The National Media Development Program for 2023-2026 and the Action Plan for its implementation were voted on by the Parliament at its meeting on July 7. The documents contain a series of measures to be implemented in the coming years to ensure the sustainable development of the media and to implement the provisions of the National Media Development Concept of the Republic of Moldova.
The program is structured around three general objectives: the creation of a sufficient and effective legal framework, the establishment of a legal and economic framework to ensure sustainability and editorial independence, and the initiation of a process of professionalization of the sector to meet the needs and challenges of editorial staff.
Several specific objectives and activities are foreseen to achieve the general objectives, such as the estimation of impact and risks, the establishment of institutions that will implement the measures, and monitoring and evaluation procedures. Among other things, the authorities plan to expertly review the Law on the Press and the provisions regulating the activity of media service providers in Gagauzia, as well as draft new laws. A register of media institutions would also be approved. Legislative provisions will also be drafted to ensure transparency of funding sources and their owners, as well as tax facilities.
On the other hand, the National Bureau of Statistics would set up a mechanism to collect and publicly present annual statistical data on the actual situation in the media sector. Several measures concern the work of the Broadcasting Council and Teleradio-Moldova.
The government also aims to ensure a “maximum match” between demand and supply of skills in the media market, further develop optional media education courses in schools and implement an optional course in universities, strengthen the work of the Press Council and the TRM ombudsman, and address the problem of unused editorial offices in Casa Presei and Casa Radio. The list of objectives also includes the creation of professional associations in the field, including employers’ associations, to negotiate the annual minimum wage for employees.
The Broadcasting Council (BC) approved the rules for organizing the competition to select the company that will measure audience share and market share from 2024 to 2029 at its meeting on July 14. Based on the document, the BC will initiate the procedure for the election of the members of the competition committee who will select the measurer. The regulation also stipulates the powers and functioning of the committee, the procedure for organizing and running the competition, and details of the conclusion of contracts.
According to the approved document, the contest commission is composed of nine members and two observer-members, six of whom are proposed by audiovisual media service providers under the jurisdiction of the Republic of Moldova who are beneficiaries of the current audience and market share measurement system. Three other members will be proposed by advertising distributors, also beneficiaries of the current system. And the BC will appoint two observers from among its members, who will have no voting rights.
The main tasks of the Commission will be to research the market of the audience share and market share measurement institutions; to draw up and approve the Terms of Reference, which will contain qualification requirements and other mandatory information; to draw up and approve the invitation to the specialized institutions to participate in the contest; to organize the contest; to announce the results and to provide clarifications to the audience share and market share measurement institutions on the Terms of Reference and other documents issued by the Contest Commission.
The procedure for organizing the competition for the selection of the measurer involves placing the notice of organization on the BC page and sending invitations to companies in the sector at least two months before the day of the opening of the tenders. The tenders will be opened at a public meeting, and the participants will present their applications at another public meeting to evaluate them. The regulation also obliges the measurer to provide the BC quarterly and free-of-charge audience reports, with contracts with beneficiaries being concluded for a period of five years.
BC Vice-President Aneta Gonta says that the new regulation “has several new elements, the most important being the possibility of self-regulation of the field, which means that of the nine members of the commission, six will be proposed by the providers benefiting from the current audience measurement system. According to her, the need for unanimity of voting will be able to solve the problem of the monopoly that has existed until now, by not allowing a single company to delegate members to the commission.”
The Gagauziya Radio Television (GRT) Supervisory Board has announced the holding of the competition for the position of the company’s executive director on August 14. According to a press release from the institution, candidates had the opportunity to submit their applications until July 28.
Among the main requirements for participants are holding citizenship of the Republic of Moldova, residing in Gagauzia, knowledge of the Gagauz language, higher education, and experience, as well as a high level of skills in the field of organization of administrative and management activities. Candidates are not allowed to be politically active, party members, public officials, or private media service providers.
It is recalled that the position of GRT’s executive director became vacant after Vadim Anastasov, the company’s director, resigned on June 20 without giving any reason. At present, the interim is being held by the institution’s chief engineer, Iaroslav Bulgaru.
The Broadcasting Council (BC) fined the media service distributor Smart Network a total of 14,000 lei for failing to comply with the offer of retransmitted programs and to submit to the authority contracts with copyright and related rights holders.
