Speech of AMA’s Chairman at the presentation of Annual Report 2018 before Albanian Parliament

Presentation of Annual Report 2018

 

In compliance with the fundamental principles for guaranteeing freedom of expression and the right to information, as obligations stemming from the Constitution of the Republic of Albania, the Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA) worked harder in 2018 to satisfy its institutional tasks and duties as an efficient and independent regulator, to guarantee the free and fair competition of operators in the audiovisual market.

 

Programming

At the first meeting of 2019, held on January 11, AMA’s Board focused on the content of communications transmitted by AMSPs and it set three priorities for their monitoring and assessment:

–        protection of minors from audiovisual communications;

–        surreptitious advertising and commercial communications;

–        audiovisual programs providing information on health and medical products.

This position of the Board reflects regulation of the most problematic issues identified in 2018- the first year in AMA’s 20 years of history where audiovisual programming was in the focus and took the main energy of the Audiovisual Media Authority.

Health programs are considered useful for the public information and education but abuses with advertising and promotion of private institutions and various services, within these programs, are considered a violation.

The monitoring has also targeted those inserts included in the news programs but are in fact surreptitious advertising that have an impact on the public by suggesting the use of various goods or services.

Whereas protection of minors from harmful audiovisual content has been and remains a priority for the Authority. In this regard, AMA’s work is focused not only in monitoring of communication contents, but also in organizing round tables with the representatives of civil society and public institutions.

In 2018, AMA draw the attention to 134 cases, mainly from National Televisions that have the biggest impact on the market for programming issues.

During 2018, the Complaints Committee reviewed 50 complaints. They were complaints about violation of Broadcasting Code principles in terms of programs for and about children, violation of human rights and dignity, transmission of commercial communications prohibited by law, surreptitious advertising, etc.

The Complaints Committee is a consolidated institution. It has played a major role in raising awareness and in organizing several conferences and round tables on important issues such as protection of minors, media education and hate speech.

 

Albanian Radio TV & AMA Contract

In 2018, AMA continued with assessing of content transmitted by the Public Broadcasting Operator by making two assessment, once in every six months. The primary objective is to monitor the process how the programs catalogue/schedule is designed, ARTV signal coverage, compared to the conditions set in the Public Broadcasting Service Contract.

In particular, AMA checks the contract compliance in terms of quantity (number of open channels) and quality (based on commitments for content transmitted by the Public Broadcasting Operator ). The AMA evaluation report was presented also before the Public Broadcasting Operator and the Managing Board.

Designing a catalogue/schedule of programs by the Public Broadcasting Operator had positive results and increased the number of programs meeting the interest of various audiences’ levels.

However, according the two assessments of 2018, the Public Broadcasting Operator has to consider with priority some of the Service Contract aspects.

In particular:

– There must be two channels for children (only one channel is operating so far). Yet, the communication contents transmitted in that channel do not always guarantee the quality and diversity of the target age group (it is mostly made of contents taken from the archive, that is not attractive, and lacks interactivity).

– There must be at least one news program in sign language transmitted in two general channels. Up to date, the Public Broadcasting Operator operates only in one of the channels.

On the other hand, ARTV has completed the work for setting up a digital infrastructure all over the territory. Nowadays, ARTV covers about 90% of the population with digital signal. In addition to digital switchover, ARTV is legally bound to provide analog signal to the areas where digitization process is not finalized yet. Compared to 2017, ARTV has a far better and qualitative signal coverage. In this regard, it has cooperated well with AMA and it has constant communication both at managerial and technical level.

 

Partnership

During 2018, AMA consolidated more the partnership and synergy with institutions and organizations dealing with the media market issues. By means of these partnerships, a lot of projects were organized aiming to improve the reporting of editorial offices in terms of child protection, gender equality, fake news, media education or adaptation of journalists to new applications.

 

AMA’s Periodical Bulletin

Over the last year, AMA continued to publish a Periodic Bulletin- a set of performance indicators on the audiovisual market in the Republic of Albania. It is published in-print and online version since 2016.

In the latest edition of the Bulletin, AMA has enriched the data with information on audiovisual media ownership by making some reflection comments on each of the licensed AMSPs. This practice will be followed in other editions of the Bulletin, by taking due regard of transparency of property element for the public, and of other elements and dynamics of the audiovisual market in our country.

 

Digitization

During 2018, AMA was firmly committed to finalize the digitization of audiovisual broadcasting. It should be noted that the objective of digital switchover by September in Tirana – Durrës area, as the area with the highest concentration of population, was not met.

Despite Government’s aid allocated to AMA for the public information campaign, despite the Government assistance providing decoders for free to 88,000 vulnerable families, despite the measures taken by the Government or AMA with secondary legislation to avoid the monopoly of companies selling decoders, the market operators were not ready to supply the public on time and quality with decoders.

