Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Occupation by Stealth

The Challenge

Veaceslav Tibuleac of the "Voice of Basarabia" radio station found a sensitive point and stuck his knife into it at the PLDM's conference on Saturday.  The statement that "the greatest danger to Moldova's existence is not the Russian 14th army stationed across the river in Transnistria, but the Russian media institutions in Chisinau, who day by day strangle Moldova's future" ruffled feathers in both Chisinau and Moscow among those who believe in the Russian language and culture's God-given right to dominate the Eurasian land mass.


The thing is, Tibuleac is right.  If you live in Chisinau and try hard enough, you can find one, maybe two Romanian language TV channels that aren't subtly pushing a Russian agenda.  If you live in the countryside you have little chance.

Those promoting content sourced from Russia defend their position by pointing to the poor quality of Romanian channels compared to Russian ones.  While I would cede the point that there isn't a Romanian equivalent of "Pervi Kanal" in terms of the quality of its content, it is unfair to write off the entire range of Romanian TV channels as being too inferior to rebroadcast.  Oh, and if you want a qualitative equivalent of "Pervi Kanal", how about BBC Prime?  At least the younger, English-speaking generation would have something decent to watch without the subtle propaganda.


The situation for magazine readers is just as bad.  Walk into Greenhills and you will be hard-pressed to find a Romanian language magazine on the newsstand.  Instead you are confronted with a wall-full of Russian glossies covering every possible interest under the sun.

The owners of the distribution networks claim that their supply is just following demand; apparently nobody reads Romanian magazines....

The fact is, if you cross the border into Romania you will find that it too has a range of interesting, glossy magazines on almost as many topics.  It's not that the material doesn't exist, nor that no-one wants to read it.  The distributors just aren't importing it, for whatever reason.

What the government / parliament needs to do

The answer to this problem is not to attack the Russian media outlets.  They have their place in Moldova's cultural environment.  Instead, a positive approach of promoting the Romanian language, Moldovan content and cultural diversity needs to be taken.  Here's a few ideas:

(a) 2/3 of the licences for television stations should be for channels which broadcast 2/3 in Romanian.

(b) The remaining 1/3 of the licences should be spread out - there should be Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish and Bulgarina channels to cater to ethnic minorities, as well as channels in English and French for those with a broader worldview.

(c) Local content rules should also apply, to increase the volume of material sourced in Moldova

(d) As a minimum, 50% of the titles for sale on mass-market newsstands should be in Romanian.  No more than 25% should be in any foreign language.

As a liberal, I am always wary of proposing restrictions such as (a) - (d) above; in general it is better to leave people to decide for themselves.  In the current context, however (a country recovering from eight years of lies and manipulation) some affirmative action is warranted in the defence of the national language.


  1. It seems that the audiovisual code already contains provisions similar to those listed above. The problem is that the audiovisual council is failing to monitor television and radio stations, which are openly breaching the law in respect of their local and Romanian-language content.

  2. It's an interesting point you make about the Romanian language magazines and publications: "The distributors just aren't importing it, for whatever reason." I noticed this exact thing myself on my visits to Chisinau. The question is WHAT IS/ARE THESE REASON(S)? Of course Moldova is now for all intents and purposes a free country, so people should be able to import whatever they like, from wherever they like, but clearly when it comes to Romanian language publications from just across the border, this is not happening, to the great disadvantage of people who want to read such publications. Can you speculate on the reasons? Otherwise, I agree it's extremely silly to ban Russian language publications. It's a free country, people have the right to read in any language they well please.