Public Broadcasting Service Between News Media and Institution
An Analysis of Radio Bh1's News Programming
By: Radenko Udovičić
Four months ago the broadcast of Radio BH1- public radio service covering the entire territory of BiH - was launched. Reconstruction of public broadcast system in BiH started already three years ago under leadership of the Office of High Representative, the international supervisor of the Dayton Peace Agreement implementation. The aim of the reconstruction is establishing of a public radio-televise system, which would be in the service of the entire BiH population, and not only the ruling political options, as in the case of the state-lead stations. The BH1Radio is the first segment of such a radio-television, into which signifficant efforts and huge ammounts of money have been invested by the International Community, all with the purpose of producing an unbiassed programme which would be created jointly by all three peoples in BiH and which would be accepted in all regions of the country. Four months of work is a period of time sufficient to find out the level of success of informative programme as one of the most sensitive spots in a programme scheme.
For that reason, in the period between 20 and 26 August 2001, Media Plan Institute conducted a monitoring of the Radio BH1 informative broadcasts. The objects of monitoring were the 15:00 and 22:00 hrs News. The 22:00 News make the last comprehensive news broadcast during the day, summarising the most important events of the day. The quantity and quality analyses covered 7 broadcasts at 15:00 and six at 22:00 hrs (excluding the news on 26 August).
The duration of both broadcasts is 30 minutes each. The only exceptions are Sundays when the News last for 15 minutes only, probably due to the lack of events. Anyone submitted to autocracy of radio redactions for years, cannot but admire the time accuracy of the broadcasts. All the broadcasts lasted between 29 and 30 minutes, not resorting to «time saving» tricks through quick news reading or unplanned text cuts. Besides the professional approach by the editorial staff, this is surely contributed by digital technics, which facilitates the duration control. However, live reports are also well planned. Time is greatly taken into account, which is best shown in the example of the 15:00 News on 23 Aug; by mistake, a radio short about illegal weapons holdings in Republika Srpska was broadcast instead of a radio short on public kitchens in that Entity. Although the report on public kitchens was announced in the news headlines, the speaker apologised and announced it for the next day. Except for that mistake, as well as the commentary by Zoran Pirolić on 25 Aug, where on two occasions the cuttings caused by mistakes in reading or additional text cuts were apparent, no other mistakes were observed.
As for the technical quality of the programme itself, the recordings were clear and apparently taken on professional devices; generally good impression is also contributed by pleasant, radiophonic voices of speakers, journalists and correspondents.
All broadcasts go live into the programme, and are based upon the classic radio pattern: the headlines are followed by the announcement of main events and contents, including short inserts from certain reports, thus contributing to effectiveness and dynamism. After that the speaker opens the News, which are a combination of agency news and recorded reports
Among the 13 broadcasts monitored, the total of 290 pieces of information was given.
The statistics clearly indicated that the form most present was the news, the fact which is not disturbing for a radio programme, especially when they are mainly from the sports and international scene. What needs to be emphasised for BH Radio 1 is that, unlike many other stations in BiH, the news blocks are evenly incomposed throughout the entire programme and frequently intertwined with recorded shorts, thus breaking the monotony of a mere news reading.
The report with recordings from the spot is the second most present form, and it is harmoniously designed. The statements given in reports are not too long, and they are skilfully incomposed in order to break up a monotoneous reading.
The radio shorts based on the material obtained through international exchange, i.e. radio shorts made in the studio on the basis of materials taken over from the international media, are rather effective because they retain the tone background (statements in English language, gunshots from the spot etc); they present international events elaborated by our journalists. The radio shorts that are not strictly related to the events of that day usually present happenings and occurences that have already been long running. One of the best in this category was the report on 22 Aug, which explained the essence of the Electoral Law and gave over the reactions by political factors of both Entities.
