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Polemics at the Press Club between Officials of the MITC and Journalists Regarding Transition to Digital Television

23 March 2017
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On Wednesday, 22 March, the Independent Journalism Center organized a press club with the theme “Digital Television: What do we have to gain? What do we have to lose?” The event was attended by representatives of the Ministry of Information Technology and Communications (MITC), “Radiocomunicatii” State Enterprise, the Broadcasting Coordinating Council (BCC), journalists, members of civil society.
Participants discussed the advantages and disadvantages of digitization, the problems faced by national and regional broadcasters, the difficulties that Moldovan citizens will face with transition to digital television.
Referring to the advantages of digitization, the Executive Director “APEL” Association Ion Bunduchi, moderator of the event, said: “I’m not sure how many benefits this transition brought us.” In this context, he recalled that European experts recommended many years ago that "If a country is not ready for transition to digital television, it had better not do it."
MITC Deputy Minister Vitalie Ciolac said that with transition to digital television, Moldovan citizens will be able to receive images of better quality from TV channels. "Currently, the MITC jointly with the Ministry of Finance and with the support of the Government has identified 50 million lei from the State budget in order to provide about 72 thousand disadvantaged families with converters," he said.  When asked how these converters will reach families that lack modern TV sets so they could receive the digital signal, Vitalie Ciolac said that the mechanism has not been developed yet. According to MITC Deputy Minister, such converters will be provided to all 72 thousand disadvantaged families, listed by the Ministry of Labor, Social Protection and Family to receive social allowances in 2017, in accordance with Law no. 133.
Mihai Iacob, Director of "Radiocomunicatii" State Enterprise, referred to the fact that some broadcasters who have been granted broadcasting licenses for multiplex A have not yet concluded contracts with the company that invested in the national multiplex A. This fact delays the announcement of the competition for licenses in multiplex B, as it could lead to more losses for "Radiocomunicatii". Mihai Iacob agreed that the charge of 5,600 euros that broadcasters have to pay currently in multiplex A is very high, but it cannot be reduced, "because more than 200 employees of 'Radiocomunicatii' await their salaries, electricity must be paid, etc.”
Representatives of the media and civil society were of the opinion that the State should get more involved in supporting local televisions, as they should not disappear because of the too large fees that they will have to pay to fill a slot in multiplexes. Director of Media TV from Cimislia, Andrei Bargan, explained to MITC officials that local channels have no advertising in order to cover these exaggerated amounts: "Unfortunately, 15 of the 34 local broadcasters will disappear," he noted.
Vasile Nastase, Director of "Apollo" Association, proposed as a compromise solution to postpone the deadline for payment of the fee by broadcasters with licenses in multiplex A until 1 January 2018, when the transition process ends.
Alexandru Dorogan, member of "APEL" Association, found that although it had been more than ten years since Moldova assumed to switch to digital television, in 2017 citizens are still insufficiently informed about the process. In this context, lawyer Eugen Rabca wondered how much the State invested in the campaign of informing the general public. To that, Victor Pulbere, a representative of the Broadcasting Coordinating Council, head of Control and Digitization Department, said that a tender will soon be announced for advertising spots on the topic.
This press club has been possible due to the generous aid of the American people offered through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The opinions expressed belong to authors and might not reflect the position of the USAID or the U.S. Government.