“Media ownership transparency: between monopoly and pluralism” was the heading of the Press Club meeting conducted by the Independent Journalism Center (IJC) on September 19. The event was organized with the support of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) as part of the FHI 360 project “Moldova Partnerships for Sustainable Civil Society”.
Discussions focused on draft law no. 240 on modifying and supplementing the Broadcasting Code, intended to ensure media ownership transparency. The event was attended by journalists, civil society representatives, experts and media consumers, who agreed that the importance of this draft law grows in the context of parliamentary elections expected in the autumn of 2014 and of transition from analog to digital television.
When asked about the likelihood of this draft law to be voted in the second reading, Chiril Lucinschi, head of the specialized committee, said that it would be examined next week at one of the Parliament meetings. Lucinschi also explained that the proposed amendments are focused on two main aspects: disclosure of media owners and the sources of their financial assets. Also, the issue of monopoly, according to him, should be examined by the Competition Council and then drafted as a new law.
Angela Arama, one of the authors of the Broadcasting Code (designed in 2006), believes that there is no need in replacing it with a new Code, but rather in improving the existing one, especially Article 66, which refers to private broadcasters and which should clearly stipulate the number of licenses that can be owned by an individual or a legal entity. “We need to know exactly who direct or shadow owners of media are, who rules over media outlets and manipulates us”, A. Arama said.
Elena Bedros, employee of the National Anticorruption Center, spoke about the Center’s expert opinion report to draft law no. 240, saying that the institution she represents is supportive of the idea of disclosing media owners, but it is at the same time concerned that it might be in conflict with the law on protection of personal data. It should be noted that according to Article 66 of the amended Code, broadcasters must make public the names and citizenship of their owners.
Eugeniu Ribca, expert in media law, was of the opinion that Moldova should assume the principle of media ownership transparency promoted at the European level. It would help reduce monopoly in media and exclude manipulation.
Draft law no. 240 on modifying and supplementing the Broadcasting Code was adopted in the first reading on July 21, 2014, and, according to the current legislation, it is to be voted in the second reading in not longer than 45 days.
The event was organized as part of the Advocacy for Media Ownership Transparency and Access to Information project, implemented by the IJC, which is, in its turn, part of the Moldova Partnerships for Sustainable Civil Society project, implemented by FHI 360.
The organization of this event became possible due to the generous support of the American people, offered through the US Agency for International Development (USAID). The opinions expressed at the event belong to participants and might not reflect the position of the USAID or the US Government.