The company concerned and the distributor Uplink were also publicly warned for failing to comply with the proportion of content broadcast and subtitled in Romanian in their schedules of retransmitted TV channels. Three other distributors were publicly warned for failing to comply with the obligation to retransmit must-carry TV services.
The BC ordered the monitoring of the activities of media service distributors Smart Network, Uplink, Raznet, Andridan Impex, Excelentercom, Teodad, Jilanste, Interqinet, Sebisat, SVstadard, Revafarcom, and Coscomsat on January 20, 2023. According to the report, monitoring was carried out between May and June, based on several provisions of the Audiovisual Media Services Code (AMSC).
According to the findings, none of the audiovisual media service distributors concerned have recorded any violations in terms of protecting the national audiovisual space. Also, some of them retransmitted TV programs in compliance with copyright and related rights, while others respected the retransmission of must-carry TV services.
The decisions to fine and publicly warn the distributors of audiovisual media services were taken by unanimous vote, and the meeting of the BC on June 30 was chaired by the institution’s Vice-President Aneta Gonta.
TV stations Mega TV, Familia, Exclusiv TV, Canal 5, R Live TV, Vocea Basarabiei TV, PEH TV, Cinema 1, and ITV were publicly warned for the fact that journalists committed deviations from the rules of oral expression during news bulletins, political talk shows, entertainment and product placement programs broadcast between June 6-30. The decision was made on July 14.
According to the Council, the monitoring of TV channels on linguistic correctness of expression was carried out by Viorica Molea, university lecturer, PhD in philology. The monitoring revealed that grammatical errors predominate in broadcasts, Russian language mistakes, anacolutha (discontinuity in expression), confusion, prolix, and equivocal expression persist. Also, conjunctions and prepositions are often used incorrectly.
The monitoring of the program services of audiovisual media service providers concerning the protection of linguistic and cultural-national heritage is foreseen in the Action Plan of the BC for 2023. According to the Audiovisual Media Services Code, “media service providers shall ensure compliance with the orthographic, orthoepic, morphological and syntactic norms of the Romanian language and other broadcast languages in audiovisual programs.”
Similar monitoring took place in the autumn of 2022 when another five TV stations were publicly warned.
Several media service distributors in ATU Gagauzia were fined for the first time by the BC at its meeting on July 6, for failing to protect the national audiovisual space and for operating without a permit. The total amount of sanctions imposed is 186,000 lei.
According to the BC, the authority’s members imposed sanctions of 100,000 lei on distributors Oguzsatlink and ILK HALK TELEVIZIONU, which retransmitted informative and analytical programs of TV channels from the Russian Federation and Belarus in violation of Article 17 of the Code of Audiovisual Media Services (CAMS), which refers to the failure to protect the national audiovisual space.
Oguzsatlink SRL was fined 50,000 lei for the retransmission of TV programs from Pervii Kanal, NTV, Rossia 1, RBK, Rossia 24, and Belarus 24. ILK HALK TELEVIZIONU, likewise, retransmits TV programs banned by law from Krasnaia Linia, NTV, Rossia 24, Belarus 24, and was thus also fined 50,000 lei. Distributors must stop broadcasting programs that violate the country’s information security within 24 hours, warns the Broadcasting Council.
They have also been fined for operating without a retransmission authorization or broadcasting license. Oguzsatlink retransmits, contrary to the law, 58 television media services, and ILK HALK TELEVIZIONU – 37. Both broadcasters have been fined 19,000 lei each for operating without a license from the BC and are to legalize their activity within 15 working days.
At the same time, ILKHALK TELEVIZIONU was also fined 19,000 lei for broadcasting the TV channel Pervyi Narodny without a broadcasting license.
Another distributor, Steel Trading Group, was fined 29,000 lei for operating without a broadcasting license in Glodeni. It, too, has 15 working days to legalize its activity.
The BC decided to sanction the public company Gagauzia Radio Televizionu, founder of Gagauzia TV, with a fine of 15,000 lei (750 euro) for repeated violation of the provisions of the Audiovisual Media Services Code on the broadcasting of local programs in Romanian. The decision was taken at the meeting of June 9, 2023, by unanimous vote.
