Romania to Eliminate Public Broadcast Fee

Update: 02 May 2017 No state reply yet
Year 21 Oct 2016 Country Romania Category Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom Source of threat State Partner EFJ/IFJ , AEJ , Index Alert level Level 2
21 Oct 2016 Romania Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom State EFJ/IFJ , AEJ , Index Level 2
No state reply yet

On 17 October 2016, the Romanian Senate approved a draft law to eliminate the monthly TV and radio licence fee and to introduce direct funding of public service media from the state budget. The proposal, initiated by the Social-Democrats leader Liviu Dragnea, has come just a few weeks ahead the general elections. The measure, highly significant for the future of public broadcasting in Romania, was buried in a draft law proposing the elimination of 102 non-fiscal taxes. The draft bill is now to be discussed in the Chamber of Deputies. The Romanian Federation of Culture and Mass-Media FAIR-MediaSind, the Center for Independent Journalism, ActiveWatch and the Convention of Media Organizations are calling the Members of the Parliament to reject the draft bill, which would increase the political dependency of the public broadcaster. The journalists’ organisations in Romania insist that the licence fees are the best way to guarantee the editorial independence of public service media, reducing the risk of political interference. The licence fee represents 67.56% of the incomes for the public television, and 49% for the public radio. The current rate of the TV fee is 0.8 EUR per month, the lowest in Europe, and the radio fee is 0.6 EUR per month. Following a recent study from the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), the licence fee system is shown to be the most stable, transparent and adaptable way to fund Public Service Media.

Updates

01 Feb 2017 : On 6 January 2017, the President of Romania promulgated the bill on the elimination of over 100 non-fiscal taxes, including the radio-TV licence tax. The law entered into force on 1 February 2017.
26 Oct 2016 : On 25 October 2016, the Lower Chamber of the Romanian Parliament adopted the bill providing for the elimination of over 100 non-fiscal taxes, including the radio-TV licence tax, rejecting the amendments of the special commission which would have seen the radio-TV licence tax remaining in force.

Follow-ups

02 May 2017 : The CoE Commissioner for Human Rights details the prerequisites for well-funded and strong public service media.
15 Dec 2016 : Statement by the participants at the ‘Public Service Media and Democracy’ Conference organized by the Council of Europe, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Czech Television and the European Broadcasting Union (10th-11th November 2016, Prague)

Relevant CoE instruments Disclaimer

15 Dec 2016 : Recommendation CM/Rec(2012)1 of the Committee of Ministers to member States on public service media governance (Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 15 February 2012 at the 1134th meeting of the Ministers' Deputies

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20 March 2018

On 20 March 2018, the European Court of Human Rights issued its Grand chamber judgment on Mehmet Altan’s case. The Court found there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention for Human Rights. With regards to article 5 §1, according to the Court findings, “Mr Altan’s continued pre-trial detention, after the Constitutional Court’s clear and unambiguous judgment of 11 January 2018 (…), could not be regarded as ‘lawful’ ”. The Court held that “for another court to call into question the powers conferred on a constitutional court to give final and binding judgments on individual applications ran counter to the fundamental principles of the rule of law and legal certainty, which (…) were the cornerstones of the guarantees against arbitrariness”. Under Article 10, the Court held in particular that “there was no reason to reach a different conclusion from that of the Constitutional Court, which had found that Mr Altan’s initial and continued pre-trial detention, following his expression of his opinions, constituted a severe measure that could not be regarded as a necessary and proportionate interference in a democratic society”. The Court pointed out in particular that “criticism of governments and publication of information regarded by a country’s leaders as endangering national interests should not attract criminal charges for particularly serious offences such as belonging to or assisting a terrorist organisation, attempting to overthrow the government or the constitutional order or disseminating terrorist propaganda”.

20 March 2018

On 20 March 2018, the European Court of Human Rights issued its Grand chamber judgment on Şahin Alpay’s case. The Court found there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention for Human Rights. With regards to article 5 §1, according to the Court findings, “Mr Alpay’s continued pre-trial detention, after the Constitutional Court’s clear and unambiguous judgment of 11 January 2018 (…), could not be regarded as ‘lawful’ ”. The Court held that “for another court to call into question the powers conferred on a constitutional court to give final and binding judgments on individual applications ran counter to the fundamental principles of the rule of law and legal certainty, which (…) were the cornerstones of the guarantees against arbitrariness”. Under Article 46 (binding force and execution of judgments) of the Convention, the Court held that it was incumbent on the respondent State to ensure the termination of Mr Alpay’s pre-tria detention at the earliest possible date. Under Article 10, the Court held in particular that “there was no reason to reach a different conclusion from that of the Constitutional Court, which had found that Mr Alpay’s initial and continued pre-trial detention, following his expression of his opinions, constituted a severe measure that could not be regarded as a necessary and proportionate interference in a democratic society”. The Court pointed out in particular that “criticism of governments and publication of information regarded by a country’s leaders as endangering national interests should not attract criminal charges for particularly serious offences such as belonging to or assisting a terrorist organisation, attempting to overthrow the government or the constitutional order or disseminating terrorist propaganda”.
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