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The Project for Prohibiting Gambling Advertisements in the Media: From the Intention to Protect Citizens to Its Financial Impact on the Press

21 September 2021
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Representatives of several media and advertising outlets claim they will suffer financial loss if the deputies approve the initiative to prohibit promotion and advertising of all types of gambling. The authors of the draft law affirm that the document was prepared to make this “vice” seem less attractive. The document was publicly examined by the parliamentary committee on economy, budget, and finance on September 21. 

According to the draft law registered on September 6, the deputies suggest prohibiting any direct or indirect form of advertising (promotional activities) aimed at promoting and/or stimulating all types of gambling (including lotteries and bets for competitions/sporting events, instant lotteries), including advertising on radio and TV, in printed media, film and video services, or via the Internet and telephone networks. The document also stipulates sanctions for those placing or broadcasting advertising for exploitation of gambling.

Ana Butnariuc, Prime TV editor-in-chief, mentions that, if the document is approved in the version offered by the deputies, it will impact the channel’s activity. “We do not see how sustainable development of Moldovan media institutions could be ensured if politicians interfere with the budgets of media institutions. (...) They could suffer from another blow from the state. I am not merely speculating here, because such regulations will come from the state and are aimed at the budgets. I am not exaggerating when I say that withdrawing ads for lotteries, gambling, and sports betting could cause a serious financial issue for the media institutions in our country,” the journalist says.

Moreover, she says that the editorial team would not be able to produce the necessary amount of local products in Romanian unless they have a source of income. “It will mostly have an impact on the bona fide broadcasters who invest money, pay salaries to specialists here, in Moldova, to produce local content, especially in the Romanian language. What’s more, they will find themselves in an even more vulnerable situation and, virtually, they will be unable to face unfair competition with dishonest broadcasters who do not invest, fail to observe their legal obligations, and parasitize on the Moldovan broadcasting by retransmitting shows by other TV channels from abroad, “Ana Butnariuc adds.

Dumitru Tira, Realitatea press group director, pleaded at least for regulating the hours when such ads could be broadcast. “The impact of such changes is much more significant. Advertising providers could tell you what happens to lottery advertising today. Its share varies between 8-10% of the advertising market, and I assure you it will have it impact on the press. (...) I would like to ask you to find some solutions, probably by limiting the advertising – I mean, its hours could be limited – or modify it in some other way,” Dumitru Tira mentioned.

He considers taking “categorical” steps to be a mistake. “Prohibiting is the easiest thing to do,” Dumitru Tira concludes.

IS TIK TOK ADVERTISING INTANGIBLE FOR THE AUTHORITIES?

Octavian Hanganu, Casa Media commercial director, emphasized the fact that online gambling advertising and ads broadcast from abroad could not be regulated by the Moldovan authorities. He is convinced that the law could have an impact on local channels. “Moreover, we cannot influence the Internet, we cannot stop Facebook, Tik Tok, Instagram, and so on, and all the advertising placed there. (...) We can now destroy what is left of the local TV by this law. Besides, we should not forget that children and teenagers do not watch TV; they do not see all these issues. Instead, they use Tik Tok and other resources we cannot regulate or influence,” Octavian Hanganu pointed out.

Plamen Milanov, NGM Company director, the private partner of the National Lottery of Moldova, one of the largest companies in the field which provides advertising on the media market, mentioned that the company had invested approximately 74 million lei in advertising in the last three years.

Dumitru Alaiba, the chairman of the parliamentary committee and the co-author of the project, said that the initiative was aimed at protecting citizens from the negative impact of gambling addictions and rejected the statements that it could affect the advertising market, considering them “speculative.” He affirmed the government would also discuss the ways to support the press, but insisted on the need to make the gambling sector less attractive. “There are situations when the state income is secondary compared to more important purposes such as protecting people. This is what the project is intended for. It is not meant to attack anyone,” Dumitru Alaiba concluded.