You are here

„The same faces, the same speeches”. What the CEC decided about the organization of electoral debates on radio and television

01 September 2020
277 reads
Televisions have the right to choose whether to organize their own debates with candidates in the November presidential elections or to broadcast those of the public station Moldova 1. This is a provision of the regulation on the media coverage of the electoral campaign, approved by the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) on September 1. Earlier, the Broadcasting Council (BC) proposed that only the public broadcaster should organize the debates, and the other channels should rebroadcast them live.

At the CEC meeting, the CEC member Maxim Lebedinschi clarified that the BC’s proposal on the live rebroadcast of public debates came in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. “This proposal has been slightly adjusted [by BC – editor’s note]. Thus, we give broadcasters the opportunity to choose one of two options – either to rebroadcast the debates organized by the public television or to organize their own debates, which does not prevent them from organizing debates however they want, of course, in compliance with health safety measures,” explained Maxim Lebedinschi.

REGULATION on the coverage of the electoral campaign for the presidential elections of November 1, 2020 in the mass media of the Republic of Moldova

Electoral debates
41. In the presidential election campaign, national media service providers have the obligation, and local and regional providers have the right, to organize electoral debates. In order to reduce the risk of infection and spread of the Covid-19 virus, the electoral debates for the presidential elections of November 1, 2020, organized by the public television provider, may be rebroadcast live by other television stations, which does not infringe on the right of other media service providers that announced the BC of their will to cover the electoral campaign under the conditions of item 9, to organize their own electoral debates.

The document also stipulates that the organizers of online electoral debates must be guided by the same rules for organizing debates as media service providers.

“THE CEC’s DECISION WILL AFFECT PLURALISM OF OPINION”

Nadine Gogu, executive director of the Independent Journalism Center (IJC), says the CEC’s decision will affect pluralism of opinion. “We can expect some of the stations to give up their own debates and rebroadcast those of Moldova 1. In this case, we will see the same faces on most screens, giving the same speeches, and voters will have no other options to find answers to the many questions they would like to ask in this electoral campaign,” Nadine Gogu commented for Media Azi.

The IJC director believes that some political forces may be behind this decision. “That provision is to the detriment of the public and to the advantage of some politicians, which leads us to believe that behind the good intentions declared by the broadcasting regulator there could be the obscure interests of certain politicians who usually feel uncomfortable in debates on other stations than the stations affiliated to their parties or the public television provider,” added Nadine Gogu.

Petru Macovei, executive director of the Association of Independent Press (AIP), considers that this proposal is politically motivated and aims to protect certain presidential candidates from the awkward questions of journalists from unaffiliated media. “In practical terms, I guess that the televisions controlled by PSRM will not organize their own debates, and the candidate of the current governing forces will not attend the debates of the televisions that are not affiliated to the ruling party...,” he wrote in a post on Facebook.

The director of the newspaper Ziarul de Garda, Alina Radu, also reacted critically to this provision. “I think a protest needs to be delivered to the BC, or CEC, or TVM, or all three institutions,” the journalist wrote on the same social network.

BC VERSUS CEC

In the opinion of the BC President Dragos Vicol, the Regulation on the media coverage of the electoral campaign should be approved based on a concept that is to be developed by the BC as the institution with competence in the field. “Under the old code of audiovisual media services (Broadcasting Code) we, the Broadcasting Council, were responsible for approving the Concept on the media coverage of the electoral campaign. Based on this Concept, the CEC approved the Regulation. Now the CEC approves the Regulation without being based on our concept. The CEC only sends for approval, and the approval can often be formal, sent at the last minute. The fact that the BC was excluded from the process by no longer having to elaborate the Concept causes a lot of harm,” Dragos Vicol said.