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Igor Dodon, Preoccupied With the Restrictions of TV Advertising. What Might Be the Consequences?

10 January 2020
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The President Igor Dodon announced that he advocates for the restriction of advertising at TV channels that rebroadcast shows from abroad, arguing that he wants to create equal conditions for broadcasters of foreign and domestic content. Experts have different opinions. While some voices argue that such an initiative would reduce the phenomenon of ‘information parasitism’, others invoke possible increases in prices for advertising time and the reorientation of advertisers online.

Igor Dodon suggested the need to restrict the advertising for TV channels that rebroadcast foreign content at several TV stations given that certain producers of domestic TV content complain about inequity in relation to those channels that rebroadcast foreign content and spend a lot less but enjoy higher ratings, i.e. have higher income from advertising. Instead, the President wants that absolutely all the TV stations to benefit from broadcasting services without restrictions.

"All the TV stations that broadcast foreign content should be subject to restrictions in terms of advertising. Let’s allow all the TV channels, from East or West, to broadcast without restrictions, but with no advertising. Thus, all those that produce domestic content will be in equal positions and will fight for advertising budgets", stated Igor Dodon during the show "Secretele Puterii" [Secrets of Power] from Jurnal TV, on 6 November 2019.

"I advocate for the maximum liberalization of the market. Do you know what needs to be done? First, we must allow all the TV stations to broadcast. Besides this, the TV stations that rebroadcast, depending on the volume of domestic content, should be restricted in terms of advertising", added the head of the state later, during the show "In Profunzime" [In Depth], on 21 November 2019 from Pro TV Chisinau.

The phenomenon of 'information parasitism'

According to Ion Bunduchi, the CEO of the Electronic Press Association (APEL), the idea of Dodon on restricting the advertising is not new. According to him, 20 years ago, the phenomenon of "information parasitism" was identified using quality foreign media products. "Since that time, the civil society, including the NGOs, started to raise the alarm: it is not fair that someone 'gathers advertising' at the expense of foreign media products while others «thrive» to produce, with their own forces, local media products. The idea was not accepted because the real owners of TV channels who were making money easily, with no expenses, were also decision-makers", mentions Ion Bunduchi.

The CEO of APEL believes that this intention is based on an economic mechanism and that it would be good to implement it. So far, there is the prohibition to broadcast electoral advertising for radio and TV stations that do not reflect the election campaign. Previously, this provision was not stipulated in the law. "Thus, this segment is also 'parasitized'", concluded Ion Bunduchi.

Will this affect the local market?

Octavian Hanganu, Commercial Director of Casa Media, reminds about a more radical idea from the past according to which, only the producers of domestic TV content would have the right to broadcast advertising. In his opinion, the aim of the initiative is good. "Still, given the current state of Moldovan media as an integral part of global media, the expected goal will not be achieved and the remaining grain of local TV marked will be destroyed", believes Octavian Hanganu.

He mentions that according to the global trends, the budgets for advertising in the online media are the same as or even exceed the TV budgets because online media has no restrictions and most of the budgets are controlled by Google, Facebook and other global giants. The "inevitable trend will reach Moldova" and various interventions on the advertising market will accelerate the process. "Currently, the situation is maintained by the relatively high cost-effect ratio of digital advertising in Moldova, compared to TV advertising", outlines Hanganu.

The expert assumes that the declaration of the President actually refers to the so-called Anti-Propaganda Law that must be regarded as a political one in the context of an eventual attempt to amend or to repeal it.

The emission time could increase in price

Galina Zablovschi, the CEO of the Association of Advertising Agencies of Moldova, shares the opinion about the political connotation. Moreover, if media providers that rebroadcast foreign content would be restricted in terms of advertising, the emission time for advertising would increase in price. "It is an idea of policy and the field of advertising is related to the commercial activity. The advertising will appear where the ratings are high. Most likely, it is intended to limit the air time for advertising, but as a result, the rating points will be more expensive at TV channels. Anyway, the money will reach the television broadcasters with a large audience and quality shows. Currently, the content produced in Moldova cannot compete with the foreign product due to insufficient money", explains Galina Zablovschi.

She recalls that some televisions that broadcast foreign programs pay large amounts for their purchase, while others – pay nothing.
According to the latest report published by the MR MLD TV audience measurement, in November 2019, the high-rated TV stations include RTR Moldova and NTV Moldova, which rebroadcast the Russian programs.

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