The numerous debates and talk-shows were mainly used by the participants as platforms for mutual personal criticism, note OSCE/ODIHR’s observers in their report regarding the monitoring of national broadcasters during the election process in North Macedonia.

The preliminary report also states that the newscasts of all national broadcasters monitored by the ODIHR SEAM provided superficial coverage of the campaign activities, which was overshadowed by mutual accusations as well as by implications of the published recordings of political leaders.

“In-depth analytical reporting or policy-based discussions were largely absent from the coverage of the campaign, limiting the opportunity for voters to make an informed choice between distinct policy alternatives. In their prime-time newscasts focused on the VMRO-DPMNE and the SDSM-led coalitions, two national private broadcasters, Sitel and Telma, provided each with equal proportions of, respectively, 31 and 21 per cent of politically relevant coverage, mainly neutral in tone. In the first two weeks of the campaign Kanal 5 provided equal proportions of its coverage to the two major contestants; however, in
the final week of the campaign, its coverage of the SDSM-led coalition increased in comparison to that allotted to VMRO-DPMNE. By contrast, Alfa TV strongly criticized the government and the ruling SDSM by allotting to them 28 and 40 per cent, respectively, of mainly negative and neutral coverage, while VMRO-DPMNE received 19 per cent of coverage, which was mainly neutral and positive in tone. A similar trend was also observed on Alsat, which provided some 32 per cent of predominantly negative coverage to the DUI” said the OSCE/ODHIR mission’s Statement of Preliminary Findings and Conclusions.

OSCE/ODIHR states that the paid political advertisements are entirely subsidized by the state.

“The legal framework for the allocation of funds for paid time, and the distribution of maximum limits for such advertisements, was modified by a government decree enacted on 22 June, the last day of the state of emergency. The provisions favour the SDSM-led coalition, VMRO-DPMNE and the DUI, which were entitled to use solely for the purposes of paid political advertisements some EUR 800,000 each, while the other twelve contestants were entitled to only EUR 30,000 each.16 Contestants could not use party funds for the purpose of paid political advertisements, essentially blocking the possibility of buying any additional advertisement by the twelve electoral lists whose joint share of subsidies was significantly smaller than those granted to each of the three largest parties. During the campaign the AVMS formally reminded broadcasters twice of the prohibition to feature children in contestants’ promotional materials, after identifying advertisements that violated the provision,” states the report.

OSCE/ODIHR’s observers objected that most broadcasters did not comply with the requirement to supplement election coverage with sign language interpretation as is required by February 2020 amendments to the Electoral Code.

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This article was produced within the framework of the project “Media Reform Observatory“, implemented by the Foundation for Internet and the Society “Metamorphosis”, with financial support by the Foundation “Open Society – Macedonia”.

The content is sole responsibility of its authors and in no way whatsoever could be understood as a representation of the views of the Foundation “Open Society – Macedonia”.