Skopje, 15 July 2022 – The Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services is extremely worried because of the proposals to amend and supplement the Law on Audio and Audiovisual Media Services, which have been addressed recently by relevant associations and organizations.
The offered solutions are problematic in several aspects, starting from the very definition of the notion of campaigns of public interest, the manner of their conducting and, particularly, their financing with funds from the state budget and the budgets of the local self-government units.
The media have obligations and responsibility towards the public and they should perform this role of theirs without any compensation or any influences whatsoever. Under the proposed amendments, budget funds will be used to pay for reporting on the ideas and activities of the central and local governments, which leaves room for direct violation of the editorial autonomy and independence of the media, their corruption and creating of a clientelistic and servile attitude towards the government.
The current Law on Audio and Audiovisual Media Services stipulates that campaigns of public interest and charitable appeals are aired free of charge within the broadcasters’ programmes. According to the standards, considered as campaigns of public interest are exclusively those that refer to topics of broader social benefit or to altruistic purposes (such as traffic safety and safety on the roads, citizens’ duties, healthcare campaigns, etc.), regardless of who has ordered them.
The Agency has already reacted publicly before that taxpayers’ funds, i.e. the citizens’ money, should not be used for advertising in the media. Furthermore, campaigns of public interest should not be used as a way to subsidize media. The regulatory authority is of the opinion that the creation of programming content should be subsidized; however, this should be done in a way that would contribute to the creation of quality radio and television programmes of public interest without undermining media’s independence. In this regard, the Agency supported the request of the “Medium Objective” Association of Regional and Local Media Outlets for “establishing a fund for the media that would be used to subsidize programme contents covering topics of regional and local interest, with the aim of promoting the programme offer and stimulating democratic pluralism in society”.
In order to adopt legal solutions that would guarantee media freedom and independence, any amendment to media-related legislation should be subject to broad-based public consultations with all stakeholders – relevant professional associations and the regulator in particular – and be harmonized with the EU’s Directive on Audiovisual Media Services.