A single law to regulate in a comprehensive manner the whole media sector is a guarantee of respect of European standards and the transparency principle in the media sector means everything that can influence the editorial line of the media outlet must be visible, said Joan Barata, international expert for freedom of expression and media law.
Formerly the head advisor to OSCE Freedom of Media Representative, Barata is working in the field of freedom of expression, media and telecom regulation, public service broadcasting and political and legal media transition.
How do non-transparent relations between politics and media affect the society, the public and the citizen? What are the consequences to democracy?
The lack of transparency, both in the private and public media sector, affects media pluralism and may create serious problems when it comes to the openness and fairness of the media market. You need to take into account that issues of transparency are very important and are included, for example, in the EU Services Directive. Furthermore, international organizations are insisting that the issue of transparency, regarding ownership and relationship between media owners and managers, political parties and governments, is a basic precondition for democracies so it is something that needs to be addressed basically through a very appropriate proportional regulation.
Is it possible to regulate media ownership transparency through a single act, considering both the complexity of the political system in BiH, and the fact that other laws also regulate public informing?
When it comes to media regulation, legal certainty as one of the principles of international law must be guaranteed by the national government. Having different regulations in different laws means that you need to interpret the interaction between those different laws – which is a bad thing. I think it is not only possible but strongly advisable to have one single law that covers the whole sector based on the principle of technological neutrality. Such a legal act should be a prerogative for the state, and if you take a look at other advanced systems in the world, the idea is to create one single law that regulates in a comprehensive manner the whole sector. Then of course, you also need to give some power to the regulatory authority fo the interpretation of the law, but the basic principles have to be established in one very clear, systematic law.
What should be the criteria for allocation of public funds for media?
There are different models in different countries. If we refer to media in general, both public and private, there are three main principles promoted by the European Law, which are objective, reasonable and non-discriminatory. If you have something that is transparent, that is objective, reasonable and non-discriminatory, than you may have a good scheme for allocation of funds. Everybody has to be aware of the rules of the game, you need to avoid any unilateral decision or discretion in the hands of the public authorities and you need to avoid any regulation that would put certain media outlets in a position of advantage in respect to others. Rules need to be clear, transparent, very objective, so the criteria to be fulfilled should not depend on political or personal will. They should be reasonable in the sense that you should be able to justify why you give more money to this outlet than to other ones. Non-discrimination means that everybody is treated in the same way, at least according to the same parameters.