According to the data of the BC rapporteur, the monitoring of the TV station Gagauzia TV was carried out between April 17-23, 2023. The results of the monitoring attested to the compliance with the number of hours of the local content broadcast, according to the status of the regional media provider, as well as their broadcasting during peak viewing hours. On the other hand, Gagauzia TV broadcast less than 25% of local audiovisual programs in Romanian, the report said.
The chairperson of the BC proposed a minimum fine, arguing that, in dynamics, the situation at this station is positive.
Orizont TV was fined 5,000 lei (250 euro) on June 9 by the Broadcasting Council. The sanction was imposed for a one-sided approach to topics and a lack of balance of opinions in the news-analytical program “Puls“ of 19 April 2023, moderated by Alexei Lungu, a press release from the BC said.
Following the monitoring of the program, the BC found that the opinion of the three guests on the set focused on criticizing the current government‘s initiatives. The report noted that “it was necessary to present the main opposing views in a balanced way. The authors of the report also found that the moderator‘s statements and provocative questions supported the position of the guests on the set and did not ensure a balance of opinions.
According to the BC, “the moderator did not consider the fact that ensuring accurate information implies the presence of the opposing viewpoint, and its absence in the program does not exempt the moderator from ensuring impartiality.
For a similar violation, the station was sanctioned with a public warning in April 2023.
BC has fined Orizont TV and TV9 7,000 lei each for failing to comply with its general program service concepts. The decisions were taken at a meeting on July 28.
According to the BC monitoring report, Orizont TV showed 28% of programs made in EU Member States in the “Production of other producers” section but broadcast 47.33%. More than 31% of them are made by producers from EU states, and almost 16% – serials from the Russian Federation. In terms of purchased programs, concerning those made by suppliers not under the jurisdiction of the Republic of Moldova (films and serials, including documentaries, of US origin), the TV service indicates 26%, but 8.43% were broadcast – programs of NTV from the Russian Federation. The monitoring also found deviations in news and analytical programs, films, and other types of programs, as well as discrepancies in the broadcasting of educational and cultural programs.
BC member Ruslan Mihalevschi, who came up with the proposal to initiate the control, said that the programs previously broadcast by TV6 and Orhei TV had been transferred by contract to Orizont TV, which he said was “an aggravating factor”.
On the other hand, TV9 broadcast insufficient own programs, 0% news programs, and a higher volume of retransmitted programs. Among other things, the BC found that more than half of the channel’s programs were retransmitted/pre-broadcast/purchased programs and films – 52.82%, compared to the indicated volume of 32.96%.
Although TV9 did not have programs from other media service providers under the jurisdiction of the Republic of Moldova in its design, the station broadcast more programs from the provider Exclusiv Media.
In addition, according to the structure of the service, news and analytical programs were supposed to make up more than 10%, but these were missing during the monitoring period. Films were supposed to account for 26.04%, the control showed almost 37%.
Jurnal TV has been sanctioned with a public warning for failing to comply with the legal provision that information must be verified and presented impartially and in good faith. The decision was taken by a vote of four members of the Broadcasting Council (BC) at a meeting on July 28.
On June 26, the authority received a petition from the Trans-Oil group of companies alleging that the evening of June 21, during the program “Secrets of Power” on Jurnal TV, moderated by Alexandru Cozer, had “seriously violated” freedom of expression, the Code of Ethics for Journalists and the Audiovisual Media Services Code. The petitioner also claimed that false and distorted information and value judgments without factual basis were presented when the moderator stated that “Trans-Oil is, in fact, Plahotniuc’s company” and “part of the Trans-Oil money goes to Plahotniuc and ensures his existence, while part of this money goes to some political parties that declare themselves in opposition.” The representative of the Trans-Oil group of companies claims that this denigrates their image and causes them considerable damage and that the journalist Alexandru Cozer has damaged their right to dignity and professional reputation.
In response, Alexandru Cozer invited Vaja Jhashi, CEO and founder of Trans-Oil Group, to participate in the 28 June broadcast to give him the right of reply. He did not accept the invitation and, according to BC’s findings, in the absence of a pre-defined text of the denial, Alexandru Cozer repeatedly insisted on the alleged links between Vaja Jhashi and Vlad Plahotniuc.
