Time: 9:16 p.m. CEST
The European facilitator Peter van Houte expressed his hopes and expectations that political parties, which are participating in the media talks, would remove the party context of the talks. Van Houte met today with representatives of the media, media associations and journalist to share some of the issues he is discussing with the working groups on media, delegated from the four political parties in Macedonia, after the July 15 agreement. In front of the media, at the briefing inside the Club of the Parliamentarians in Skopje, Van Houte explained that what he presented is what they want to achieve, but they “are not sure if we would get this.”
The talks on the media relies on the European Union requirements on the media sphere. Those are largely defined, not only with the annual EU progress report on the country’s progress, but also with the European urgent reform, which requires depoliticization of the Agency of Media, where members should arrive not from the political parties, but from the civil society, or public. Van Houte said that members of the Council, and the Council should be the matter of “the best practice.” He said, they are currently working to “have system of seven people to be independent, as much as it possible.” Houte admits that the way of thinking that dominates in the negotiations is related with the Agency of the Media; and that implies control of the media. Houte requested that this frame should be different and said that he is asking of the participants in the talks “to be openminded.”
On the fines that the Agency’s Council could impose to the media, Van Houte said that the halting of the media license should be the last resort in the ways when the media broke the copyrights laws. He said that “the focus is on the copyrights.” In other situations, van Houte proposal suggests three steps and that includes, dialogue, warning, and as a final step, a fine.
On the public broadcaster, Macedonian Radio Television, van Houte said it is important that they consolidate the debts. Houte suggested that MRT funding goes through 1% of the national budget, instead as present solution of financing through a broadcasting tax. Houte suggested lowering of the taxation of the media from 18 to 5%. The Council would need to decide on the content of the government advertising. Considering, the government can advertise campaigns that are of public interests. Houte’s example of a campaign of public interest during the briefing was on the anti-smoking campaign.
Houte said that at the end, someone had to decide, referring to the Parliament, that is the people’s house. Most of the discussions on the media are related with the country approach to the European Union and sharing of the same values of the European Audiovisual Policy.
Dragan Pavlovik Latas, an editor-in-chief of SitelTV and representative of the Macedonian Association of Journalists (MAN) talked what they agree on. Pavlovik said they could not agree with some of the offered solutions, which they could challenge legally. Pavlovik explained that they support the parts are related with the public broadcaster and the suggestion for the future financing with 1% of the national budget. MAN supported the decision on the government advertising, but challenged the solution that some of the members of the Agency of the Media should be from the civil sector. He said, the fines for reporting are entering in the sphere of the subjective evaluations, which could generate problems. He also said, there should be regulation on the media financed with foreign donations, because that interrupts the media-market functionality.
Van Houte thanked Pavlovik for constructive discussion, but replied generally media market is a highly-competitive market, and this is a transition period for everyone to survive. Digital media were not part of this prompt briefing of the Belgian expert with the media and journalists in Macedonia.
Note: The organizer of the briefing asked that the briefing is not recorded, or photographed, or audio recorded.