The Committee for Free and Fair Elections issued its preliminary findings on election coverage by local broadcast media Wednesday night, calling the government—and mostly Prime Minister Hun Sen—the most visible political player in the run-up to the July 27 election.
Although the report said that parties other than the ruling CPP had unprecedented media access this election season, the broadcast outlets with the widest audiences—TV5, TV3, FM 103, FM 95—focused their coverage on Hun Sen and his government. The CPP itself garnered only brief mentions on these channels; other parties garnered none.
Between June 16 and July 25, a team of 10 Comfrel monitors tuned into six television and 11 radio stations seven days a week for local programming to determine the air time devoted to political actors and the tone—positive, neutral or negative—of that coverage.
Comfrel determined that state media coverage of the parties was nearly balanced, with the CPP receiving 1 percent more air time than each Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party. It also noted that the UN Development Program-sponsored election reporting on TVK met its predetermined time allotments for party coverage: CPP,
44 percent; Funcinpec, 27 percent; Sam Rainsy Party, 19 percent; other parties, 10 percent.
Comfrel expressed concern over “inflammatory and racist” rhetoric used by some politicians, radio announcers and members of the public. It said such language was cause for media reform.
In its report on the fourth week of election coverage, issued last week, Comfrel concluded that Funcinpec received the most coverage in all monitored media and the most amount of positive coverage. However, the report attributed this to the royalists’ all-Funcinpec-all-the-time FM 90.5, which it said has “a very limited listenership.”
` The CPP received the most negative coverage during that period, but Comfrel also credited FM 90.5 for this.
Monitors determined tone by discussing it among themselves and consulting an adviser from the US Agency for International Development, Comfrel Director Koul Panha said Wednesday.
The country’s most popular radio station, FM 103, devoted nearly all of its news time to the government and Hun Sen. Outside of news programs, attention was given to the three main parties, with CPP mentions positive and those of Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party negative.
Other bias was noted at Bayon TV and Apsara TV, two independent stations that said they would not sell advertising time to political parties but then aired CPP promotions. Hosts of a karaoke show on Apsara sported CPP T-shirts and hosts of news programs praised Hun Sen and derided Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party.
Coverage of the Sam Rainsy Party was judged to be neutral for the most part.