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HomeCase studiesThe BCC observing national and international regulations in the case of the public notification concerning the speech of the program “Poveşti cu măşti” (Tales with Masks), broadcasted by the NIT TV station
The BCC observing national and international regulations in the case of the public notification concerning the speech of the program “Poveşti cu măşti” (Tales with Masks), broadcasted by the NIT TV station
07.05.2008

The BCC observing national and international regulations in the case of the public notification concerning the speech of the program “Poveşti cu măşti” (Tales with Masks), broadcasted by the NIT TV station

 Case study

Introduction

On 17 April, 2008,  the Broadcasting Coordinating Council (BCC) publicly discussed whether to include into the order of the day the controversial issue concerning the program “Poveşti cu măşti” (Tales with Masks) of the NIT TV station.  Debating that matter was publicly announced for the BCC’s sitting of April 8, a sitting that never took place. In the sitting of April 17, however, following the proposal of a BCC member to include into the order of the day the issue concerning “Poveşti cu măşti”, they invoked the fact that the issue had already been discussed within an internal sitting at which, seemingly, the BCC members did not plead to include the issue into the sitting’s agenda. Anyway, the proposal was subjected to voting and was rejected by 5 votes against 3.

Thus, after the public had drawn the attention of the authors of the project “Poveşti cu măşti” to going beyond certain limits of the legal and ethical norms in terms of televised expression, after the Parliament’s Steady Bureau expressly discussed the case of „Poveşti cu măşti”, after some BCC members publicly spoke about the necessity to debate this issue at a sitting of the broadcasting regulator, the decision was taken through a simple voting, the BCC shirking its exclusive tasks and duties.

Exposition

The freedom of expression is the foundation of a democratic society, still it is not an absolute right. This freedom ends where it unjustly violates others’ rights.

The Declaration on freedom of political debate in the media, adopted by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on February 12, 2004, stipulates: Pluralist democracy and freedom of political debate require that the public is informed about matters of public concern, which includes the right of the media to disseminate negative information and critical opinions concerning political figures and public officials, as well as the right of the public to receive them”.

The same Declaration however stipulates as an essential principle that “the humorous and satirical genre, as protected by Article 10 of the Convention, allows for a wider degree of exaggeration and even provocation, as long as the public is not misled about facts.

Under the circumstances in which the controversies on the verge of „Poveşti cu măşti” have become a topic of public debate, naturally, the BCC should have acted ex officio. Contrary to that logic, deriving from the provisions of national and international law, the BCC refused to consider the correspondence of the program “Poveşti cu măşti” with the legal and ethical standards.

Obviously, that program is produced in the humorous and satirical genre, which allows the authors an exaggerated degree of imagination and even provocation, but it also imposes on them a wide degree of responsibility as to the truthfulness of the satirized facts. To the same degree obvious is the fact that the program bears a political connotation, the heroes of the “tales” being actors on the Moldovan political arena. In such a situation, the tales’ authors, the TV station enter the scope of the Broadcasting Code’s provisions concerning balance, equidistance, impartiality and, evidently, observance of the norms concerning the human rights established in the international treaties Moldova is part to. 

Being aware of the possibility of the broadcasters’ deviating from legal and ethical frames, the BCC adopted a Broadcasters Behavior Code, while in the case studied, its being observed is taken care of neither by the BCC, nor by the broadcaster.

Only several months after adopting the Broadcasters Behavior Code, which emphasizes “the major role of the radio and the television in forming the personal attitudes of citizens, of the public opinion and in developing the democratic society, the ethical responsibility of broadcasters to citizens and to society, in general, the BCC publicly shirked from taking an attitude towards the controversial issue of “Poveşti cu măşti”.

In this respect, we may quote several commitments taken by broadcasters as suggested by their Behavior Code:

Art.1. The broadcasters have the primordial duty to report the truth, regardless of the consequences it may have on them, this obligation pours from the public’s constitutional right to be informed justly, fully and adequately. Basing on this right, the broadcasters are bound to tell only fully verified facts.

Art.2. The broadcasters have the obligation to make a clear distinction between facts and opinions, so as not to confuse them. In reporting facts and opinions, the journalists will act with good faith and will not present their opinions as facts.

Art.4. Informing on matters of public interest, concerning politics, economy, society and culture, should pursue to insure the impartiality, the balance and to favor the free formation of opinions, by presenting the viewpoints of all the parties involved, and, if it is the case, the main opposing viewpoints.

Art.7. The broadcaster, which intentionally distorts the information, makes groundless accusations, illegally uses photos, video images and other sources, or slanders, commits professional deviation of maximum severity.

Art.16. Any person has the right to own image. In case, in broadcasts, they accuse a person of illegal or immoral facts and behaviors, those shall be backed up with evidence, as the accused persons have the right to intervene to express their viewpoints. If the accusation are made by the broadcaster, it is obliged to ask for the viewpoint of the accused person.

 We consider that on the basis of these provisions of the Broadcasters Behavior Code, but especially taking into account the opinions of a range of Moldovan personalities demanding for an attitude on behalf of the BCC, the theme “Poveşti cu măşti” could have served as a wide topic to be discussed within the BCC.

 Despite those circumstances, the BCC voted not to start the debates on that matter on April 17.

 Findings

Through its decision not to publicly debate and not take a decision in a conflict between program consumers and a broadcaster, the BCC ignored its tasks and duties  concerning:

-         insuring the defense of program consumers to receive correct and objective information, which would contribute to the free formation of the opinion;

-         supervising the observance of the way in which broadcasters fulfill their legal duties;

-         monitoring, periodically or on notification, the content of the program services offered by broadcasters, as to not observing legal provisions;

-         supervising the correctness of the contents of the programs offered by broadcasters;

-         supervising the observance of pluralistically expressing ideas and opinions within the programs aired by broadcasters;

-         protecting the human dignity;

-         broadcasting programs containing licentious speech.

Also, through its decision to reject the examination of a matter of public interest, the BCC ignored the international accords and treaties Moldova is part to.

Conclusions 

The BCC, in its capacity of autonomous public authority, does not permanently assume responsibility for the implementation and observance of the Broadcasting Code, of its own decisions, of international treaties on broadcasting Moldova is part to. 

The BCC, in its capacity of a representative, but also of a guarantor of the public interest in broadcasting, avoids to involve in solving conflicts between program consumers and broadcasters, assuming the responsibility of its decisions on the basis of the law.

As a consequence, we consider the lack of response as to the public notifications concerning the program “Poveşti cu măşti” implies that the BCC, through its relation of votes, has demonstrated subordination to political control, further promoting double standards, when a category of broadcasters are disproportionately sanctioned for admitted violations, while another category of broadcasters are favored with the price of the honor and image of the public authority regulating the broadcasting.

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HomeCase studiesThe BCC observing national and international regulations in the case of the public notification concerning the speech of the program “Poveşti cu măşti” (Tales with Masks), broadcasted by the NIT TV station
 
 
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