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Facts suggest Georgia's Imedi TV report video was intentionally confusing

16 March 2010 [10:39] - TODAY.AZ
As the panic about Imedi’s spoof video is fading and anxiety is subsiding it is proper to look beyond the news and analyze what happened on Saturday night.

Giorgi Arveladze, General Director of Imedi TV, said the aim of the video was to show Georgia’s external threats at their face value. Arveladze added that the channel did not intend to scare the population or cause panic.

“As it turned out it was a miscalculation [on the part of Imedi TV] to think that the society would have perceived the broadcast adequately," Giorgi Arveladze said.

 Furthermore, the station’s management and programme anchor defended themselves by saying that the video had enough clues to show that it was fictional, like the date of the events – June 7, the clothes people were wearing suggesting that it was summer [as the shots had been taken from the archived materials taken during the August war], one of the reports within the program saying that the rally participants were wounded 3 days earlier etc.

Some interesting details connected with the video, however, suggest that the widespread confusion and panic was not merely “an unintended consequence” of the analytical TV programme. The ensuing ambiguity was intentional; purposefully done to have the same dramatic effect as famous The War of the Worlds by Orson Welles had had.

These details are:

First: The start time of the TV programme.

 “Special Report” is a weekly programme recently launched by the Imedi Channel. It is usually broadcast at 20:30 on Saturdays. But on the night in question, it was different: On March 13 Imedi launched its weekly programme a half hour earlier at 19:59.Notably, the channel’s news programme, “Chronicle”, normally runs at 20:00 and is one of the major sources of information for the TV channel’s audience. So, in this instance Special Report was most likely intentionally scheduled to coincide with the usual start time of “Chronicle” to create confusion. Moreover, the introduction to “Special Report” by its anchor was very short and only lasted 1 minute, thereby allowing the fictional “Chronicle” to start reporting ‘news’ at 20 seconds past the hour.

 Second: Radio Imedi was also in on the act

 Radio Imedi, a sister radio station of the TV channel, also broadcast the fake “Chronicle” live. This too was also an unusual departure from its regular schedule as the station normally produces its own, independent programmes for the radio listeners. But those who listen to the radio in a car most probably would have skipped the introduction. When driving, many people tend to tune their radio dial to skip radio commercials or find music and, in such instances, they might well have just happened upon the broadcast, hearing only portions of it without grasping the entire story. Moreover, unlike the TV viewers the radio listeners would not have perceived the clues to which the station’s management was referring to: the summer clothes, recognizing old shots etc. Many of such drivers indeed started calling their relatives and friends and thereby helped to spread misinformation.

 Third: The length of the video

If the focus of the TV programme was to be an analysis of “possible scenarios” of the Russian invasion and its impact – as the management claimed – then the channel would most likely have been better served to have produced a shorter video and then let analysts elaborate upon them as long as they liked. Apparently this was not the case. The video lasted 30 minutes, and it ran without the interruptions of either commercial breaks - as did Welles’ The War of the Worlds - or commentaries by the analysts.

The public reaction was just what the channel management had intended. But it still remains a mystery what the goal of this large-scale trick was and what specifically Giorgi Arveladze and his team had in mind.

/Georgian Times/

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