Meta.mk, under the cooperation agreement, republishes Truthmeter.mk’s analysis:
The number of correspondents from the interior of the country is reduced to a minimum. Macedonian Radio and Television has barely employed a few journalists from the interior, while private televisions receive information from part-time journalists
Author: Goran Lefkov
Uninsured, without employment contracts, with their own vehicle and equipment, few correspondents and media workers from the interior are going to work every day, showed the analysis of the Association of Journalists of Macedonia, conducted in 2021. It is especially worrying that the state-funded media do not have correspondents from the interior at all. 20 years ago, about 10 journalists from the eastern region only sent information to MTV, recalls Ivan Bojadziski, who has been in journalism in this region since 1964.
Only one colleague is employed as a correspondent for MTV, all others are freelancers. I’m 60 years into journalism and I know how it used to be. Each town had a correspondent for the Macedonian Television and Macedonian Radio. Now there is only one correspondent from Štip and he cannot cover everything, says Bojadziski.
He adds that out of over 900 employees currently in MRT, not even 10 people are from the inside of the country.
The Association of Journalists has been working on the problems with the correspondence network for a long time. So far, they have published several reports and publications on this issue. Dragan Sekulovski, director of the Association of Journalists, believes that the situation with the correspondence network is quite modest.
There is a slight improvement compared to the situation 2-3 years ago, especially in the part of MRTV, but it still cannot be said that we have a strong correspondent network. The media with national terrestrial concession have correspondents from all major centers in our country. When it comes to topics from the cities, rarely does a television station have a correspondent, above all, a correspondent who has an orderly employment contract. They are hired for modest fees, some of them are paid by journalist piece, therefore, in order to raise money for a decent salary, they are forced to work for several media at the same time, says Sekulovski.
He adds that if a media outlet takes a national concession, it cannot focus its information only on Skopje.
AJM’s analysis has shown that MRT must achieve significant improvements not only in news balance and programs but also become a leader in promoting professional standards to motivate private television stations to follow suit in the long run.
2/3 of the citizens pay for information, only 1/3 gets information
According to the Report of the Association of Journalists, authored by Filjana Koka, MA, a longtime journalist, the disproportion of the distribution of resources in relation to the media is clearly visible.
If we compare, for example the amounts (of paid taxes) from Skopje of 8,831,197,109 denars and from Štip 1,290,921,268 denars we will get a ratio of 6.8 to 1. This means that for every 6.8 journalists employed in Skopje in the first program service of MTV, in Štip there should be one. But the reality is not such. The employed journalists in the newsroom exceed several times this number of 6.8 journalists, and in Štip we have only one correspondent, who is responsible for reporting on other settlements. Such a comparison is not just a pure mathematical operation, but a good indicator of the justification of the request in the correspondence center to have at least three employed journalists. The citizens from Štip and the surrounding area participate with a certain amount in the budget of the state from where funds are allocated for the public service. The citizens have their daily problems, which they face, from all areas of life, for which they need to be actualized in the wider community and before the central authorities through the public service whose task is to work for the public good and public interest, Koka states in her report.
The journalist Bojadziski is on the same line with the AJM Report.
We all pay for MTV. Tax is collected from all over Macedonia, but 2/3 of the citizens do not have any access to the media in the country. From 2005 to 2009 I was a member of the MTV Council and chairman of the Program Commission. Then we talked openly about the problem with the editors. Out of 1,100 employees in MTV, there was no correspondent anywhere. Eli Tanaskova was an editor and told me that we have a technical opportunity to go to the center of Skopje. We cannot cover Skopje either, says Bojadziski.
The lack of financial resources in the treasury of MRT is also noted by Dragan Sekulovski, who openly seeks a solution to the problem through AJM.
From today’s perspective, not even 50% of the budget of MRTV is fulfilled. This reflects on the staff potential of MRTV, and it is transferred to the quality of information in the country. Historically, the smallest budget is last year, where the budget of MRT is around 15 million Euros, in the past few years the budget was around 20 million Euros. The state is legally obliged to allocate 1% of the budget for the public service, or in our conditions it is around 35 million Euros. So far, it has never happened that they get the money provided by law, said Sekulovski.
He adds that on 31 December last year, without any public debate, a decision was made by the Programming Council of MRT, if the state does not have money, it will not pay those guaranteed percentages.
Informed citizens – better democracy
Informing the citizens is a very important tool in the democratic process. The latest report on North Macedonia’s progress in the European Union integration process mentions regional and local media in the context of the Covid-19 crisis and poor working conditions.
Authorities need to step up their efforts to reform the public service broadcaster, ensuring its independence and financial sustainability. The Public Broadcasting Service has adopted a five-year development strategy, but the reform process has been hampered by delays in appointing members to its board and to the council of the Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services. The COVID-19 crisis had a strong economic impact on the media sector, especially on regional and local actors. The media were included in the aid package, but the workers’ labor rights still need to be addressed, – the report reads.
Dejan Georgievski from the Center for Media Development believes that this should be one of the key issues we need to address, at least as far as the Public Broadcasting Service is concerned. He agrees that informing citizens is very important for the development of democracy and only informed citizens can make good choices.
For Dragan Sekulovski, the benefits of the correspondence network for democracy would be manifold.
The damage on informing the citizens is great, because rarely can the citizens hear about information that is not from the city of Skopje. If someone takes a national concession, they cannot focus their information only on the capital, Sekulovski believes.
Ivan Bojadziski is more direct than Sekulovski.
There is no democracy if there are no informed citizens. People want to know what is going on in their places of residence. There were local radios in the municipalities, which no longer exist. There is no one to tell them anything that is important to their lives. Morning programs, instead of involving idlers in the live program, it is better to involve their correspondents in saying what will happen that day. We have very smart people in smaller municipalities, but their attitude and opinion cannot reach the media, said Bojadziski.
Just for comparison, the National Service in Slovenia, which has a similar size as N. Macedonia, has two large correspondence centers RTV Koper and RTV Maribor. The regional correspondence center in Koper alone employs 120 media workers, as well as the same number of employees and associates in the correspondence center in Maribor.