Cooperating with broadcasters is necessary when adopting reforms on social advertising - საერთაშორისო გამჭვირვალობა - საქართველო

Cooperating with broadcasters is necessary when adopting reforms on social advertising

13 August, 2014

The Parliament is discussing the draft law, prepared by the Ministry of Justice, reforming the law “On Broadcasting” related to the issue of social advertising. The bill is put forward for parliamentary vote with the second reading today, 30 July. The draft law does not substantially change the regulations on social advertising, however it contains several novel aspects.

The ambiguity in defining social advertising

According to the law “On Broadcasting”, social advertising means:

An advertisement intended to promote public good and serve charitable goals, that is neither commercial nor pre-election advertising and does not contain any advertising of a legal entity under private law or a government agency or of the services delivered by them.

The proposed amendment makes a slight change in the definition. Specifically, municipal agencies and LEPLs are added to the list of organizations whose advertising cannot be considered as social advertising.

Therefore, the definition of social advertising still remains broad and provides an opportunity for double interpretation. Due to the ambiguity of the definition, there is risk that administrative bodies will continue to abuse social advertising to promote their various activities, which will be disguised as public interest. In the past, social advertising was widely used for political purposes; therefore, we think that a definition should be developed which would not permit such broad interpretations.

The role of the regulator in dispute settlement

According to the current law, the broadcaster itself, by its self-regulating body, resolves disputes related to social advertising. The bill proposes that if a broadcaster and an individual/organization, requesting to advertise, cannot agree whether or not the ad complies with the legal requirements, the Commission will resolve the dispute at the request of either party. This represents an interference with the business of private broadcasters by the administrative body.

Currentluy, the Communication Commission has the discretion to make a decision on removing an inappropriate ad. However, the commisions involvement in this manner, coupled with the fact that the definition of social advertising is ambigiuous, can be considered as interference with the business of private companies. Subsequently, vesting the Commission in the authority to hear disputes on social advertising entails interference with the editorial independence of private broadcasters, which can be considered as restricting media freedom.

Private broadcasters also voiced their regrets regarding the regulation. Specifically, broadcasters believe that the law obliges them to air any informational campaign free of charge. In addition, the current provision of the law, which is not proposed to be amended, obligates broadcasters to also air such social ads which might not be in compliance with their editorial policies. It is worth noting that TV companies have the full liberty to deny airing a commercial ad for any reason, while such liberty is restricted in the case of social advertising.

The importance of ensuring the involvement of parties

There have been no consultations with parties who would be directly affected by the draft bill. It is important that such reforms are developed on the basis of discussions with relevant stakeholders, leading to a consideration of opinions from market players. This will avoid any risks of harmingthe development of the market and the financial stability of broadcasters.

We call on the Parliament not to adopt the draft law without consultations with the stakeholders and ensure their involvement at this point . This will avoid risks to financial stability of media organizations and inappropriate interference with their editorial policies.