The hearings were held after the committee in charge had rejected the previous draft law on advertising voted during the first reading three years ago, in October 2018. The current initiative transposes the text of the initial project drafted by the experts from the Independent Journalism Center. “We intend to register an advanced draft law this week, after which a regular, accelerated procedure starts, we hope, because so many consultations have been held... We simply have to make some decision at last. I believe and hope that this autumn, during this session, we will vote on the project in both readings, pursuant to the Regulations,” Dumitru Alaiba explains.
Eugeniu Ribca, a media expert and one of the authors of the document, mentions that the initiative of drafting a new law on advertising belongs to the Independent Journalism Center and started in 2010. According to him, the project is primarily intended for supporting the media in the field of advertising and includes new approaches to the segment of political advertising regulation outside the electoral period. He also refers to his own experience as a media institution administrator: “I have to admit that, on a practical level, we are often treated in a condescending manner, and I can see why: they [advertising suppliers – editor’s note] own the money. We keep trying to protect ourselves, even in the situations I have personally experienced. We are being told to ‘publish the materials’, and sometimes, we are paid in advance, and we can find ourselves in a situation where we have to repay the money because what we get is political advertising instead of commercial. I am in charge of a mass media outlet which has publicly stated: ‘We are not involved in political advertising.’ It causes conflicts. There is another situation when we are given an ad, and the next day, the beneficiary of this ad contacts us and says, ‘Where did you get this advertisement from? Who has allowed you to publish it?’ As the media, we need some civilized relations conforming to European standards. And when I say that we ‘need’ them, I mean that we must have the legislation to protect us as the media,” Eugeniu Ribca declared during the hearings.
According to him, the project’s second direction is related to political advertising currently regulated only during the election period. “This is where certain problems related to political parties’ activities and the money arise; besides, there are some issues related to the media’s interests. To what extent shall we accept different prices, for instance?”Ribca asked.
TV AND RADIO ADVERTISING IS REGULATED, WHEREAS THERE ARE NO RESTRICTIONS ONLINE
In his turn, Octavian Hanganu, Casa Media advertising sales house commercial director, points out the risks of increasing payment process transparency for political advertising through intermediaries. “Previously, political advertising could not be published through intermediation, i.e. political advertising could not be practiced by advertising agencies, sales houses, etc., but only via live broadcasting stations, that is, only the supplier could be involved in political advertising. Within this project, the possibility for advertising agencies and sales houses to practice political advertising emerged. In such cases, various non-transparent issues related to political advertising are possible. When an intermediary appears, an extra margin of money from the payment from the advertising provider to the broadcaster can appear. If the payment comes directly from the party, this process involves no hidden transactions, and when the payment takes place through intermediation, it always generates some possibilities for cheating, concealing the income...” Octavian Hanganu mentioned.
He also emphasized the need to pay more attention to the sphere of Internet advertising. “We need a larger chapter dedicated to online advertising. In fact, TV and radio advertising is rigorously regulated, the Competition Council controls it, the Broadcasting Council controls it, and everything is fine. Outdoor advertising [street advertising – editor’s note.] is also controlled by every authority, including the Mayor’s Office. Everything is regulated. But when it comes to digital, online advertising, there are no regulations. Political ads can be placed wherever and whenever the advertisers choose, there is absolutely no regulation,” Octavian Hanganu argues.
Andrei Jicol, the representative of the Association of Advertising Agencies, remarks that considerable amounts of money reach such large online platforms as Facebook and Google. “Currently, the Internet market is estimated at approximately 5 million Euros, of which, let’s say, Simpals have a million or two. They all go to the United States or Russia, respectively. I have nothing to say against these countries, but it is time we helped local economic entities, because we are extremely small compared to them,” Andrei Jicol mentions.
The current advertising law was adopted in 1997.