Any other journalist form is rather neglected. So, we found only two opinion surveys and two interviews in the entire week, and one single classic commentary by the experienced radio journalist Zoran Pirolić, if we do not count a commentary incorporated into a report. On 24 Aug, a BH1 journalist attended the “Transparency International” press conference, where cases of corruption within the International Community in BiH should have been presented. As no concrete details were presented (as stated by all the media), a reporter criticised this organisation through a commentary, explaining that journalists’ time is “much too expensive for projects which offer nothing new”. However, even though this was a commentary and not a report, as the speaker announced it, the facts were strictly divided from the journalist’s commentary, according to requirements of the practice of journalism.
The informative programme editors might be suggested to enrich these halh-hour news broadcasts with more complex forms, mainly because the offer of “dry” news in the media market is immence.
Among the Radio BH1 news monitored, convincingly the most present are those covering events from the part of the BiH Federation with Bosniac majority (80). This is partly justified by the fact that BH1 is situated in Sarajevo, which is the BiH Capital, but also a town where Bosniacs are in majority. This offers an excellent opportunity to cover all events in the Capital, where several extremely important events happen on daily basis. On the other hand, most editors and a notable number of journalists who appeared in the programme in the course of these seven days live in the territories with Bosniac majority and they are probably prone to treat the events they are close to. Naturally, we should bear in mind that more events are happening in densly populated part of the Federation with Bosniac majority then in the areas prevalently Serb and Croat. Yet another, a pre-war problem should be mentioned here – it has always been easier to find a correspondent in, for example, Gradačac than in Nevesinje; due to the reasons of political and social-economic nature, certain areas have always gravitated mainly to Sarajevo; the situation is now even worsened through the existing national divisions.
All that, however, does not mean that Radio BH1 should not work on
widening its network of correspondents and increasing the quantity of
information obtained in Republika Srpska and Western Herzegovina. The increased
quantity will by itself require a better understanding of these areas, which is
the only way to bring the Radio closer to people in Republika Srpska, as they
are still refusing to adopt is as “their own”. In that context, it would be
useful to think about strengthening the editorial staff with journalists from
Republika Srpska. The studio in Sarajevo and the Sarajevan reporters team are
manned exclusively with journalists from former BiH Radio and Radio Fern.
Although the common sense dictates that professionalism and impartiality should
not be measured through nationality, the sensitivity of inter-national relations
in BiH demands to take this into account, too. This in particular due to the
fact that a public service aspires to be accepted in the entire country as a
radio of all and for all.
The category of “BiH as a whole” implies the events concerning the entire country. These are usually decisions taken by OHR and BiH Government or various activities at a state level as demining, combat against corruption and similar. We can say that BH1 eagerly follows such events, as we could expect from a public radio for the entire BiH.
A signifficant ammount of information comes from the territory of former Yugoslavia (53). It is understandable that, in this period, the information coming from Macedonia is the most present, due to the crysis in that area; then comes the information from Serbia. BH1 has its correspondents in both.
Political happenings remain the most present content in the BH1 Radio (40). This
is understandable, as Bosnia and Herzegovina and the entire region of the
Balkans remain deeply imbued with political problems, which generate various
events on daily basis. It would be inadmissable if media ignored such events,
even though the publicity sometimes seems over-saturated with them.
The table shows that the category of „incidents and terrorism“ is notably present, too. The majority among the news and similar texts come from Macedonia and Kosovo. As for BiH, there were two cases of attacks on returnees into Republika Srpska. Not surprisingly regarding the situation in the region, the international community is also rather present (21).
The culture was granted ten radio shorts, but more than a half related to Sarajevo Film Festival.
What is rather important for this Radio as a part of public services is the fact that social-economic problems are very comprehensively covered – with 32 radio shorts broadcast, and another 23 about refugees as a sub-category of social problematics (the News on 20 Aug gave the initial three radio shorts about strikes, while the 15:00 hrs News have the entire second half of the broadcast reserved for these problems). Namely, the European model of a public service focuses a citizen and his social, and not only political community.
