media Georgi Lozanov in his analysis of the last pre-election campaign. In his view, some changes, including legislation ones, have to be made before the next pre-election campaign, in order to boost the role of the media again.

German foundation Konrad Adenauer came up with interesting interpretation of Bulgaria’s media environment during elections through its analysis of the election coverage of the EP elections in Bulgaria

“The coverage of the elections in Bulgaria lacked the typical sharp confrontation of the recent years”, contends the head of the foundation’s media program Christian Spahr in an interview for Radio Bulgaria. “Unfortunately, however, the European topics did not appear in the Bulgarian media. Local political issues prevailed in this campaign and the European challenges were put aside.”

The role of the media to inform voters is often decisive, especially in times of pre-election campaigns. Bulgarian media, however, just like the local politicians, failed to make a difference between European and national elections. Why is this so?

“The main problem stems from the lack of detailed analyses”, contends German media expert Christian Spahr. “Listeners, viewers and readers should have a bigger opportunity to make their informed choice through various opinions and analyses of European topics made in the local media. Bulgaria is relatively a young EU member state and its integration to the union is still going on. In other words, the country needs to provide more information and analyses about the EU and its top priorities, institutions and rights. However, this country lacks such detailed information, because the working conditions of the journalists usually do not allow investment of time and other resources in making journalist investigations.”

In Christian Spahr’s view, this problem is typical for other European countries and is far from being Bulgaria’s problem only. What topics did not appear at all in the Bulgarian media during the coverage of the election campaign for European Parliament?

“The most reasonable question the local media failed to ask itself regards the role of Bulgaria in the EU”, Christian Spahr went on to say. “Besides, there are many geopolitical issues that need to be tackled such as the relations between the EU and Russia and whose side Bulgaria takes in this dispute, what type of EU energy policy corresponds to the interests of this country, is Bulgaria able to use the full resource provided by the European Union, etc.”

2014 is likely to be very lucrative for the Bulgarian media- early Parliamentary elections are to be held shortly after the elections for European Parliament and the revenues of the media from political commercials should not be neglected at all. Do Bulgarian media make strict differentiation between paid reports and editorial coverage of pre-election campaigns? 

“Our analysis of the European elections’ campaign has ascertained many violations of the principle of clear differentiation between paid report and election-related editorial content”, says Christian Spahr. The lack of transparency about the way Bulgarian media are financed is a serious and old problem. This weakness could be overcome through strong political will and joint efforts of both the politicians and the media, because the media self-regulation is of key importance to the solution of this problem”, concludes Christian Spahr from Konrad Adenauer foundation.


English version: Kostadin Atanasov


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