Amendments related to advertising should be made in stages
At the end of 2014, the Georgian National Communications Commission submitted a legislative proposal to the Parliament with the aim of regulating advertising in broadcasters. The proposal provided for amendments to the Law on Broadcasting, specifically, the implementation of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD), a commitment taken by Georgia in the framework of the Association Agreement. On February 5, the Parliament passed the law in the second reading (with 63 votes against 30).
The draft law caused a controversy among media outlets. Their main remarks dealt with the dates of the law’s entry into force and with a number of norms that defined sponsorship and established the terms for placement of advertisements. In the view of broadcasters, the proposed draft law is going to have a negative effect on the advertising market and on the incomes of independent TV stations, a position also shared by representatives of advertising companies.
In its report on the advertising market, TI Georgia has stated several times that the requirement of limits on the placement of advertisements in broadcasters should be in conformity with the principles of the EU, in particular, with those of the AVMSD. Our organization still maintains this position, though we believe that the introduction of such norms in an accelerated manner is going to have a negative effect on the media market, which contains a threat. Introduction of the norms in stages is also allowed by the EU directive. In particular, in accordance with Annex XXXIII to the EU-Georgia Association Agreement, the provisions of Directive 2010/13 EU should be implemented within three years of the said agreement’s entry into force, while Article 23 of the directive, which establishes the volume of placement of advertisements and TV shopping, may be implemented within a period of five years.
Accordingly, we think that it is recommended to implement this process within reasonable time frames. It is necessary to give business a proportional time frame for familiarizing themselves with this regulation and adapting their business processes for it. In this regard, we think it’s impermissible to bring this regulation into force at a time when broadcasting companies have already concluded annual contracts on the provision of advertisements.
We also believe that the norms of the Law on Broadcasting which concern the regulation of sponsorship are problematic. Individual big players of the market and advertising agencies believe that the definition of sponsorship and hour-based restriction are not regulated in accordance with the EU directive. Accordingly, it is important that the EU regulations and directives provided for by the Association Agreement are introduced adequately, considering the Georgian reality and in a way that will give Georgian business an opportunity to fully make use of the privileges or special conditions envisaged by the EU legislation.
Unfortunately, the examination of the proposed amendments to the Law on Broadcasting in the Parliament of Georgia makes an impression that the main goal of the MPs is to impose a restriction on large broadcasters on the media market.
The changes to the Law on Broadcasting were also followed by a response from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which, in its resolution on media freedom in Europe, called on the Georgian authorities to revise the amendments to the Law on Broadcasting which are related to regulation of advertising.
In spite of the fact that the Sector Economy Committee agreed with certain remarks of the broadcasters, we once again call upon the legislative body to take into account the arguments of each player of the market as much as possible when adopting the draft law. The authorities should implement the norms and requirements of the AVMSD in the Georgian legislation in a way that these regulations will not cause a considerable financial damage to broadcasters and other players of the market, as this will reflect negatively on the country’s media environment.