Moldova: Steps towards Preventing Media Ownership Concentration

media concentration

The Independent Journalism Centre (IJC), a SEENPM member, sent on 28th of March to the Presidency, the Parliament and the Government a set of recommendations for measures to be undertaken by the authorities in order to counter the phenomenon of concentration of media ownership.

Among them – adopting a new Audiovisual Code and amending the Law on Advertisement, the Competition Law and the Law on the Government.According to one of the recommendations, the draft of the new Audiovisual Code shall be urgently adopted in the Republic of Moldova. To counter the mass-media concentration, the document shall contain a number of essential provisions, such as: lowering the number of audiovisual licences that a person may hold – from 5 to 2 licences; prohibiting an owner from holding more than one licence for a broadcasting service with national coverage; limiting the market share that an owner may hold to a percentage that ensures the economic efficiency, without generating dominant and unfair competition situations; identifying the audience measurer as a result of a public auction, under the control of the Coordinating Council of the Audiovisual and of the Competition Council.

The amendment of the Law on Advertisement might have a real impact on countering the phenomenon of concentration. The mass-media experts consider that the broadcast of advertisement exclusively in Romanian language would be an additional barrier to the foreign advertisement which illegally penetrates the local market. At the same time, such a fact would encourage an increased amount of original advertisement products, as well as of marketing services.

Among the proposed measures, an income tax of 90% for the companies that do not have a distinct activity on the TV market of Republic of Moldova, but gain a revenue on this market. Another recommendation proposes a tax of 50% for the advertisement of the companies which rebroadcast foreign contents free of charge or at low prices. The experts believe that such measures would discourage the companies from rebroadcasting, and the respective resources need to be collected within a special fund and be further directed to the development of the Moldovan TV industry. The set of proposed measures also includes the need for defining the state commercial advertisement and for setting the required tools for its equitable distribution among the mass-media.According to the authors, the Competition Law shall contain provisions regulating the phenomenon of concentration on the mass-media market and establish more drastic limits for mass-media concentration, nearly 25-35 percent, following the European good practices.

At the same time, the Law on Government would have a larger contribution to countering the concentration of media ownership, if it provided for the establishment of an Agency for Public Communication. Such an institution would have the role to improve the deficient communication between the authorities and the citizens, as a result of, among others, developing and implementing a strategy for permanent and appropriate information of the public.

This set of recommendations were developed after examining and synthesizing the opinions expressed within the Campaign Stop concentration! which is still being conducted by the IJC.

The media experts and the journalists who expressed their viewpoints claimed that the threat of ownership concentration for the pluralism of the mass-media is still present, despite the fact that broadcasters are compelled now to make known the names of mass-media owners. A range of political and economic circles still exploit their dominant positions for shaping the public opinion, misusing the national legislation (the Audiovisual Code (Art. 7 paragraph 5, Art. 23 paragraph 3 point. B, etc.), the Law on Advertisement (Art. 7), the Competition Law (Art. 11 paragraph 1), whose provisions prohibit the concentration, but do not contain any tools or levers for preventing and countering it, neither sanctions for the infringement of the legislation.

Source: Media Azi