This resulted in long queues, creating chaotic situations at the customers service points of operators. While facing such situation, to serve best the highest interest of the public, AMA was obliged to postpone the digitization process.

On the meantime, we want to inform those households already having a decoder that the digital terrestrial broadcasting is still operational and provide a high quality in a high number of television programs free of charge. In the areas where this signal is present, the number of programs transmitted free of charge is doubled or tripled. The number of channels is the highest offered in the region, but above all in the largest percentage of the population.

About 35% of Albanian population look watch over 35 channels in analog and digital technology upon payment. Meanwhile, in Kosovo, Macedonia and Greece less than 10% of population watch channels free of charge and much lower number of channels.

For the first time in September of last year, AMA managed to switch off all illegal analog and digital broadcasting. And this is the  greatest achievement in terms of signals and frequencies in Albanian urban areas. This is an abnormal and intolerable phenomenon over these 20 years and aggravated from termination of mandate of one Board to the other.

Over the 20 years of AMA’s existence, the problems of audio/audiovisual market have been increasing over the years. The number of debtors to AMA, their broadcasting without a license, or outside the areas for which they were licensed are indicators of such increase.

Thanks to our work over the last four years, we have managed to have today no debtor operator to AMA. Today, there is no illegal national or regional operator in large urban areas, both in analog and digital, either in audio or television broadcasting.

Over the years, AMA has been perceived as an institution that grants and revokes licenses, switches on and off frequency bands, while the Law on Audiovisual Media in over 70% talks about the programming issues, respect for ethics, protection of juveniles, etc.

Upon the ultimate resolution of financial or frequency problems and judicial processes, AMA is nowadays shifting 100% of its focus of attention towards program issues.

 

Institutional consolidation

Over the last year, AMA was proactive in building and strengthening communication bridges with other public institutions and agencies to sign cooperation agreements. This was enabled thanks to the monitoring mechanisms of independent institutions by the Parliament.

There is noted a not-so-positive trend. The tendency is to make general agreement lacking a clear object or field of action. AMA has asked that agreements to be specific and explicit about the scope of activity and the method of cooperation between the institutions.

It considers as indispensable making legal interventions targeting online piracy. Nowadays, online piracy is massive and causing considerable damage to companies and the state budget.

While now legal interventions in areas with development potential are under discussion, in the field of media and audiovisual platforms, we have a consolidated situation for over 10 years. However, the recent technological developments bound us to be faster in supporting this industry with primary and secondary acts.

The main topic of each discussion and meeting of European and regional regulatory authorities is shifting the influence from traditional to social media and online platforms.

Information, human and financial resources are now shifting to online media and platforms, which is an increasing trend, because of every individual find it easy to have access thereto and because an unlimited number of persons can use online portals.

We all share the conviction that online space provides infinite number of opportunities and rights, but it certainly needs to limit the responsibility, in order to guarantee the right to information, freedom of expression, protection of dignity and other fundamental human rights, respect and guarantee of the right to privacy, the prohibition of contents that promote intolerance between citizens, prohibition of contents that stimulate or justify violence.

Therefore, the focus of the Authority still remains approximation of regulatory acts with the European Union directives and the trend of technological developments in the field of audiovisual broadcasting.

During 2018, AMA had very good bilateral relations with regulatory authorities in the region and beyond.

Of course, cooperation with Kosovo had the biggest share in this regard. This is because, firstly, 95% of the population in Kosovo speaks Albanian and Albanian media are not only present but also a primary actor in informing Albanian people in Kosovo, and secondly, it is a large, developing market that should not be left out. Besides an agreement signed with Kosovo IMC, we have held several meetings aiming to strengthen the cooperation in the field of digitization and exchange of information between us have increased.

Moreover, AMA has strengthened co-operation with two other neighboring states- Macedonia and Greece- by means of meetings and exchanging information with the counterpart audiovisual regulatory authorities of these countries.

 

In conclusion, let me thank the Commission of Education and Public Information Media, and in particular the Head of this Commission, Mrs. Milva Ekonomi, not only for being always there for us and for the support given to the Audiovisual Media Authority, but above all for the new impetus dedicated to this cooperation. Cooperating with this Commission is key for the quality building and consolidation of AMA. And for this we want to thank you in particular.

In the end allow me to add that AMA is celebrating this year its 20th anniversary.

20 years may be not much for an institution that has to guarantee freedom of expression and information, competition in the media market and regulation of this sector. However, we can proudly say that, today, we have a functional, efficient institution ready to address the thousand challenges this sector is facing.

 

Thank you for your attention!

April 18, 2019

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