A Checklist for Editorial Independence in Broadcasting

Reforming Broadcasting:
Towards Editorial Independence in Public Service Radio and Television

An IFJ Conference for Journalists in South-eastern Europe

Zagreb, Croatia, April 15th-18th, 1999

FINAL STATEMENT: Journalists and media professionals from 14 countries meeting in Zagreb on April 15-18th at the IFJ conference for journalists in South-eastern Europe: "Reforming Broadcasting: Towards Editorial Independence in Public Service Radio and Television" adopted the following final statement:

We insist that governments can only protect democracy by ensuring that everyone has the right to freedom of expression and opinion;

We demand that governments create accountable and democratic public service broadcasting systems;

We insist that public service obligations in media are essential to freedom of expression and opinion and to the protection of plurality of views;

We agree that in the coexistence of public and private broadcasting, independence, plurality and variety in programming must be protected, the financial standing of public broadcasting must be secured and a framework must exist to guarantee the professional and ethical role of journalists and programme makers;

We note that the concept of "public service" must be a duty covering the public information services of all broadcasting enterprises, the private as well as the publicly funded;

We believe that professional standards of journalism and public service obligations are also important to the development of private broadcasters and we urge governments to facilitate activities of private broadcasters providing a public service;

We state that independence of public service broadcasters must be guaranteed by appropriate structures such as pluralistic internal boards or other independent bodies;

We recognise the importance of the journalists' union and solidarity within the workforce of broadcast media to create broadcasting structures which, through public administration and diverse and independent sources of funding which do not interfere with the editorial line, can benefit all of the community;

We recognise that the situations of public service broadcasting is different in the various countries of the region.

We welcome the Council of Europe recommendation on the guarantee of the independence of public service broadcasting;

We support the demand of the Forum 21 in Croatia for the true transformation of HRT into a public radio and television institution, which will satisfy all professional journalistic criteria and fulfil through its programmes the task of satisfying political, cultural and entertainment interests of its viewers and listeners by presenting faithfully the pluralism of Croatian society;

WE DECLARE that it is essential to develop, within every country of South-east Europe:

a legal and financial framework which guarantees public service broadcasting, thus protecting the cultural and social diversity of communities;

regulations which support public service obligations on all media to provide reliable, accurate and quality information services available for public consumption;

national and international regulatory structures to protect editorial independence in broadcasting. All regulatory structures must be balanced in representation of civil and political society and not dominated by any political faction or related organisations.


1. Status of public service broadcasting organisations

Public service broadcasting organisations must be financially independent from government. Financial sources can include license fees, advertising, sponsorship. In order to allow for public service broadcasting to continue to be available in a changing technological environment there must be sufficient financial stability and investment into the development of new services.

2. Role of the Overall Governing Bodies of Public Service Broadcasting

The overall governing bodies/ board of trustees/ advisory councils of public service broadcasting have no role to play in the day-to-day management of the public service broadcasters.

In order to ensure that the governing bodies reflect civil society and professional standards of journalism there must be an adequate representation of groups of civil society and elected representatives of the editorial staff of the public service broadcasters.

3. Role of management

The top management positions of the public service broadcasters must be open for public tender and must be allocated for a fixed term regardless of any terms of office of the elected government.

The management of the public service broadcasters must protect journalists from interference from outside interests be they political or economic.

Managers and editors-in-chief of public service broadcasters cannot receive any mandate or take instructions from any person or body whatsoever from outside the public service broadcasting organisation. They must exercise their functions strictly in the interests of the public service broadcasting organisation which they represent and manage.

Basic documents and decisions regarding management, editorial and financial matters should be made available to the editorial staff.

There should be regular meetings between the top managers and the representatives of the editorial staff to discuss matters affecting programming policy and editorial content.

4. Fundamental Rights and Obligations of the Editorial Staff

In order to fulfil their journalistic duties pay levels and working conditions for journalists must be appropriate.

Journalists must have the right to equal pay, equality in career development and equal access to further professional education.

The recruitment, promotion and transfer as well as the rights and obligations of the staff of public service broadcasting organisations must be based on merit and must be free of all forms of discrimination.

The staff of public service broadcasting organisations must be guaranteed without discrimination the right to take part in trade union activities, including strikes and the right to have trade union representation in all staff matters, collective bargaining and grievances procedures.

Editors and journalists working in public service broadcasting must not hold office in a political party.

5. Minimum Standards for Editorial Statutes

The editorial staff represents the moral and intellectual capital of the public service broadcasting station;

The appointment and dismissal of the editor-in-chief, or equivalent by management must be confirmed by the editorial staff by majority vote;

The editorial staff must be consulted on decisions which affect:

definition of editorial policy and content of the broadcasting station;

personnel policies;

transfer/change of tasks of the journalists in the editorial department if the journalist concerned does not agree with the decision;

The editorial staff has the right to participate with management in the joint development of editorial codes/guidelines;

The editorial staff to be heard on matters of grievances concerning editorial policy;

The journalists have the right to refuse an assignment if the assignment breaches the journalists professional ethics as laid down in the union's/ association's code of conduct and/ or the IFJ declaration of principles on the conduct of journalism.

The editorial staff have the right to prevent and reject interference of management of third parties on the editorial content;

In case of grievances representatives of the editorial staff, the editor in chief and management hold bona fide negotiations. Representatives of the journalists associations and unions should be involved in the negotiations.

Existing editorial statutes where they are preferential prevail over the common minimum standards.

The participants call on IFJ member associations and unions:

To translate these minimum standards into their local language and to distribute them among their members;

To campaign vigorously for the adoption of the minimum standards by the public service broadcaster in their country.

The participants call on the IFJ Executive Committee

to adopt this statement and to circulate it to all IFJ member unions;

to call on the IFJ/EFJ Broadcasting Expert Group to launch a campaign for the adoption of the minimum standards by regional organisations which represent public service broadcasters;

to call on the regional organisations of the IFJ, notably the EFJ to support the campaign by calling on the European Broadcasting Union to adopt the minimum standards;

to circulate the text to relevant international governmental and non-governmental organisations including UNESCO, the Council of Europe and the OSCE asking them to support the minimum standards in their activities on reform of public service broadcasting.

Finally, the participants thank the Croatian Journalists' Association for the hosting of the conference.

Zagreb, April 17th, 1999