At today’s public debate on the bill on audio and audiovisual media services, organized by the parliamentary Committee on Transport, Communications and Environment, experts, associations of journalists and media workers criticized certain parts in the text, which they say will worsen the conditions.
According to the president of the Association of Journalists of Macedonia, Naser Selmani, the smaller amount of money provided for the MRT as a public broadcasting service will prevent it from performing its function in full.
“Public services should inform, educate and entertain. Private TV stations don’t have to do it. It would be good to do it, but they are not obliged. Only MTV has to, but can’t do it if there is smaller amount of money. Do you notice that the news of MRTV start and end with information from Skopje? You will not hear news from other cities until the correspondent network develops. MRTV does not have a correspondent network; at least 100 more people need to be employed – journalists and cameramen,” said Selmani.
He says that opening new channels, for which the government would have to provide money not anticipated in the budget for MRT, will violate the independence of the public broadcasting service.
“New channels will be opened with the new amendments, and on the other hand we are reducing the funds. That provision stating that “if there is a need [for funds], we would spend them on technical equipment”, is a serious invasion of the autonomy of the public service,” said the president of the Association of Journalists of Macedonia.
Lazo Petrushevski, the president of the Council of the Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services (AAAMS), believes that professional employment of Council members will lead to a change in the character of this regulatory body.
“It will be something between an agency and a broadcasting council, it won’t work and it will cause problems,” said Petrushevski.
MRT’s Program Council contested article 46 of the Law, which also refers to financing.
“It says that 0.7 percent of the Budget will be allocated for 2018, and 1 percent up to 2021. This article comprises a paragraph saying that the percentages of paragraph 1 of this article will be realized if this does not disturb the fair allotment of budget funds. We think that this paragraph allows political influence. The percentages are made known but then sugarcoated. We suggest removing of this paragraph,” said Smilka Janevska – Sarkanjac, president of the Program Council.
The Minister of Information Society and Administration, Damjan Mancevski, stressed that the Law, which, as he puts it has the goal to take politicians’ hands off the media, will be the starting point for the reforms in the area. He asked for this law to be given a chance, which, as he said, has 38 published and debated versions so far and still has 200 open issues.
The text is made within the framework of the project “Media Reform Observatory”, implemented by the Foundation for Internet and Society Metamorphosis, “Agora” Center for Promoting Civil Values and the Platform for Investigative Journalism and Analyzes – PINA, with the financial support of the “Foundation Open” Society – Macedonia “. The content of the text is the sole responsibility of the authors and can in no way be considered to reflect the views of the “Open Society Foundation – Macedonia”.