Legal framework

The Constitution of the Republic of North Macedonia provides for freedom of speech, public performance, public informing and the free establishment of institutions for informing the public (Article 16).

How the media scene functions in the country is regulated through the Law on Media and the Law on Audio and Audiovisual Media Services. Both laws were adopted in 2013 and through them, the basic principles of the functioning of televisions, radios and print media were established.

According to the Media Law, the media is defined as a means of public informing for the daily or periodic publication of editorially shaped content in written, auditory or visual form, in order to inform and satisfy the cultural, educational and other needs of the general public. The law guarantees the freedom of the media, but also determines their obligations not to report in a way that violates human rights, threatens national security, protects minors, etc. Furthermore, the law determines the conditions under which individuals and legal entities can establish a media outlet. In addition to this, the law regulates the principles of the functioning of the media i.e. transparency, the publication of an imprint, the rights and obligations of journalists and editors, etc.

Furthermore, the Law on Audio and Audiovisual Media Services more precisely regulates the rights and obligations of electronic media - television and radio. This includes the allocation of frequencies and licenses for local, regional or national broadcast programs, the minimum personnel and technical conditions required for the regular functioning of these media, as well as the ratio of informative, educational and recreational contents in the program scheme.

Particularly, the institution that has the key role in the regulation of the media space is the Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services. It is an independent body whose Council is elected by the Macedonian parliament, while the Council then elects the Agency’s director. The agency has the following scope of work: it decides on the granting, revocation or extension of licenses for television or radio broadcasting, takes care of the protection and development of the pluralism of audio and audiovisual media services, encourages and supports the existence of diverse, independent audio and audiovisual media services. It also encourages freedom of expression, takes care of ensuring public nature in the work of broadcasters, takes care of protecting the interests of citizens in the area of audio and audiovisual media services, conducts monitoring and takes measures in cases of violations of the provisions of the law or by-laws, encourages media literacy and more.

Moreover, the Macedonian Radio Television (MRT) was established as a public service through the Law on the Establishment of a Public Enterprise Macedonian Radio Television in 1998. This law regulated the manner and principles of functioning of the television and radio channels of the public service, its structure and the manner of selection and functioning of its managerial bodies. This law is no longer enforced as its provisions have simply been carried over into later laws, including the Law on Audio and Audiovisual Media Services, which now governs the operation of the public service. The independence of the Macedonian Radio Television from the executive power is ensured so that the members of its highest bodies - the management board and the program council, are selected in a competition announced by the parliament, while the government has no participation in the process. The program council elects the MRT director and deputy director.

The Law on Audio and Audiovisual Media Services prohibits secret partnerships among broadcasters. It has been established that foreign nationals and legal entities can be founders of broadcasters under equal conditions as Macedonian citizens (with the exception of foreign nationals registered in countries in which, according to their regulations, it is forbidden or impossible to determine the origin of the founding capital). Political parties, state bodies, state administration bodies, public enterprises, local self-government units, holders of public functions and the members of their families may not carry out broadcasting activities or be founders of any broadcasters.

The provisions regarding media concentration in the Law on Audio and Audiovisual Media Services refer to broadcasters – televisions and radio stations, regardless of the technical means of transmitting the signal. All restrictions apply equally to radio stations and terrestrial television, satellite television, as well as those broadcast through an unlimited resource (cable, IPTV). In fact, all restrictions apply to ownership shares.

Commercial radios or televisions may not connect, either through direct or indirect ownership, with companies that carry out the following activities: advertising and marketing, distribution of audiovisual works, film production, market research and public opinion, as well as transmission of radio/television programs through electronic communication networks.

Media concentration restrictions established for media owners also apply to people associated with them, including their family members. The print media and news agencies are indirectly covered due to the ban on capital integration between a broadcaster and a company that owns a print media or a news agency.

Digital media, more specifically domestic online portals that publish informative or other content, are not subject to regulation either by the Law on Media or the Law on Audio and Audiovisual Media Services.

Furthermore, state advertising in audiovisual media is not allowed. Article 102 prohibits state bodies, state administrative bodies, public enterprises, local self-government units, public institutions, as well as legal entities with public powers and fully state-owned commercial companies not to allocate funds to private broadcasters for the purpose of informing the public about their services or activities.

As for the print media, the Government supports them through a program which covers from 50 to 70 percent of the costs of printing and distribution of daily and weekly newspapers. Based on this program, 300 to 700 thousand euros have been allocated to various print media in the past five years. This support, however, is not regulated by a law related to the media sphere. Rather, the program is carried out on the basis of the Law on Budget Execution.

From September 2022, with the support of a group of experts hired by the EU, the information and public administration ministry started a process of amending the media legislation in the country in order to transpose the regulations and recommendations of the EU and the Council of Europe. The first stage of this process consisted in harmonizing the Law on Audio and Audiovisual Media Services with the Audiovisual Media Services Directive of the European Commission from 2018. This was a condition for the country's participation in the Creative Europe program. The second phase of the legislative reforms, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2023, also covers a number of other issues, including the provisions on media concentration. For a long time, these provisions have been deemed as outdated and inadequate for the digital environment in which the media operate today.

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    Global Media Registry
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