On the other hand, when asked by BC to comment on the accusations, the company Reforma Art, the owner of Jurnal TV, replied that what was said on the program was within the limits of the right to free expression. “As regards the right to reply, the opportunity was given to choose an acceptable way, including in written form. For this reason, there is no basis for assessing the elements of any misconduct in the actions of Jurnal TV,” according to the response of the representatives of Reforma Art.
Following the monitoring of the case, the BC considered that Jurnal TV had violated the Media Services Code, according to which providers must report a fact or an event correctly and the information must be verified and presented impartially and in good faith. However, the members of the CB stressed that the institution sanctions media companies, not journalists, and withdrawing the broadcast and apologizing – as the petitioner had requested – would fall under freedom of expression, which is not within the powers of the BC.
At the request of the Media Azi portal, journalist and moderator of the show Alexandru Cozer criticized the decision of the Broadcasting Council, describing it as arbitrary and superficial, which he does not accept.
How do hearing-impaired people get informed? The topic was discussed in the July edition of the Media Azi show. There is a community of about 5,000 hearing-impaired people in Moldova. This year, on January 1, amendments to a special regulation came into force, the provisions of which should ensure they are better informed. One of the main changes is that TV stations should place the sign language translator on at least one-third of the screen. In addition, TV channels should simultaneously show the interpreter’s face and hands in sign language when he/she is present at official announcements by the authorities concerning states of emergency, siege and war, official events, and election campaign events.
Media Azi Show guests Aneta Gonta, vice-president of the Broadcasting Council, and Victor Koroli, executive director of the INFONET Alliance, analyze the extent to which these and other provisions are respected.
The Show Media Azi was launched by the Independent Journalism Center (IJC), within the project “Building cohesion in Moldova through promoting social inclusion and diminishing discrimination.” The project is carried out by the IJC as part of the program “Joint Initiative for Equal Opportunities – Phase II,” implemented with the support of the Government of Switzerland.
Parliament approved on 31 July, in second reading, the draft law on the creation of the Center for Strategic Communication and Countering Disinformation. President Maia Sandu’s legislative initiative was supported by 55 PAS MPs. In the first reading the bill was voted on 14 July.
The original version of the draft law was slightly modified and the word “patriot” was removed from the name of the Center.
According to PAS MP Virgiliu Paslariuc, the Center will have the task of strengthening and improving inter-institutional efforts in the fight against disinformation, which is dangerous or can harm national security and jeopardize the achievement of national interests.
The BCS faction opposed the creation of the Center on the grounds that it would “censor and filter social networks.” BCS faction chairman Vlad Batrincea proposed that the draft be removed from the agenda, but the initiative failed to get the required number of votes. In response, the BCS faction announced a boycott of Thursday and Friday’s (July 13 and 14) sittings of Parliament.
The draft law defines, among other things, notions such as strategic communication, disinformation, or foreign actions to manipulate information and foreign interference.
The document stipulates that the Center will be headed by a director, appointed to the post by Parliament on the proposal of the President of the Republic of Moldova, for a five-year term, with the possibility of appointment for another term. The director of the Center will be selected through a public competition, announced and organized by the President of the Republic of Moldova, in accordance with a regulation approved by decree. The Director will be assisted by a deputy, appointed by the Head of State on the proposal of the Director of the Center. The institution would have 24 employees.
A college of 11 members will also be set up within the Center, comprising the Director, the Deputy Director, senior officials from the Center, a representative appointed by the Presidency, the Parliament and the Government, and three representatives of civil society. In its meetings, the College will examine issues relating to the organization of the Center’s work, the resolution of urgent problems, and the professional evaluation of the management of the institution.
Parliament, through the relevant standing committees, will exercise parliamentary control over the Center’s work, in accordance with their rules.
Earlier, the Independent Journalism Center (IJC) announced in an opinion that it supports the initiative to institutionalize strategic communication mechanisms as an integral part of the system of ensuring national security but considers that the initiative to create the “Patriot” Center needs to be revised and improved: “The institutionalized strategic communication mechanism is incompatible with simplistic approaches aimed at solving complex and systemic problems,” the IJC opinion stated.
