Today, the Association of Journalists of Macedonia organized a webinar on “Professional debate on the reforms in the public media broadcaster MRTV.”
This event’s purpose is the need for reforms in MRTV which will provide conditions for positive public service changes, beneficial to the public and the entire media sphere. The discussion subject was the future activities envisaged in the five-year strategy for MRT development until 2025.
The discussants pointed out that for a strong MRTV, it is necessary to strengthen the public service’s independence for MRTV to become a leader in promoting professional standards.
MRTV is a public enterprise that should operate independently of any state body, other public legal entity, or trade company. The editorial and business policy of MRT should be impartial towards them. MRTV has three roles, to inform, educate and entertain the citizens objectively and professionally.
– In the past, we have examples where MRTV failed in its fundamental mission. We remember criticism from the public, local organizations in the media sector, international organizations also criticized the reporting of MRTV, especially in critical situations.
In today’s context, the situation has improved, especially on the program’s part and news balance. Still, there are conditions for even more significant improvements for MRTV to become a leader in the promotion of professional standards, and in the long run, to motivate private televisions to follow them. Also, such an example to raise the standards in the entire media sector. The role of MRTV in raising the social norm of journalists is also essential.
AJM is a constructive partner and will remain through its efforts to improve the legal framework governing the operation of MRTV. AJM will continue to insist that MRTV receive its share of the budget provided by law to ensure the public service’s political and financial independence, said Mladen Chadikovski – President of AJM.
Biljana Petkovska from MIM emphasized that the further education of the employees is of great importance.
The Covid-19 pandemic has shown that in times of crisis when accurate information means a lot, viewership and trust in public services have increased throughout Europe. The latest research of AVMS confirmed that this is the case with us. Now MTV 1 is in 3rd place in terms of viewing on the national TV channels. Of exceptional importance in the five-year strategy for MRT is establishing an educational center within MRT, where employees will have the opportunity for professional development, and the entire media industry can use scholarly resources. There are many good examples of how this type of academic center works in European countries, whose acceptable practices can be used. Such is the case with the BBC Academy and public services in the Scandinavian countries. However, for the public service to function successfully in general, it is crucial to pay the funds for MRT regularly and in full, something that is regulated by law, but unfortunately is not fully implemented, and for MRT to be exempted from the laws related to the public sector, because it does not correspond to the type of activity performed by the public service, says Petkovska.
Katerina Sinadinovska welcomed the initiative for a debate on the public service from CMEM.
– For us as an organization, the public service, firstly, has always been an essential and constructive partner in the process of self-regulation. Secondly, it has always been a pillar of the media space because we believe that the reforms will cause a wave of positive change in all media.
It is essential to know that the private media can not be reduced to ordinary business, but the main goal is to protect the public interest and the professionalism of journalists here; public service should and must set standards for all.
I want to emphasize two things that are important for us as CMEM in this period. The first is financing, and the worrying fact is that the authorities are doing their math against the law. The second moment is the change of voting in the Assembly for the Program Council’s election, and it is crucial to have as much consensus as possible in the members’ vote. We must not allow the Government to have such easy control, but neither can the opposition sabotage the reform process.
The whole process must be guided by the principle of professionalism and protection of the public interest.
The fact that there are positive changes in MRTV with the same staff shows that sometimes the constraints are not in the capacity of the person, but in the atmosphere and the political will to release the pressure, something that we must all strive for MRTV to justify the role of being independent a national service that works to protect the public interest and professionalism, says Sinadinovska.
The Executive Director of MRTV, Marjan Cvetkovski, said that it is crucial to adopt the five-year strategy to develop television next week to strengthen the reforms.
It is known that the most crucial thing in the operation of MRTV is the financial operation. This year, if the promise and the Government’s conclusions are not fulfilled, with the supplementary budget in June, the finances of MRTV will be returned. We seriously risk that this year we will not be able to pay salaries. We are currently maintaining liquidity with the projection that in June 2021, we will receive additional funds. The current operation until January 2021, we were in good condition. The main goal was to restore dignity for all employees in MRTV, and we managed to double the employees’ salary. In 2012, the minimum wage of MRTV employees was 12,000, and now it is 21,000 denars. We managed to raise the level of social quality, and now I think they are motivated enough. Of course, we have some other things that we need to harmonize in the future, but it is a challenge that we will work on in the future. With the promise of Min. for finance with the supplementary budget, we will receive finance, and we will be able to continue working positively in the future. “We are still facing challenges in our work, and we are aware that there should be improvements in all sectors, and I hope that next week we will adopt a five-year development strategy, which will immediately enter into stronger reforms,” said Cvetkovski.
Deputy Minister of Information Society and Administration, Aleksandar Bajdevski says that the country’s public service must be free from all political, commercial, and other influences and protect professionalism and the public interest. The Government will give a chance to elect the new members of the Council through the existing laws that provide for a two-thirds majority.
I want to emphasize that the distribution of finances for the public service has been taken into account for the past four years. We as a government have worked hard and taken care of the sustainable operation of MRTV, and tried to make a better legal framework. Still, on the other hand, it is necessary to include the Program Council and the Director of MRTV. The Program Council has a crucial role in protecting the public interest in the operation of MRTV. I want to emphasize the analysis of MiM for the transparency of MRTV, HTV, and RTV Slovenia. I can say with regret that as a program council, we are somehow the most non-transparent. I think that this should change in the future; everything should be published on the website of MRTV in the interest of the public interest how the general budget funds are spent.
Changes must continue in the future; we will continue to advance as a government, creating an independent and objective public broadcasting service. We will do everything in our power and competencies in this process of growing the role of MRTV. In that direction, we will give a chance in the coming period, through the existing laws, with a two-thirds majority, to elect new members of the Council from professionals’ ranks. We hope that we will not reencounter a blockade from the opposition, said Bajdevski. The discussion was joined by other professionals from the field who said that public service reform must not stop in the coming period to professionalize further and improve the overall program.