European Parliament focuses on Romanian mass media’s grievances

The MediaSind Trade Union Federation of Romanian Journalists and the ROMEDIA Media Employers’ Association are urging Government to start negotiations with social partners so that the solutions suggested by them for the local media industry may be implemented as soon as possible.

The solutions were also discussed at a public hearing on Tuesday hosted by the European Parliaments and organised by the European Parliament’s Intergroup on Press, Communication and Freedom and the European Federation of Journalists.
A press release issued after the event mentions that the conclusion reached by the attendees was that the national governments’ refuse to apply urgent measures to assist the media industry jeopardises the freedom of expression and threatens the disappearance of democratic rights.

To support democracy, the release says, political decisions are required. The support to the media could entail simplifying tax procedures to facilitate the journalist profession and press distributors.
‘Unfortunately, independent press will be eliminated and public access to information will disappear. Romania is ranked alongside Bulgaria and Slovenia in the European Union in terms of lacking incentives for the mass media. In most of the European countries the Value-Added Tax on media activities ranges between 0 and 5 percent, while subsidies for newspapers and newspaper distribution runs into millions of euros a year,’ says a MediaSind official.

In a statement, Sectary General of the European Federation of Journalists Aidan White, who moderated the hearing at the European Parliament, says that both the European Commission and the national governments of EU members are under the obligation to protect freedom and democracy through measures to support the media industry.

VAT in Romania’s media industry is absurd and ridiculous, says White, arguing that VAT on media activities should be zero and tax cuts should be operated in this area. If we want the media to contribute to democracy in the life of Europeans, he says, there should be responsibility in providing financial incentives so that this sector may cope with the problems facing it and that quality media and journalism may be promoted and protected.
The grievances introduced by ROMEDIA Deputy Chairman Cristian Unteanu will be advocated by the European Federation of Journalists before the European Commission as well.

Romanian media trade unions and employers are requiring direct/indirect subsidies for all the media activities, as they are granted in most of European Union member states; a downward adjustment in the VAT on media activities to the level in force elsewhere in the EU – between 0 and 5 percent; VAT payment upon billing; receiving financial assistance for press distribution; reducing rates and rentals on newspaper distributors by 75 percent – a fiscal measure that was in force in Romania in 1992-1996; drawing up a legislative provision to explicitly state the deductibility of spending incurred by unsold copies of print newspapers.

They are also asking for a maximum fee on the distribution of publications through the Romanian Post and the SNCFR national rail carrier; resuming financial assistance for the transport and housing of visiting media employees; introducing special norms concerning journalist creation in Law no. 8/2006;
amending legislation to legally empower the Labour Inspectorate and the Parity Board in the media industry to verify and penalise media organisations that are abusing the authors’ rights employment contracts; securing an efficient mechanism for the collection of fees for public radio and TV services and compensating for the exemptions from radio and TV fees.

The media grievances also include amending the provisions concerning the establishment of a cinema fund by the National Cinema Making Council (CNN) under Government Emergency Ordinance 39/2005; amending Article 141 (1) (o) in the Tax Code concerning the VAT without a right to deduction on television broadcasting by the SRTV national radio and television broadcasting corporation;

amending the statutes of the National News Agency so that its employees may enjoy all the rights provided for under the Uniform Mass-Media Collective Employment Contract; securing free access of journalists to the databases of the Commercial Companies Registry and the Official Gazette; setting up employment tribunals and shortening the time between court hearings in employment litigations, and also amending Law 204/2006 concerning optional pension funds, so that journalist may set up their own pension fund.

The media trade unions are also campaigning for a cut or even the cancellation of the CAS social security contributions on media people who have concluded authors’ rights employment contracts and are already contributors to optional pension funds; urgent resumption of work by RODIPET, the leading press distribution company in Romania; the pay of wage arrears to the 1,800 RODIPET employees that are ten months overdue, and punishing the people who are guilty of having defrauded RODIPET more than 40 million euros.

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