Improving legislation to ensure transparency over Media owners
A roundtable was held on 26 March 2007 to discuss improving legislative regulation of transparency with regard to media ownership. It was organized by the National Commission for the Affirmation of Freedom of Speech and the Development of Information under the President of Ukraine [the Commission], with the support of the Council of Europe and the International Renaissance Foundation. The participants discussed the draft law “On amendments to some Ukrainian laws on ensuring transparency of ownership of mass media outlets” which was passed by the Verkhovna Rada in its first reading on 7 February 2007.
Those present included two Council of Europe experts, Ed van Loon and Dr Sandra Bašić Hrvatin who discussed the draft law from the perspective of European standards, Vitaly Shevchenko Head of the National Council of Ukraine on Television and Radio Broadcasting and others involved in the Ukrainian media.
The roundtable on improving legislative regulation of media ownership transparency approved the following recommendations to the Verkhovna Rada to be taken into account in preparing the draft law “On amendments to some Ukrainian laws on ensuring transparency of ownership of mass media outlets” for its second reading, as well as in improving Ukrainian legislation on the mass media.
With regard to the print media we recommend the following steps:
- To replace the permit procedure for registering press media outlets with a notification procedure since the existing registration procedure is an unwarranted restriction of freedom of expression and, accordingly, is in contravention of the Ukrainian Convention and the European Convention on Human rights;
- To clearly define the features of unacceptable concentration on the markets of the nationwide, regional and local print media;
- To establish that the powers to monitor observance by print media outlets of legislation on protecting competition and preventing unfair competition, including the observance of the Article 10 of the Law “On Printed Mass Communication Media (the Press) in Ukraine” are held exclusively by offices of the Anti-Monopoly Committee of Ukraine;
- To remove from the draft law the provision on the need to provide in print details information about the person responsible for the specific issue.
With regard to television and radio organizations we recommend the following steps:
- To remove the restrictions on the rights of foreign individuals or legal entities to found and / or take part in the statutory fund of television and radio organizations [TRO];
- To remove the ban on legal entities registered in an offshore zone being the founder or having a part in the property of the TRO. At the same time, the National Council of Ukraine on Television and Radio Broadcasting may require that individuals or entities registered in some zones provide additional information about their structure of ownership;
- To agree the definition and use in the Law “On television and radio broadcasting” terms which relate to property relations, founding or having a part in a legal entity, with Ukrainian civil, economic and anti-monopoly legislation;
- To allow that in an application to receive (extend) a broadcasting licence, information must be given not only about the direct founder (co-founder), owner (co-owner) of the TRO, and related individuals, but also the final owner (physical person);
- To establish that an application to receive (extend) a broadcasting licence submitted by a shareholding company must contain a list of shareholders with more than 1 percent of the shares. At the same time, changes in the make up of shareholders should not in themselves require making changes to the broadcasting licence;
- To remove the provision on the need for television and radio organizations to publicize reports (proposal to Article 59 of the Law on television and radio broadcasting”), envisaging the duty of the National Council of Ukraine on Television and Radio Broadcasting to provide details in response to a formal request for information which are contained in the State Register of Television and Radio Organizations.
- To allow for other amendments to Ukrainian legislation which follow from the Recommendations of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Council of Europe R (94) 13 on measures to promote media transparency.