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Draft Law: Music, Religious, Sports and Children's TV Channels Could Be Exempted from the Obligation to Host Electoral Debates

19 February 2020
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A draft law prepared by media experts Ion Bunduchi and Vasile State stipulates that thematic TV channels and radio stations, specializing in music, child entertainment, religion or sports, should no longer have the obligation to host electoral debates. It is also proposed that media service providers decide on their own, how frequent and at what time to broadcast electoral debates.
Currently, broadcasters are required to host electoral debates between candidates, broadcasting them live and only during prime time. Ion Bunduchi stated for Media Azi that for various reasons some providers cannot host and broadcast debates live and can broadcast only in certain time windows. ‘The obligation to host debates only in the evening makes it impossible to comply with the rules – a candidate cannot be physically present at the same time at 120 radio stations and TV channels,’ Bunduchi explained. Thus, the authors propose that media service providers decide by themselves on the format, duration, airing frequency and time of the debates. They want as well to expressly prohibit the media to conduct electioneering.

Another amendment concerns the thematic broadcasters, such as music, children, religious and sports TV channels. According to Bunduchi, they do not have to cover elections or host electoral debates – this obligation should rest solely with the generalist broadcasting media services and news media services.

It is also proposed that the fees for electoral advertising may not exceed the usual fee for commercial advertising, charged six months before the polling date. It is intended to avoid possible abuses by some media service providers, which increase their advertising fees right before the start of the election period.

To ensure fair competition, according to the draft law media service providers, which do not participate in covering the election campaign, may not accept paid electoral advertising and public media service providers may not charge any fees for electoral advertising.

Media NGOs asked the Parliamentary Committee to register the draft law as a legislative initiative and to support its adoption. The document was drafted as part of a legislative improvement project, implemented by the Association of Independent Press (AIP), the Association of Electronic Press (APEL) and the Independent Journalism Centre (IJC).