The need to promptly adopt a new Broadcasting Code with specific provisions aimed to reduce and not allow concentration in broadcasting; amendment of the Law on Advertising and its transformation into a real instrument for combating unfair competition on the advertising market; inclusion into the Law on Competition of provisions referring to and regulating concentration on the media market – these were the main topic discussed at a public debate organized by the Independent Journalism Center, a SEENPM member organization. The event took place on Tuesday, April 19, under the headline “Reduction of concentration in mass media. Recommendations by the EU and civil society.”
Representatives of the Presidential Administration, the Parliament, and the Government, members of the Parliamentary Commission for mass media, the Broadcasting Coordinating Council (BCC), and the Competition Council, media experts, publishers, journalists of local and national outlets, other participants in the public debate discussed possible solutions to reduce concentration in mass media. In this context, they analyzed the conclusions of the Council of the EU on this issue, as well as other relevant recommendations, which appear in the Moldova-EU Association Agreement and in other international documents.
IJC executive director Nadine Gogu, who moderated the event, said upon opening the public debate that the IJC had launched a “Stop concentration!” campaign, having asked several media experts and journalists to share their opinions about the actions that could reduce this phenomenon. Their opinions were generalized and used as basis for formulating a set of recommendations that the IJC sent to the Presidential Administration, the Parliament, and the Government. Regarding the modifications that had been so far introduced into the current Broadcasting Code, Nadine Gogu found that they were inefficient and that a new code needs be adopted.
Vladimir Hotineanu, chairman of the Parliamentary Commission for mass media, mentioned that the draft new code had been discussed in public hearings with participation of media experts. So far, it has been approved by the Government, the National Integrity Commission, and the Parliamentary Commission on legal issues, appointments and immunities. “There is now, however, another problem,” Vladimir Hotineanu mentioned, saying that the authors of the draft law are no longer Members of Parliament and so they cannot present this legislative initiative in a plenary meeting. According to Hotineanu, the Parliamentary Commission for mass media has finished work on the draft, but the parliamentary group of the Liberal Party should delegate another MP instead of the authors in order to propose it for voting in the first reading.
Media expert Ion Bunduchi also spoke about the need to adopt a new code. He reminded that in 2015 the Broadcasting Code was amended, and as the result the names of media owners and beneficiaries were made public. However, this modification of the Code did not solve the problem of concentration, because it still does not stipulate “to what extent media owners can concentrate their properties in broadcasting.” In this sense, the new Broadcasting Code will include concrete provisions, Bunduchi said.
On the other hand, BCC member Mariana Onceanu-Hadarca thought that “in the issue of concentration, the number of licenses can be just a complementary detail,” while “the main elements are the capital market, the share on the capital market, and the audience share on the market.”
How could modifications to the Law on Advertising reduce concentration in mass media? An attempt to answer this question was made by Elena Cristian, senior consultant in the Ministry of Justice: “In 2014, the Ministry of Justice developed a draft law on advertising, which was sent for consultation to the civil society. The ministry then decided to stop promoting the draft law, because it wasn’t clear whether it was necessary. Now, we find that this draft is very necessary,” said the Ministry of Justice representative, who appealed to the civil society to come up with concrete proposals in order to prepare a new draft law that would be “beneficial for the entire society.”
As for the Law on Competition, media expert Petru Macovei believed that the civil society has only two recommendations for its improvement. The first is to introduce into the Law on Competition provisions directly concerning concentration on the media market, because, according to members of the Competition Council, the law does not contain clear stipulations regarding concentration on the media market. The second proposal consists in establishing more drastic limits for concentration on the media market, which should not exceed 25%.
Emil Gutu, deputy chairman of the Competition Council, welcomed the proposals voiced at the debates and agreed that the Law on Competition needs to be amended.
According to Adrian Lebedinschi, deputy chairman of the Parliamentary Commission for mass media, the Liberal Party should, within 10 days, delegate an MP to present the draft of the new Broadcasting Code to the plenum of the Parliament, so that in the next two months all amendments could be collected and, by early September, the draft law could be ready for voting in the second reading.
“It is a very optimistic scenario,” concluded Nadine Gogu, the executive director of the IJC.
This public debate has been possible due to the generous help of the American people offered through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The opinions expressed here belong to authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of the USAID or the U.S. Government.
The article was originally published by the Independent Journalism Center.