Moldova: The Parliament Adopted the New Audiovisual Media Services Code

On 26 July, Members of Parliament adopted in final reading the new draft Audiovisual Media Services Code of the Republic of Moldova. The document was adopted by 56 votes, together with other legislative initiatives, according to a press release of the Parliament.

The Audiovisual Media Services Code regulates the editorial independence, protection of national broadcasting environment and transparency of media ownership, inter alia.

Ownership concentration

For example, new draft Code provides that ‘an individual may be the beneficial owner of maximum two generalist television services and/or news services, as well as of maximum two thematic television services’.

At the same time, authors foresaw certain limits of audience share to prevent media domination on the market. In particular, draft Code provides that a beneficial owner may not hold a share of more than 35% of the audience, i.e. no one beneficial owner may have a dominant position in the shaping of public opinion.

New provisions for cable operators and other TV services operators

The document also regulates the offer of media services distributors. For instance, these will be obliged to include at least 50% of television services that are free-to-air and do not have any technical and financial conditioning of media services providers, under the jurisdiction of the Republic of Moldova, including ‘must-carry’ television services (the list of programs that must be present in the cable operators’ broadcasting grid) In addition, television services in Romanian language and services with subtitling/dubbing in Romanian language must constitute at least 50% of the total number of distributed services.

Another obligation refers to the requirement that television services from EU Member States and third states participatory in the European Convention on Transfrontier Television of the Council of Europe should constitute at least 50% of the total number of distributed services.

External opinions

Once passed in the first reading, on 20 April 2018, the draft Audiovisual Media Services Code had opinions from some international institutions. Thus, the Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, experts of the Council of Europe and those of the Freedom House each have formulated a set of assessments and recommendations for draft law improvement. It is not yet certain whether these recommendations were taken into account, as text of the adopted law was published neither in the Official Monitor of the Republic of Moldova nor on the Parliament’s website.

At the beginning of July, the European Parliament voted a resolution on political situation in the Republic of Moldova, in which it expressed concerns about the fact that independent, local and opposition mass-media will encounter difficulties in creating domestic mandatory content due to the lack of resources. The Chairman of Parliamentary Committee for Mass-Media, Vladimir Hotineanu, declared for that related legislative framework, which would allow developing domestic television product, was ready at that time.

The Audiovisual Media Services Code of the Republic of Moldova was developed by national and international experts, as well as representatives of the civil society in the Working Group on improvement of mass-media legislation. The new law will replace the Broadcasting Code, adopted in 2006 and subsequently amended repeatedly through multiple amendments.

According to the authors, the new Code was developed by taking into account the experience of many European countries, the document aiming at adjusting the national mass-media legislation to the European one.

At the same session of 26 July, the Chisinau Parliament maintained the previously expressed vote for the National Concept of Mass-Media Development in the Republic of Moldova, submitted to the head of the state for review. The draft on attracting foreign investments in the field of film productions and other audiovisual works was also voted today in final reading.

The article was republished from Media Azi, the web portal of the Independent Journalism Center (IJC) in Chisinau, Moldova, a SEENPM member organization.