The Association of Journalists of Macedonia welcomes the agreement between the government and the opposition for adopting the amendments to the Law on Audio and Audiovisual Media Services, which will contribute to creating better conditions for the work of broadcasters in North Macedonia. The new model of selection of the governing bodies and the system of financing of the Macedonian Radio Television and the media regulator will reduce the political influence on these key institutions in the media sector and will contribute to their greater independence and professionalism.
The abolition of government subsidies for domestic production in national private televisions and the reduction of domestic production quotas for broadcasters will contribute to discontinuing clientelist ties between the media and the government, and prevent an eventual attempt to influence the editorial policy of the media.
With the new changes, the penalties for the media are reduced and become partially proportional, and the fee for the license for all broadcasters is also reduced. This reduces the possibility for the regulator or the court to use disproportionate penalties as a means of pressure on the media, and the reduction of the fee will help to improve the financial condition of the media.
In addition to the positive changes in the law, which in the past period were harmonized with the journalistic and media community, we are concerned about the content of Article 102 of the Law, which refers to the ban on public money advertising. Instead of a clear provision banning the spending of public money in the media in this article, it is said that “institutions will not foresee funds in spending budgets for the media”.
We warn that this ambiguous provision can be abused in the future, where institutions will not foresee funds for the media in their budgets, but they can reallocate them from other budget lines in order to invest in various media.
This law is just the beginning of long-promised reforms in the media sector, but only if they’re implemented in an appropriate way and some ambiguous provisions of the law are removed. We expect other important legal solutions, which have already been pointed out by the journalist and media community, soon to be adopted.