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Draft Law//Reducing the Share of Local Broadcasting Product Will Maintain the “Harmful and Objectionable Phenomenon of ‘Information Parasitism’”

02 December 2020
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The new draft law amending the Broadcasting Media Service Code contains a series of provisions which, according to the experts, could have a regressive impact on the media sphere in the Republic of Moldova. One of the problems is related to the suggestions regarding the decrease in the amount of mandatory local broadcasting product, the decrease in the share of programs in Romanian, and excluding the obligation to broadcast 50% of European products in case of those purchased abroad. The specialists point out that the suggested steps may stagger the development of local products, and some provisions contradict our state’s commitments to the European Union.

The document was drafted by the PSRM deputies Bogdan Tirdea, Vasile Bolea, and Adrian Lebedinschi, chairman of the parliamentary committee on media issues.

DEPUTIES’ SUGGESTIONS

The parliamentarians suggested reducing the minimum amount of local broadcasting programs for all media service providers.

Thus, according to the document, in the case of project approval, the national media service providers could broadcast at least six hours of local programs, i.e. two hours less than currently required. Regional suppliers would be able to issue such a product an hour less than now – up to three mandatory hours instead of four. Local private providers could broadcast it half as much – at least an hour.

It is also suggested to reduce local broadcasting programs by two hours for each type of media service provider broadcasting radio services. According to the document, the amount of mandatory content in Romanian for local broadcasting services would be reduced by 20% (from 80% to 60%).

The deputies also suggest excluding the provisions according to which at least 50% of broadcasting programs purchased from abroad should originate from the Member States of the European Union or those participating in the European Convention on Transfrontier Television. It is also suggested to exclude the obligation to reserve at least 50% of the broadcasting time of each service for European broadcasting products and works created by independent producers in the Republic of Moldova – at least 10% of the broadcasting time of each service.
In addition, the Socialist deputies intend to amend the obligation for TV and radio music services to contain at least 30% of musical content in Romanian, including 10% of musical content from producers in the Republic of Moldova. The parliamentarians would like to increase the amount of products made by local artists up to 15%, which must be mandatorily broadcast, but have excluded the mention regarding the content in Romanian.

HOW THE AUTHORS OF THE PROJECT MOTIVATE THEIR SUGGESTIONS

When asked about the rationale for reducing the content of the local broadcasting product, Adrian Lebedinschi claimed that most broadcasters in the Republic of Moldova failed to achieve the minimum amount required by the legislation. “Unfortunately, not all of our suppliers are capable of achieving this amount, and we have concluded that at the moment, it would be better to set some requirements they could actually comply with,” Lebedinschi explains.

The parliamentarian also says that the suggestion to reduce the local broadcasting product by about two hours results from the data provided by the BC, according to which, on average, this is the amount radio stations and TV channels cannot reach. “Later, when we find that all the national media service providers are able to produce 8, 10, or 12 hours, or at least about 60% of them could meet such requirements, we will raise the minimum amount,” Adrian Lebedinschi says.

As to broadcasting mandatory quotas of European programs, the deputy insists on liberalization in this sphere, which includes supporting TV channels that lose their viewers and prefer consuming information online. “Through these repressive methods (EU product quotas – ed. note), we encourage people to give up classic TV, but if they give up classic TV, you will have to understand that our national TV dies,” Lebedinschi argues.

Speaking about cultural responsibilities, the deputy affirms that the broadcasters complain about the insufficiency of the local works and are forced to “repeat the same repertoire several times a day.”

MAINTAINING THE PHENOMENON OF “INFORMATIONAL PARASITISM”

Ion Bunduchi, executive director of the Electronic Press Association (APEL), regards several provisions of the deputies’ draft rather critically. He considers that the suggested amendments “discourage” the increase in the amount of local broadcasting programs, recalling that the current quotas established by the law are differentiated and have been previously coordinated by all the stakeholders. “Reducing the local product quotas maintains the harmful and objectionable phenomenon of ‘information parasitism’ and places media service providers in unfair economic conditions. Therefore, some suppliers invest in the development of the local product, and others do without investing by attracting advertising in foreign broadcasting programs which have higher ratings,’ Bunduchi claims.

According to the expert, it should be in the state’s interest to develop the local media product, while the share of at least 80% of the content in Romanian reflects the fact that “82% of Moldovans and Romanians reside in the Republic of Moldova, according to the 2014 census.”

As to musical works, Ion Bunduchi believes that the current provisions are “more realistic and beneficial” in the context of the music products in Romanian. “It is true that certain suppliers complain that 10% of musical works from composers, performers, etc. from the Republic of Moldova are somewhat difficult to accomplish. The 15% quota stipulated in the draft would be even more difficult to achieve,” Ion Bunduchi comments.

Cristina Durnea, the lawyer of the Independent Journalism Center (CJI), also believes that the eventual adoption of these amendments “will have a regressive impact on the broadcasting media legislation.” “The existence of a majority share of programs broadcast in the official language is a common and generally acceptable practice. Moreover, when establishing the broadcasting proportions for the programs, the lawmaker should refer to the social realities derived from the official statistical data. For these reasons, as well as due to the lack of a pertinent justification or at least a minimal argumentation from the project authors, these suggestions cannot be considered suitable for being adopted,” Cristina Durnea affirms.

WHAT SHALL WE DO ABOUT THE COMMITMENTS FROM THE EUROPEAN CONVENTION ON TRANSFRONTIER TELEVISION?

APEL Executive Director also warns the deputies about amending the article on broadcasting the products purchased in the EU, recalling that the Republic of Moldova signed the European Convention on Transfrontier Television, and amending the article “amounts to breaching its commitments.”

Cristina Durnea also states that, by ratifying the Convention, the Republic of Moldova “together with the other signatory parties, assumed an obligation to contribute to achieving the common cultural objectives by reserving a major proportion of broadcasting for European works.” “Therefore, achieving the desideratum of the authors of the draft amendment to the Code will result in the discretionary breach of the commitments assumed by the Republic of Moldova as a signatory state of the European Convention on Transfrontier Television,” the lawyer concludes.

 
Foto: drasler.ru