I have a bad habit of reading reports of all kinds, including official. In this case I'm speaking about the imposing "Report on the Activity of the Broadcasting Coordinating Council (BCC) of the Republic of Moldova in 2016", examined and approved at a public hearing at the end of January this year. The report will later be reviewed and approved or not approved at a meeting of the Parliament.
The report truly is impressive: almost 200 pages, 13 chapters, tables and diagrams. Maybe it is exactly what this document should look like, but for a final impression, whether you like it or not, you need to "get into" it. Get in and feel comfortable. As long as you read it. The feeling of comfort would remain if you didn't "get out" of its pages or if you "got out" blindfolded and with your ears closed. Otherwise, you get into a reality that is parallel to much of what the report says. The things written are true and even their truthfulness can be verified: the regulator, i.e. the BCC, has the role, mission, and composition for it. But I'm not sure whether the presentation of the report, partially transposing excerpts from the law, is of any relevance. Because, what for does it once again reproduce, for example, legal stipulations that the BCC, as the guarantor of public interest, shall ensure "monitoring of pluralist expression of ideas and opinions in the programs aired by broadcasters", "encouragement of free competition", "a fair balance between programs offered by national broadcasters and by local and regional broadcasters", "protection of information space", "transparency of media ownership"? The question doesn't go away even after we read the report.
Let's take things one at a time. Monitoring of compliance with pluralist expression of ideas and opinions should mean that the report is to clearly say how much internal and external pluralism there is in the country's broadcasting. But it says nothing about it, although since 2015, not through the effort of the "guarantor of public interest", we have had a methodology for assessing media pluralism consistent with European requirements. Handed on a silver platter for the BCC! But the BCC didn't use it to fulfill its legal obligation. When we don't know how much pluralism we have, we don't know what to add or to remove so as to have it in the right amount.
Under the law, the BCC is to ensure free competition. So, the report should have shown how much free competition there is on the broadcasting market. Maybe it is actually enough, even in conditions of monopolization, and it need not be further encouraged. But since such data are missing (why?), we cannot judge how assiduously the BCC encouraged free competition.
Also, we learn nothing specifically about how unprotected was the information space a year ago and how protected it is now. The report says nothing about ownership, either, nothing that could show to us and the BCC any dominant positions or monopolies on the broadcasting market that might jeopardize the thing that the BCC should watch over – media pluralism or, in tougher words, the information sovereignty of the state.
The annual report tells us at best that the BCC tried, made effort, focused on... But the law requires the BCC not to try, not to make the effort, not to focus. The law dictates: to ensure.
It would have been strange not to stumble in this report, like, for that matter, in any report of the authorities, upon great successes. About the troublesome transition to digital terrestrial television, the report says: "The obligations assumed by the Republic of Moldova, as well as the fundamental interest to increase the satisfaction of consumer demands, have led to the launching of transition from analogue to digital terrestrial television." Very well said! We could count the adjectives, so as to wonder once again, but it would be better to remember that "the fundamental interest to increase the satisfaction of consumer demands" made the transition to begin at the time when it should end. However, since we have a rich language and a short memory, why wouldn't we sift out everything through a silk sieve?!
In the end, I'd like to return to the beginning:
- the BCC report sometimes resembles an intentionally poorly written news story;
- after reading the report, we hope we won't have to ask the question: what for do we lie to ourselves? But we do have to ask it.
The article was published within the Advocacy Campaigns Aimed at Improving Transparency of Media Ownership, Access to Information and promotion of EU values and integration project, implemented by the IJC, which is, in its turn, part of the Moldova Partnerships for Sustainable Civil Society project, implemented by FHI 360.
This article is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The content are the responsibility of author and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.