However, a public service must also appreciate the logic of mass media: the audience pays most attention to mattes of the widest interest; so, it is hard to find justification for opening of a news broadcast with a report on renewal of refugees’ houses in Ustikolina, as happened on 26 Aug. It is true that this event prooves that, occasionally, someone still helps refugees; but a report itself, without a specially intriguing detail or a remarkable statement, can hardly drow interest of anyone not personally involved; a report comprising of a stereotype or a statement aimed to meeting a sheer form and not to giving information remains a plain failure. It is necessary to make a better assessment of the radio shorts that will open the News, where to put accents and what statement to include into the News.
The News of 20 Aug show how important it is to have a veiw of daily events in their entirety and determine their importance; it is only than that the order of broadcasting can be established. On that day, the police discovered a person who recently set fire on a church in Zenica and thus seriously worsened inter-ethnic relations in that town. The perpetrator was cought in flagranti - in the attempt to set another church alight. On this issue, Radio BH1 gave only a brief MOI statement after the radio short on strikes?! This indicates a disturbing misunderstanding of the situation in BiH, where each incident of that kind brings the country to the brink of political blockage. In addition, it is a genuine rarity for the police to discover such type of a criminal, specially in the very act. All other media paid huge attention to this incident – they took statements by the police and Catholic priests in Zenica and gave a portrait of the accused, emphasysing he was a mentally disturbed person. The BH1 failed to react whatsoever and, in stead of correcting the failure of the 15:00 News at 22:00 hrs, in this last broadcast they omitted even the MOI statement.
However, in some cases journalists’ reactions were timely, but incomplete. So, on 22 Aug the Serb National Association issued a statement about mistreatments of some RS Serbs at the hands of Croat Border Police due to cyrilic scripts in their IDs. The BH1 Radio immediatelly contacted the assistant BiH minister of foreign affairs Ibrahim Đikić, who stated that the MFA was not in possession of such an information, but the MFA would protect its citizens if this prooves true. However, in a country with an institutional system like in BiH, it would be a surprise if MFA had any information about this, besause the citizens of Republika Srpska and even some of RS institutions hardly have any contacts with this Ministry. As this problem is running already from July when the approval was granted about border crossing with local ID only, it would be logical to seek statements from the mistreated citizens or at least someone in the Serb National Association who could serve as the source of information in Republika Srpska. Even if this case was only the issue of a political propaganda, the audience must be presented the proof.
A positive example of a prompt and well placed report on social problems was found in the radio short of 20 Aug on evictions of military war invalids in Bugojno. In addition to a good journalist’s work, it also brought effective statements by the invalids who detected problems well. One of them said that the return to their parents’ homes was impossible as, during these nine years, they founded their own families and thus increased the numbers of household members. A statement like this displays the core of the problem and shows why the return to pre-war homes is more difficult and complex that its moral and legal aspect
With all objections, one important point must be noted: in the course of the seven-day programme, not one radio broadcast was used, by its contents or interpretation, to inflame ethnic or political disagreements in BiH. Furthermore, not one single factual mistake was noticed, nor any, so called, negative selection of information. The editorial staff clearly clings to a firm decision to offer an objective information through clear and quality broadcasts.
Effectively, the main problem of this Radio is not the ethnic code, which is more or less stainless, but the lack of attraction of informative broadcasts. Faced with certain topics, the journalists simply failed to awaken interest of a wider audience. Whether or not this came as a conseqence of the lack of understanding of a public service or anything else, the editorial staff will regardless have to find out ways to restraint from neglecting any social group within a community and in doing so, not to lose touch with all other groups of audience; this refers to all group categories within a community – political, etnic, national, cultural and so on. This is the logic of any mass media, which a public service – regardless of all its particularities – really is.
Radenko Udovičić, Editor-in-Chief of Press Agency SAFAX and News Editor in 'Media Online'. Translated by: O.H. ©Media Online 2001. All rights reserved.
source: Media Online 30-09-2001
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