South Caucasus : Meeting on Legal Regulations of Public and Private Broadcasting

Conference in Yerevan, 6-7 October 2001

YEREVAN PRESS CLUB

OPEN SOCIETY INSTITUTE

COUNCIL OF EUROPE

FRIEDRICH EBERT FOUNDATION


INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE

LEGAL REGULATION OF PUBLIC AND PRIVATE BROADCASTING

October 6-7, 2001, Yerevan


OCTOBER 6, SATURDAY


First Session

Chair: Boris NAVASARDIAN, Yerevan Press Club President


10.00 Opening Speeches:

Pall THORHALLSSON, Administrative Officer, Media Division, DG II, Council of Europe

Shavarsh KOCHARYAN, Chairman of the Standing Committee on Science, Education, Culture and Youth Issues of the RA National Assembly

10.30 Swedish System of Broadcasting Regulation

Presentation by Henrik SELIN, Deputy Director, Media Division, Ministry of Culture, Sweden

11.00 Regulation of Broadcast Media during Election Campaigns

Presentation by Helen DARBISHIRE, Media Law Program Manager OSI - COLPI / Network Media Program

11.30 Coffee Break

12.00 Principles of Legal Regulation of Private Broadcasting, Presentation by Andrei RICHTER, Director, Moscow Media Law and Policy Center

12.30 Discussion

13.30 Lunch


Second Session

Chair: Nouneh SARGSIAN, Managing Director, Internews Armenia


14.30 Public Broadcasting reforms and practice of journalism : IFJ missions in Czech Republic and Hungary, IFJ Public Broadcasting Campaign

Presentations by Marc GRUBER, Campaign Co-ordinator,International Federation of Journalists

15.00 Presentation and Discussion of Situation in Other Countries

16.00 Coffee Break

16.30 Lasting Totalitarian Legacy and Reforms in Broadcasting Legislation

Presentations by Georgiy POTCHEPTSOV, Professor of Institute of International Relations, Ukraine

Vitaliy SHEVCHENKO, Secretary of Committee on Freedom of Speech Issues of the Ukraine Parliament

17.00 Presentation and Discussion of Situation in Other Countries


OCTOBER 7, SUNDAY


Third Session

Chair: Levon BARSEGHYAN, Director, "Shant" Radio Company


10.00 Broadcasting Legislation and the Inherent Problems in Azerbaijan and Georgia

10.30 Discussion

11.30 Coffee Break

12.00 Implementation of New Broadcasting Legislation in Armenia: Shortcomings and Advantages. Presentation by Tigran NAGHDALYAN, Chairman, Council of Public Television and Radio of Armenia

12.30 Discussion

13.30 Lunch


Fourth Session

Chair: Mesrop HARUTYUNYAN, YPC Expert


14.30 Professional and Civil Lobbying of Reforms in Broadcast Legislation of South Africa. Presentation by Lumko MTIMDE, General Manager - Broadcasting Policy for the Department of Communications, Ministry of Communications, South Africa

15.00 Presentation and Discussion of Situation in Other Countries

16.00 Coffee Break

16.30 Possibilities of International Cooperation in Reforming Broadcast Legislation and Practical Implementation of Modern Standards. Open Discussion


REPORT OF THE MEETING BY THE YEREVAN PRESS CLUB : THE COUNTRIES ARE DIFFERENT, THE PROBLEMS ARE SIMILAR



On October 6-7 in Yerevan an international conference titled "Legal Regulation of Public and Private Broadcasting" was held. The Conference had been organized by Yerevan Press Club with the support of East-East Program and the Media Network Program of the Open Society Institute, the Council of Europe, Friedrich Ebert Foundation. Internews NGO also assisted the

organization of the event. The Conference accommodated journalists, lawyers, members of parliaments, leaders of professional journalistic associations from the South Caucasus, Central Asia, Russia, Ukraine, other countries of Eastern and Central Europe, South Africa, as well as representatives of reputable international organizations, such as the Council of Europe, OSCE,

the International Federation of Journalists, the European Institute for the Media.


The main subject of the discussion was the situation around the public and private broadcasting and the legal regulation of the sphere. The participants showed great diversity (14 countries), yet the problems voiced were similar, especially in the post-Soviet region. The opening speech of

the Administrative Officer of Media Division, DG II of the Council of Europe Pall Thorhallsson expressed a wish to "listen to success stories" referring to broadcasting. The experience of democratically developed countries, as always, made one envious.


Thus, as Henrik Selin, the Deputy Director of the Media Division of the Ministry of Culture of Sweden, noted, his was the first country in the world to legally establish the freedom of the press. In 1766 the Parliament of Sweden adopted a Freedom of Press Act, which in 1809 became a part of the Constitution.


In Estonia, Rein Lang, the head of popular Estonian KUKU Radio, said, the Public Information Act came into force on January 1, 2001. According to the Act, all the official documents which contain no state secrets, are placed on the Internet.


The representatives of other post-Soviet countries had, unfortunately, very little to be proud of. Nowadays, laws on television and radio are passed only in Ukraine (1997) and Armenia. (By the way, on October 9 the Armenian broadcast law became one year old.) They are both far from being perfect and need serious reforming. The legal field in Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, especially in the broadcast area, is practically unshaped - draft laws have been developed at best. According to the Director of the Media Law and Policy Center Andrei Richter, in early next year the

Russian TV and radio companies may encounter a serious obstacle. In February 2002 the new law on licensing will come into effect; however its list of entities to be licensed forgetfully - in the direct sense of this word - omits TV and radio broadcasting. Meanwhile, the suspension of license for broadcasting, even if only for a few months, means a death for the company.


The British, as Andrei Richter mentioned, are more accurate in paying subscription fees for the public broadcasting than they are with any of the taxes. The specifics of public broadcasting in the former Soviet Union, in the opinion of the Secretary of Committee on Freedom of Speech Issues of the Ukraine Parliament Vitaliy Shevchenko, is that in the West it was usually created to counterbalance the private, in our countries - to counterbalance the state broadcasting. Yet, very often, this implies nothing but a name change, the essence remains the same. "We live in countries where the legislative reality is one thing and the real one is something different",

Georgij Pocheptsov, another Ukraine representative, said. The phrase of his compatriot Valery Ivanov echoed this: "The fact that the law is adopted does not mean that it will be executed by the executive branch."


The aspiration of the authorities to retain, in any possible way, the control over media, the unshaped political and legal fields, the absence of developed advertising market, etc., all this were mentioned by the participants to be hindering the development of free media and democracy. As

the representative of the Ministry of Communications of South Africa Lumko Mtimde said, even if everyone can be licensed to broadcast, this does not mean that in this way the diversity of opinions is ensured. Also, unlike Sweden, no political parties in SAR, have rights for a frequency.


The question of how to transit from the state TV and radio to the really public ones and how to eliminate the institute of the state-owned media as such still remains rhetoric for the posttotalitarian countries.


The whole broad scope of problems and issues discussed at the Conference is planned by Yerevan Press Club for publication as a brochure in English and Russian languages. Some of the Conference materials are already presented at YPC Web Site: www.ypc.am

Yerevan Press Club