Transmission of surreptitious advertising or abuse with the audio-visual communications on health care and medicinal products by AMSPs is prohibited

During its meeting of January 11, 2019, the first for this year, the Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA) discussed broadly the programs transmitted by AMSPs, as well as the compliance with the Law No. 97/2013 “On Audiovisual Media in the Republic of Albania”, as amended, the Broadcasting Code and other effective secondary legislation currently into force. From the very importance this matter has for the public, but also for the AMSPs, representatives of Complaints Committee, Programs Department and Legal and Licensing Department were invited to attend the meeting.

In 2018, AMA has monitored and assessed contents, a part of which was made upon complaints received from citizens, various organizations or institutions. Some of the most sensitive issues were protection of minors from audiovisual communications, advertising and commercial communications, health care and medical products communications, avoiding hate speech and discrimination in any form, gender equality, compliance with Albanian language standard in writing and speaking, etc. The Authority draw the attention of AMSPs to the cases of non-compliance with legal requirements.

During the discussions at the meeting, the AMA’s Board focused mainly on the broadcasting space devoted to advertising and commercial communications. Despite some improvements made by audiovisual operators, yet there are cases of surreptitious promotional contents using subliminal techniques and means that have the power of suggestion, which are all prohibited. A typical example mentioned particularly during the meeting were the news programs including information chronicles, which in fact were surreptitious advertising. Article 3, paragraph 7, of the Law 97/2013, as amended, provides that a surreptitious audiovisual commercial communication, is “the representation in words or pictures of goods, services, the name, the trade mark or the activities of a producer of goods or a provider of services in programs when such representation is intended by the media service provider to serve as advertising and might mislead the public as to its nature.”

Audiovisual communications containing information and discussion on health care and present pharmaceuticals products were another issue that the Board called for careful attention to avoid abuses by operators. At the beginning of this year, AMA called once again the attention of all audiovisual operators not to transmit medical services, such as in the form of surreptitious commercial communication about hospitals, health care institutions or certain staff serving to them, which in fact influence by suggestion or misleading the public audience  of these audiovisual program in the selection them to receiving such services and which are of paramount importance to health.

We want to bring to your attention the fact that opinions of some medical doctors expressed in certain audiovisual programs contradict the “Code of Ethics and Medical Deontology”, which prohibits medical doctors “to engage in advertising or publicity of any kind, unless it is of scientific or education  purpose. In this case, a medical doctor should be careful that such advertising is objective and in accordance with the rules of medical deontology. The medical doctor is not allowed to make any kind of publicity in favor of his or her personal activity or of a particular institution” (article 60, paragraph 3). In case of presentation of pharmaceutical products, audiovisual editors shall take the utmost care to promote only those pharmaceutical products that are part of a list of drugs available without prescription, based on the Pharmacists’ Orders list of OTC Drugs.

During the Board’s meeting it was emphasized that the protection of minors during audiovisual broadcasting remains a priority for AMA monitoring and assessment. Despite the improvement of situation in this regard, yet there are violations.  There are cases when, at the times children are in front of TV screens, harmful violence content, strong erotic scenes, use of narcotics, etc. are transmitted without placing any warning or other protective measure, as foreseen by the legislation.

The issues of protection of minors, advertising and commercial communications, as well as communication content on health care and use of medical products are identified by the Board as priority issued for 2019 and onward. Therefore, they will be intensively monitored and assessed. AMA calls the attention of private and public AMSPs, in particular of the national and regional information AMSPs that have a greater impact on viewers, to comply with the requirements of legislation. Otherwise, any case of violation or abuse identified, in addition to a reprimand, will be subject to administrative sanctions, according to the effective primary and secondary legislation into force.

Audiovisual Media Authority

January 14, 2018

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