The authorities want to change the definition of misinformation in the Audiovisual Media Services Code. The initiative is set out in a draft law involving several amendments to the act, which was registered in parliament in early July.
Disinformation is currently defined in the Media Services Code as the intentional dissemination of false information created to harm a person, social group, organization, or state security. According to the draft law, the term would be defined as the intentional dissemination of verifiably false or misleading information created to harm national security.
In the draft’s background note, the authors explain that the concept of disinformation applies to the activity of spreading false information of such nature as to harm the interests of the whole of society, related to the right to correct information, and that the use of the instrument of disinformation affects both personal and national interests. On the other hand, concerning the dissemination of false information affecting a person, MEPs argue that the provisions of Article 70 of the Contravention Code, which refers to slander, i.e., the knowing dissemination of false information defaming another person, should be applied.
The initiators of the bill argue that the proposed amendments would allow for better enforcement of rules on combating disinformation, as well as the protection of minors, the functioning of the Broadcasting Council, and others.
The Moldovan government has accumulated some “backlogs” in the implementation of the new law on advertising, which has been more than six months since it entered into force, according to an analysis published by the Independent Journalism Center (IJC) on July 25.
According to the IJC analysis, the Moldovan government has not fulfilled its obligation to adopt regulations on the Public Service Announcements Council by April 8, 2023. “This state of affairs is delaying the process of correct and effective implementation of the provisions of the new law on advertising, creating a deadlock in the exploitation of public interest messages,” the authors of the analysis state. At the same time, they warn that the Government’s “backlog” creates the possibility of allowing dissonance in the regulations to be contained in the administrative normative acts concerning public interest messages, which are on the table of other authorities.
The IJC reviews the efforts of the Competition Council and the Broadcasting Council, aimed at improving knowledge of the advertising market, adjusting regulatory acts to the provisions of the new law, and improving administrative practices in this segment.
In this context, the authors propose a series of recommendations for the authorities, aimed at ensuring the effective implementation of the new Law on advertising, as well as improving the monitoring and control of compliance with the advertising legislation. Among other things, the IJC recommends that the Government of the Republic of Moldova adopt, as a matter of urgency, regulations on the structure, constitution, organization, and functioning of the Council on Public Service Announcements.
So far, national legislation does not contain any leverage to strengthen the financial sustainability of private media institutions. A new draft law, which has not yet been registered in Parliament, could remedy this situation.
According to the authors of the document, the creation of a fund to support the media has become particularly urgent in the context of the crises caused by the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. The initiative aims to develop media pluralism, support media projects and strengthen the editorial and economic independence of the press.
The main institution responsible for implementing the law would be the Ministry of Culture. This institution, according to the document, would have the function of approving annually the list of priority areas for subsidizing media institutions, organizing and conducting competitions for grant applicants, and monitoring/evaluating how the grants have been used.
Mandatory conditions for an institution to participate in the competition for the allocation of the Fund’s grants would be that it must be registered in the Public Register of Media Institutions, which would be maintained by the Public Services Agency; comply with the provisions of the Code of Ethics of Journalists of the Republic of Moldova; have been working in the field for at least one year; have no arrears in the payment of taxes and fees; are not in insolvency or liquidation proceedings; have not been repeatedly sanctioned during the last calendar year by the Broadcasting Council with a fine of 10,000 lei or more.
According to the legislative initiative, public audiovisual media service providers, media institutions financed from the public budget, departmental media institutions, periodicals with advertising and/or erotic character, and media institutions founded by political parties will not be eligible for subsidies.
It should be noted that the financial means of the fund are equivalent to 1/3 of the budget of the national public media service provider for the year in which the allocation of subsidies is planned. For example, in 2023, the TRM budget is 144 million lei. These are approved by the annual State Budget Law.
The legislature has voted to limit the share of dominance in the formation of public opinion to 10%, according to a draft law amending the Audiovisual Media Services Code, approved on July 14.
Currently, a natural or legal person is considered to have a dominant position in the formation of public opinion if the audience share of audiovisual media services allocated to it exceeds 35% of the market. With the approved amendments, the share is to be reduced to 25%.
The initiators of the amendment claim that this will allow limiting the excessive influence of private interests on public life and the implementation of the de-legalization measures, foreseen in a plan of the National Commission for European Integration.
