In November, Romanians are set to head to the polls to elect a new president from a field of 14 candidates during two rounds of polling. But one important participant, the National Audiovisual Council of Romania (CNA), will be sidelined as it loses its legally mandated quorum.
According to the CNA’s website, its role is to “ensure that Romania’s TV and radio stations operate in an environment of free speech, responsibility and competitiveness.”
While the first round of voting is set to get underway on 2 November, the CNA’s quorum of eight will be halved on 4 November when four members of the council step down at the end of their terms. If no candidate wins a majority in the first poll, the top candidates will compete in a second round on 16 Nov.
“Without a quorum, the CNA cannot function, and thus it cannot sanction the eventual abuses of television or radio stations during the election campaign,” said Narcisa Iorga, a CNA board member. Iorga believes politicians will benefit from this, as it is in their best interests to have an inactive CNA. Television stations will also use the situation in their favor, though they are already accustomed to breaking the audiovisual legislation, she added.
According to some members of the council, it could be January before the CNA regains its quorum and the ability to make decisions on issuing sanctions, well after the election campaign and the two rounds of voting.
The CNA is Romania’s only regulatory body overseeing television and radio programmes. In its watchdog role, the regulator ensures that legislation governing programming is respected. It’s a key role in a country where television is the dominant media among the population. Political parties and interest groups use the country’s live television shows to get their message across to the public.
By law, the CNA is supposed to have 11 board members. To maintain a quorum, eight members need to be present at the proceedings. The members, who have a mandate of six years, are nominated by the senate (three members), the chamber of deputies (three), the president (two), the government (three), and are confirmed by the parliament.
This is where politics comes into play: the parliament, controlled by a coalition led by the party of Victor Ponta, the prime minister who is the best-placed candidate at the presidential elections, did not vote to confirm the new members before the parliamentary vacation began. Therefore in less than a month, the CNA will have only seven members, one member short of the quorum.
Not having enough members to be able to take decisions is nothing new for the regulatory body. When there are politically sensitive issues on the table, some of its members usually go on a vacation.
For example, on 9 October a number of complaints against the Antena 3 news television will be debated, but it is more than likely that will be no quorum. Two CNA members are currently on vacation, and another two just announced their absence, wrote Iorga on her Facebook wall.
Media violation reports from mediafreedom.ushahidi.com