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News 17 Aug 17

Romanian Broadcast Watchdog Mulls Permit for Russian TV

Romania’s Audiovisual Council is considering whether a Moldovan television station that rebroadcasts Russian programs can operate in Romania, amid fears that it will spread pro-Kremlin propaganda. 

Ana Maria Touma
The Romanian Nationa Audiovisual Council is set to decide at its next meetign whether a Russian channel would be able to broadcast in Romania. Photo: Liviu Florin Albei/Flikr.

Romania’s National Audiovisual Council, the country’s broadcasting watchdog, is set to decide at its next meeting whether to allow a Moldovan television channel that broadcasts Russian state TV programs to operate in Romania.

Local experts and journalists have warned that the station might give a powerful voice for Kremlin propaganda.

Russia-RTR is a state-owned Russian-language channel, owned by the state company VGTRK. It rebroadcasts internationally programs by Russia 1, Russia Kultural and news channel Russia 24.

In Moldova, it owns RTR Moldova television channel, which also broadcasts its own local news both in Russian and Romanian language.

The Moldovan company operating RTR in May registered a branch in Iasi, eastern Romania, called Telecontent Productions SRL, and applied for a license to broadcast in the country on cable.

Romania’s broadcast watchdog discussed the application on August 10 but council members postponed making a decision.

The council was scheduled to convene on Thursday, August 17, but the meeting was postponed to a date that the council said would be announced soon.

Romanian journalists and media analysts say RTR’s application might be successful.

Mihai Pavelescu, a journalist who covers cable television news in Romania, and who was present at the August 10 hearing, said some members of the broadcast watchdog found the request from RTR to be legitimate. Others questioned the content of the programs that station plans to broadcast in Romania.

“If RTR television based in Iasi, operated by Telecontent Productions, returns with a request to broadcast by satellite, I do not exclude us soon seeing a Russian-controlled television station in Iasi, or – why not – even Bucharest,” he wrote after the hearing.

The director of the Romanian daily Romania Libera Sabin Orcan wrote in an editorial on Thursday that he fears the Audiovisual Council could open the door for Russian propaganda in Romania by allowing RTR to broadcast.

“We’re not just talking about the online here. Russia Today and Sputnik are already playing aggressively,” he wrote.

However, the administrator of RTR in Romania, Veaceslav Cristea, who is a Romanian-Moldovan citizen and who registered the company in Iasi in May, told the Council hearing that the station would not be broadcasting political shows. He said it would present a mix of locally produced and Russian broadcasts, such as entertainment shows.

BIRN contacted Cristea but he did not respond to the request for an interview.

A recent monitoring report released by the Independent Media Association in Moldova said that news shows and others programs on RTR, rebroadcast by RTR Moldova, “made use of a number of manipulation and propaganda procedures”. 

Most often, the report said, RTR manipulated the news to present pro-Russian, anti-Ukraine, anti-US and anti-NATO views. Conversely, its programs emphasized pro-Kremlin views.

“Within talk-shows, debates were mimicked; people who had been invited on expressed the same point of view, which coincided with that of the moderator,” the report highlighted.

Russia24 news channel has been banned in Moldova since 2014. But several television stations still broadcast Rossia 1 state television programs, among them RTR.

The Moldovan Council for Broadcast Coordination fined the channel in July 2014, together with other stations, by for using “aggressive propaganda instruments, promoting and intensifying unconfirmed rumors, manipulating through text and footage, using labels to discredit and presenting in a negative connotation the government in Kiev [Ukraine]".

It also found the station guilty of "using disinformation and manipulation of public opinion on events in the Ukraine by using video editing tools and invectives in comments.”

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