The draft amendment to the CSMA was voted on in its first reading, supported by 56 MPs, and contains several amendments to the audiovisual law. According to Liliana Nicolaescu-Onofrei, chairwoman of the Parliament’s media committee and one of the authors of the legislative initiative, it is a question of “introducing provisions that would allow better application of the rules on combating disinformation, protection of minors, functioning of the Broadcasting Council, limitation of the audience share regarding the dominant position in the formation of public opinion. The proposed amendments will contribute to making the work of the audiovisual regulator more efficient, as well as to limiting the undue influence of private interests on public life and to the implementation of de-legalization measures.”
The Gagauziya Radio Television (GRT) administration is unhappy that GRT will be excluded from the list of providers that are granted the possibility to be included without competition in the multiplex with national coverage. The initiative is provided for in the draft law to amend the Audiovisual Media Services Code (AMSC), voted in its first reading on July 13. In response, Liliana Nicolaescu-Onofrei, co-author of the bill, describes as “a mistake” this facility previously granted to GRT as a regional public provider. Among other things, the only provider that will continue to be granted unconditional and non-competitive access to the multiplex with national coverage will be the national public provider – Teleradio-Moldova (TRM).
In response, the chairman of the GRT’s Observation Council, Mihail Vlah, described the draft law as “an act of vandalism by the central government” and called a special meeting of the Council. “If they exclude unconditional access to multiplexes, they should do it for both public providers or at least justify the decision,” Mihail Vlah told Media Azi.
The acting director of GRT, Iaroslav Bulgaru, also condemned the Parliament’s decision: “It is not clear to me based on which criteria GRT was excluded. How are we different from TRM? I believe that these decisions are intended to put Gagauzia in a corner.”
In her reply, Liliana Nicolaescu-Onofrei stressed the difference between TRM and GRT. She said that although both are public providers, Gagauziya Radio Television is a regional provider, which does not necessarily guarantee the transmission of these services throughout the country. “For GRT, the option of being included in the multiplex with regional coverage should be sought,” she told the Media Azi portal.
According to data on the website of the Broadcast Council (BC), the coverage of multiplex A, according to the Ministry of Economic Development and Digitization of the Republic of Moldova, is over 99% of the territory of the Republic of Moldova.
Politician Cristian Rizea has again been forced by the court “to deny false and defamatory information that harms the honor, dignity and professional reputation” of Media Alternativa, the owner of TV8. In a 6 July decision by the Chisinau Court, the former Romanian MP, convicted of corruption, was also ordered to delete several materials published in 2021 on his YouTube channel.
According to the magistrates’ ruling, false and defamatory information about the Media Alternativa association was published by Cristian Rizea over several days in September 2021 on his Instagram and YouTube accounts. The posts’ targets include journalists Natalia Morari, Mariana Rata, and Angela Gonta, as well as reports on the work of the TV channel TV8, sources of funding for the TV station and amounts of money allegedly embezzled from grants.
Rizea is obliged to publish a denial admitting that the information released in the public space “is false, lying, denigrating and lacking factual basis, damaging the reputation of TV8.” In addition, the politician must delete the posts published on the days in question from his public YouTube channel.
The decision is subject to appeal to the Chisinau Court of Appeal. Cristian Rizea was also ordered to deny false and defamatory information against journalist Mariana Rata in June 2022.
A claim by former Democratic Party (PDM) deputy Eugeniu Nichiforciuc against the news portal Deschide.md for articles published in May 2020 has been rejected by the Chisinau Court as unfounded.
Eugeniu Nichiforciuc asked the court to find defamatory information that harms his honor, dignity, and professional reputation, as well as the denial by the editorial staff of Deschide.md of information published on the website, as well as compensation for moral damage and legal costs.
In one case, the politician was unhappy that the news portal Deschide.md had published an article containing a video showing that he had been filmed without being informed and without being asked for his consent, according to the complainant. In the second material, the journalists published drone footage of the former Democrat MP’s properties. Following the publication, Nichiforciuc threatened the Deschide.md portal with legal action, according to the news agency.
The ruling can be appealed to the Chisinau Court of Appeal within 30 days of its pronouncement.