NGOs submit amendment proposals concerning media laws to parliamentary groups

A group of 40 NGOs submitted amendment proposals to all parliamentary groups regarding the Law on Audiovisual Media Services and the Law on the National Public Broadcaster – Public Media Service of Montenegro. The goal of the submitted proposals is to contribute to the adoption of higher-quality media laws that create the conditions for improving the independence of the public media service RTCG and the Agency for Audiovisual Media Services.

The proposed changes to the Law on Audiovisual Media Services include increasing the own production of Radio Montenegro and Television Montenegro. Instead of the proposed 20% own production for the radio public broadcaster, we propose increasing it to 40%, while instead of the proposed 30% for TVCG, we suggest raising it to at least 60%. The reason for increasing RTCG’s production is the fact that with a budget allocation of 20 million euros, this public service must produce much more content than it currently does. Only in this way (by legally increasing the volume of own production) can the needs of citizens for various types of content (children’s programmes, culture, education, science, etc.) be met. It is also proposed that the selection of the governing bodies of the Agency for Audiovisual Media Services be conducted immediately after the adoption of the law. If the goal of the legal changes is to professionalize this institution, then is unnecessary to wait two to three years for the current Council and director’s mandates to expire, but to change the procedures immediately.

Regarding the Law on the National Public Broadcaster – Public Media Service of Montenegro, the group of NGOs proposes reintroducing the ban on advertising and teleshopping on TV programmes from 8 PM to 10 PM. This solution was adopted by the working group for drafting media laws (and is also present in the current law), considering that the marketing revenue for TVCG during this time slot is negligible compared to the total budget revenues it receives (currently around 20 million euros), while on the other hand, commercial media, whose total annual budgets are smaller than RTCG’s, can have a significant source of income. The proposed solution is important to accept especially since the Law on Audiovisual Media Services increases the minimum own production of commercial TV broadcasters to 25%, so the position of commercial broadcasters would be doubly worsened if TVCG were allowed to use marketing space from 8 PM to 10 PM. Many well-known public media services have a ban on advertising from 8 PM to 10 PM, and some have a complete advertising ban, such as the BBC. Also, public media services in Sweden and Germany ban advertising after 8 PM on weekdays and during holidays. The same situation exists in the Netherlands and France. When determining public policy, it is necessary to find optimal measures that will increase the production of commercial media for better public information and, on the other hand, enable fair market conditions.

The NGOs also propose increasing the number of members from 9 to 11 as agreed by the working group for drafting media laws. The RTCG Council had 11 members since 2002 after the adoption of the first modern European law on public media service. The number of Council members should be viewed considering the role of this body, which, besides managing, also has the function of representing a broad range of interests of different community segments whose suggestions should contribute to higher-quality programme content. It is also proposed to include a representative of the Bar Association in the Council, who would bring necessary legal knowledge to this body to reduce illegalities in its work. If the legal profession had been more represented in the Council, it is possible that the current Council would not have made illegal decisions when appointing the general director of RTCG.

The group of NGOs proposed tightening the criteria for selecting Council members, the general director, and directors of organizational units from 5 to 10 years of work experience with a Level VII1 qualification. The new law should contribute to greater professionalization of RTCG and the fulfillment of legally prescribed goals. It is not logical to achieve better management in RTCG by appointing people with less work experience to the Council and as the general director. Quite the opposite, there is a greater likelihood that individuals with more professional experience and the prescribed Level VII1 qualification will contribute to more responsible decision-making than those with less professional experience. Higher institutional work quality is not achieved by relaxing criteria but by tightening them. The current law prescribes that the general director should have a Level VII1 qualification and at least 10 years of work experience. The goal of selecting the general director of RTCG is not to attract as many candidates as possible but to choose a person with the highest professional experience, as this is the way to achieve higher quality work of the public media service. If the goal were to attract as many candidates as possible for the position of general director, then it would be best to remove all criteria and allow all capable citizens to apply for this position. The NGO group demands that immediately after the adoption of the law, the process of appointing a new RTCG Council with more members and a new general director of RTCG be conducted.

The submitters of the proposal are:

  1. Media Center, Goran Đurović
  2. Trade Union of Media of Montenegro, Radomir Kračković
  3. Union of Free Trade Unions of Montenegro, Srđa Keković
  4. Center for Investigative Journalism CIN-CG, Milka Tadić Mijović
  5. Human Rights Action (HRA), Tea Gorjanc Prelević
  6. Montenegrin Media Institute (MMI), Olivera Nikolić
  7. NGO Juventas, Ivana Vujović
  8. Centre for Civic Education (CGO), Daliborka Uljarević
  9. Association of Youth with Disabilities (UMHCG), Marina Vujačić
  10. NGO Prima, Aida Perović
  11. Association SPEKTRA, Jovan Ulićević
  12. Center for Monitoring and Research (CeMI), Zlatko Vujović
  13. Alliance for Equal Rights of LGBTI Persons ERA, Danijel Kalezić
  14. Montenegrin Women’s Lobby, Aida Petrović
  15. Montenegrin LGBTIQ Association Queer Montenegro, Staša Baštrica
  16. Association of Montenegrin Publishers, Vladimir Vojinović
  17. Women’s Rights Center (WRC), Maja Raičević
  18. Center for the Development of Non-Governmental Organizations (CRNVO), Zorana Marković
  19. Union of Young Entrepreneurs of Montenegro, Uroš Bulatović
  20. Montenegrin PEN Center, Milan Marković
  21. NGO NADA-Herceg Novi, Marina Vuksanović
  22. NGO Association of Parents of Children with Developmental Disabilities – Podgorica
  23. NGO Association for Affirmation and Support of Youth – Podgorica
  24. NGO Association for Support of Children with Developmental Disabilities and Their Families of Montenegro – Podgorica
  25. NGO Vuča – Berane
  26. NGO Vunov Lom – Berane
  27. Non-Governmental Foundation – “Help – Action for the North of Montenegro,” Andrijevica
  28. NGO “Bankruptcy in Montenegro,” Berane
  29. NGO SOS Hotline for Women and Children Victims of Violence Bijelo Polje
  30. NGO Manifest
  31. Association of NGOs of Bijelo Polje
  32. NGO European Youth Center of Montenegro
  33. NGO Agro Center
  34. NGO Bijelo Polje Democratic Center
  35. Association for the Protection of Workers’ and Unemployed Rights of Bijelo Polje Municipality
  36. NGO E-Roma
  37. Association Roma New Path
  38. NGO Democratic Progress
  39. NGO Green Action
  40. NGO Ecological Society, Breznica