Between the “Phantom Structure” and “Very Specific Decisions”. Disputes at the TRM Supervisory and Development Council

A member of Teleradio-Moldova Supervisory and Development Council (SDC) accused the entity it belongs to of failing to fulfill its obligations and described the SDC as a “phantom structure.” Corneliu Popovici, who also refers to the recommendations from the Media Forum held in late 2023, says that the SDC “needs to prove its usefulness” in the process of reforming and developing the public TV channel. On the other hand, Arcadie Gherasim, president of the Council, affirms that some objections against the structure headed by him “have been invented” and rejects LIVE broadcasting of the meetings as a solution for ensuring transparency of the SDC’s activity.

Popovici: “I Believe the SDC Has Become a Phantom Structure”

Corneliu Popovici, appointed as a member of the TRM Supervisory and Development Council from the opposition, published two posts on his Facebook page in February, listing a number of accusations against the structure which he is a part of. They were posted shortly after the criticism referring to the national selection for the Eurovision Song Contest 2024. “We regret that it happened the same way as during the previous years, and the colleagues from the TRM Supervisory and Development Council did not assume a proactive position in communicating with the audience and did not express their opinion regarding the cases where the Teleradio-Moldova company’s activity became the subject of public disputes,” Popovici wrote. Among other things, he mentions “deficient management, lack of decision-making transparency, and the toxic atmosphere within the company.”

Contacted by Media Azi on the phone, Corneliu Popovici has added that, in his opinion, the SDC “fails to prove its usefulness in the process of reforming Teleradio-Moldova.” He also mentions a SDC meeting held after he had published his public post during which he allegedly faced criticism from his colleagues. “I was accused of tarnishing the Council’s image with these statements. I just confirmed what our colleagues from the Media Forum had been saying, but this is not an allegation, it is a statement of fact. I believe the SDC has become a phantom structure, and that it virtually does not fulfill its obligations related to supervision and development of the processes at TRM. Because of Mr. Gherasim’s management, the SDC has become a structure which formally approves some decisions coming from the executive management, especially those related to managing certain resources. I’m referring here to the two-million budget for the New Year’s broadcast which has stirred a lot of discussion in society. I did not intend to approve such a decision without knowing what exactly this money would be spent for. As far as I’m concerned, the expenses have not been registered so far either. Second, I was against the biased internal assessment process which was actually a sort of revenge against some inconvenient persons from TRM. In this case, the SDC did not provide any receptive reaction either,” Popovici adds.

He repeatedly refers to the statements made at the Media Forum in 2023. In particular, according to the resolution, “The Supervisory and Development Council of the national public media service provider failed to assume a proactive position in 2023 in its communication with the public, and also failed to make its opinion to be heard even in the cases when the Teleradio-Moldova company’s activity became the subject of public disputes.”

“I guess the SDC should react to the matters that concern society, such as Eurovision, where there were organizational issues. The SDC must foresee risks, monitor the processes within the TRM, and contribute to its development instead of merely approving, as it was doing in late 2023,” Popovici concludes.

Gherasim: “He Has the Right to Have His Own Opinion”

In his reply, Arcadie Gherasim, president of the Council, says that Popovici has the right to have his own opinion. “We talk quite a lot there. I can’t prevent him from writing or publishing anything, I just warned him that he was breaching the provisions of items G and H of provision 58 of the SDC regulations,” he says to Media Azi, referring to the rules of conduct for the Council members.

Gherasim emphasizes, among other things, that he “did not understand” the statement made by the colleagues at the Media Forum last December: “We believe these are certain objections invented by someone. We have come to this conclusion because no one has consulted us, no one has asked us, and no one has objected to us. Someone out there decided to say we were wasting our time, and so on, and so forth. But when I attended the parliamentary committee the Party of Socialists and Adela Raileanu stated that the SDC was transparent, and our decisions are published on the website. Those who need them find them, and those who don’t make press statements.”

When asked whether broadcasting the meetings live could be a solution for ensuring transparency of the Council’s activity, Gherasim makes it clear he does not find this decision suitable. “No one is forcing us to broadcast them live. Decisions are transparent according to the law on local public administration. And so are our decisions. Which other issues could there be? On what occasion should we broadcast them? We discuss both more public and more private issues, we have contradictory discussions, and we get noisy at times. The decisions we adopt is what matters,” Arcadie Gherasim considers.

Gherasim also comments on the financial decisions, in this case, the expenses for the New Year’s broadcast described by Popovici as exaggerated. “He has no idea how much was spent, he published this figure and wrote that it was a public issue. Finally, I requested a list of all the fees for the New Year’s Eve. We proceeded from the idea that any money should be paid for skilled work. However, we have concluded that unskilled work was also done, and we will analyze the expenses. As to Mr. Popovici, he has never voted on a financial decision, I don’t know why,” he specifies.

In the end, Gerasim states that the SDC makes “rigorous and specific decisions.” “We have other priorities; we make shows, not some farrago of nonsense. We have the task of turning this ‘show-booth’ into a public institution, and we have some very specific decisions. If they are not be implemented, let us return to this discussion then,” he concludes.

Onofrei: “Facebook Discussions Aren’t High-Quality Discussions”

Differences still arise for more than two years after the SDC members were appointed to the Parliament. In 2021, in an interview for Media Azi, Liliana Nicolaescu-Onofrei, president of the Parliamentary Commission for Culture, Education, Research, Youth, Sports, and Media, expressed her hope that TRM would be modernized. “I don’t think it will be easy, but things should change because Teleradio-Moldova as the national public media service provider is supposed to be an example to follow, a TV channel and a radio station to be watched and listened to with great pleasure,” the deputy said more than two years ago. She also added that Arcadie Gherasim, who was voted upon suggestion of the parliamentary majority, was acting independently, and “no one could order him what to do or how things should be done.”

Liliana Nicolaescu-Onofrei currently maintains her position. “None of us, those who voted for them, have the right to interfere with the SDC activity except when we analyze the reports, which takes place once a year. We also make requests whenever necessary, and recently, we’ve had such a request from the opposition. We have received the SDC’s report and will review it by the end of this month. It’s clear that reforming an institution is a really complicated task, especially since you (the SDC members – editor’s note) are faced with the same staff issues, and skilled specialists are hard to find. The SDC and the company management must be able to cope with the mission of public media service providers,” the PAS deputy considers.

In her opinion, “the council is free to hold public meetings.” “I don’t think that Facebook discussions are useful, though. They aren’t high-quality discussions. An attempt was made to settle a labor conflict at the committee, through the mediation of the opposition, at the Parliament. But the Parliament is not supposed to settle labor disputes; it’s the company’s management that has to take care of them. I also see some undercurrents which are not intended for improving the quality of the activity at the institution, but they merely generate contradictory discussions,” the president of the commission concludes.

We would like to reiterate that the new composition of the SDC was approved by the Parliament on November 25, 2021. Media Azi wrote that 81 deputies voted for approving the decision, and the decision to appoint the new composition of the SDC was adopted three weeks after the legislative authority issued the draft law on returning the TRM public company under parliamentary control. According to this decision, Arcadie Gherasim and Sergiu Stanciu, proposed by the parliamentary majority, Corneliu Popovici, proposed by the opposition, and four candidates from civil society – Aurelian Danila, Loretta Handrabura, Cristian Jardan, and Irina Matenco – were to be introduced in the new composition of the SDC. Meanwhile, Jardan refused from his membership and was replaced by the writer Maria Sleahtitchi.

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