Covid-19 and Pro-Government Media - Coronavirus Coverage Before and After Elections
According to agenda-setting theory, the media can raise specific issues and thus suggest to the public what to think about. However, the range of issues covered by the media is also composed of the interests of various actors, for instance, with components subsidized by political leaders and public relations specialists. At the same time, biased media is becoming a facilitator for a particular political agenda. Given the importance of the role of the media in public life, the central question of this paper is how the most viewed pro-government media outlet covered the coronavirus during the election period and how well its agenda matched the government's priorities (in stably challenging epidemiological conditions). Imedi TV was selected as the object of observation, specifically its main news program - "Chronicle." Observations were made in the months before and after the 2020 and 2021 elections. The agenda of Imedi TV was revealed by the time and priority devoted to the coronavirus in the "Chronicle." The research showed that until the day of the 2020 parliamentary elections, when it was unfavorable for the government to talk about a challenging epidemic situation, Imedi TV gave much less priority and time to covering the coronavirus than after the elections. In the week prior to the election, news regarding the coronavirus was airing an hour after the start of the main newscast. After the first round of elections, in which the ruling party won, the coverage of Covid-19 on Imedi TV became noticeably more active. After the second round of elections (November 21), coronavirus became the most important issue for Imedi TV. Such a radical change in the media agenda was followed by the tightening of coronavirus regulations by the authorities. As for the period before the 2021 self-government elections, it was revealed that Covid-19 was not in the priorities of Imedi TV. Moreover, out of 27 days of monitoring, in 10 cases, this topic was not covered at all. Attitudes towards the Covid-19 in the pro-government media outlet did not change radically and rapidly (as it did in 2020) after the election; however, media attention towards it still increased significantly. Consequently, our assumptions about the coverage of Covid-19 in the pro-government media were confirmed, as Imedi TV followed a favorable agenda for the government.
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