On 14 December 2017, a draft of the new edition of the Law of Ukraine «On television and radio broadcasting» (№7397) was registered in Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian Parliament). Igor Rozkladay and Dariya Opryshko, lawyers of the Centre for Democracy and Rule of Law, took part in creation of the bill. The new edition, named «On audiovisual media services», is aimed at integration of the European legislation into Ukrainian law.
Due to authors’ view, the optimal way to achieve this goal is updating the law according to technical development and simplification of the regulations by excluding the excess technical details. It will also be achieved through providing clarity and predictability about restrictions (licenses, supervision, sanctions, content requirements), as well as providing the guarantees for independent and transparent regulation.
The key points of the new bill include:
- Media service providers and types of services
In line with the EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive, all media service providers will be divided based on the type of services: linear (traditional TV and radio broadcasters) and non-linear (media service providers that select a catalogue of programs to be chosen by viewers at their own request,
providers of access to the television and radio channels, providers for user generated video-sharing platforms). Separate status will be prescribed for provider of terrestrial digital network (now – “Zeonbud”).
Some specifics in regulation will be introduced for provider of public broadcasting, provider of international broadcasting (“Inomovlennia”) and community broadcasters.
- Licensing and permissions
The bill provides for licensing exclusively for terrestrial broadcasting and the provider of terrestrial digital network. The rest of the media service providers (broadcasting via wire, satellite, Internet) are subject to the registration procedure. The only requirement to obtain a permission is to submit the full required list of documents.
The requirements to obtain the license or permission do not apply to the distribution of audiovisual information on websites with user-generated content (for example, YouTube or Vimeo).
- The Regulator: procedure of appointment and authority
The main change with regard to the forming of the National Council on Television and Radio Broadcasting of Ukraine (the Regulator) is the introduction of the competition procedure for the appointment of 4 members of the National Council by the President of Ukraine.
The bill improves the procedure and grounds on which the National Council can bring providers to liability. For instance, the bill clearly defines the types of violations of broadcasting legislation and sanctions for it (current edition of the Law has many flows in synchronizing the duties and responsibilities of broadcasters with the liability for its violation). The bill also specifies a list and procedure of application of sanctions. The National Council examining cases of violation of the relevant legislation may apply the following sanctions: to declare a warning; to impose a fine, the amount of which is based on the minimum wage; to cancel the registration; or to apply to the court for annulment of the license, as well as, in cases determined by the Law, to suspend licensing or providing access to schedules for programs.
Also, the Regulator will be obligated to work under the “planning-reporting system”: the report should be a result of the implementation of the annual plan, which, in turn, should be formed on the basis of the five-year Strategy of National Council. According to the current version of the bill, the Strategy of the National Council will have to be approved by the Parliament.
- Community media
The law provides for the possibility of non-governmental organizations to establish non-profit broadcasters – community media. Such NGOs will be able to obtain the appropriate status only subject to the transparency of membership and funding, which is confirmed by an external organization, an authorized by the Regulator. The purpose of such broadcasters is to provide local news or content related to the interests of the community.
One of the most controversial issues is the establishment of a Joint Regulatory and Supervisory Authority, consisting of representatives of the media industry, public associations, non-governmental organizations and experts, for making decisions on the protection of minors from harmful content impact, compliance with legislation on the peculiarities of media services during the elections, etc. The issue is still the subject of negotiations, so the concept embodied in the project is not final.
The bill envisages the possibility of work through a specially created “electronic office” of the licensee / registrant. Such a module should simplify the bureaucracy and make communication with the Regulator more comfortable for media service providers. It will also allow the Regulator to work more efficiently, especially in the context of ensuring transparency of media ownership.
- Consumers protection
The bill obliges providers to store media content for half a year (currently – only 2 weeks) in order to protect consumers’ rights. In addition, consumers should be properly informed about the quality and volume of services they receive.
The bill implies additional obligations on content providers, as to the protection of children, in particular, through the mechanism of informing about the content that may endanger children.
The bill brings the terminology of Law in line with the EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive. For example, it removes outdated definitions, such as “transmission”, and introduces the concept of audiovisual services.
The full text of the bill is available here (in Ukrainian): http://w1.c1.rada.gov.ua/pls/zweb2/webproc4_1?pf3511=63139 .