Hasanbegovic: Monopoly that damages the ideal of media pluralism has to end

NEWS 22.03.2021 21:45
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zlatko hasanbegović
Source: N1

Member of Parliament and former Minister of Culture, Zlatko Hasanbegovic, appeared on N1 television on Monday to comment on the situation with the amendment to the Electronic Media Act.

Hasanbegovic said he believed that the existing law is inadequate.

“The existing law is inadequate. It was passed more than 10 years ago in a different context and that is why we have a draft of a new Electronic Media Act that needs to go to a second reading in Parliament. I intended to make radical changes in that sense, but I was effectively a minister for less than five months, and it was not possible to initiate radical changes in that period. ”

Asked whether these “radical changes” mean more serious liberalization of the electronic media market, he answers:

“We have to distinguish two things – the liberalization of the media market, that is, business interests – and the interests of the state. The reason for the conversation is the situation with your television, among other things, which is a consequence of certain monopolies that have emerged. The whole problem needs to be seen in a broader context. One is the issue of liberalization, one is the position and role of the Agency for Electronic Media and the third is the issue of broadcasting licenses.

I am interested in the state’s interests here, because licenses belong to Croatia’s commons. In the context of all this, I can talk in principle what are the criteria for awarding national licenses, and where is Croatia’s interest in having such a system of licenses, and what taxpayers get out of watching lobotomized commercial channels, infantile children’s programs, darts competitions, and the like. Or why – in terms of political journalism and news programming – media pluralism is below the level of any country.”

He pointed out that this is not about censorship.

“The government prescribes the conditions for licenses and awards them because it considers this to be a type of public interest. Trivial, banal, content, in my opinion, cannot be the type of content that gets national broadcast licenses. They can be found on cables, via telecoms who want to offer people to watch something, but here we are talking about national licenses. Should lobotomized content, reality shows, media garbage, be promoted through national licenses? ”Hasanbegovic asked rhetorically.

He also commented on whether vertical integration should be enabled so that content producers can distribute it too.

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“Speaking from the position of a left-wing politician, Mr. Matula had agitated in favor of private business interest, which would be expected of me sooner rather than from him, and he also spoke about vertical integration “, said Hasanbegovic and explained:

“Until the other day, I didn’t even know the meaning of that term. This is Article 68 of the draft Law on Electronic Media and it comes down to the fact that we now have a situation where a telecommunications company that airs content via cable cannot be a publisher of media content at the same time…

This is a simple matter – should the telecom operator X, who can’t be a media publisher now, be allowed to do so. In principle, just as it is unacceptable to have a monopoly or a duopoly, that same monopoly and a duopoly could not arise in the event of a change in the law. That article didn’t fall from Mars, it made sense 10 or 15 years ago. In principle, the law should be changed with certain restrictions, but the whole issue cannot be viewed partially but in principle, and we need a radical change of the whole system, which must include this partial issue. ”

He also points out that regulations already exist, but are not being implemented.

“Everything exists, but all those empty institutions and agencies are not doing their job. We recently marked the anniversary of the earthquake in Zagreb in the program and came to the banal realization that the law (on reconstruction) is not applied. Your question about the fate of N1 can be finally resolved with an amendment to an article in the law, but regardless of my view of the public role of this television, which contributes to media pluralism. And at this moment, you are not a Samaritan non-profit media association, you have an owner who has specific business interests, and there is no law which could order a telecom X to be obligated to air some content. Ultimately it will always remain someone’s right to decide whether they want to carry some channel or not. We just need to abolish the monopoly that harms the ideal of media pluralism.”

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