In English a hair louse is colloquially known as a 'nit'. Moldova has its own 'nit' in the form of the communist-controlled NIT ("New Ideas Televised"). NIT is a generalist channel and is one of only four channels with national coverage. Its news bulletins, documentaries and talk shows are explicitly pro-communist and denigrate most other parties. This is a no-no under the electoral code and the audiovisual code, which requires equidistant and impartial coverage of political events.
Under the audio-visual code, five sanctions are available and can be applied by the Audiovisual Council. The sanctions are supposed to be applied based on the degree of harm caused by the contravention. In the case of repeated contravention the sanctions are supposed to be gradually escalated. The five sanctions are, in order of seriousness:
- Written warning
- Suspension of advertising rights for a period
- A monetary fine
- Temporary suspension of broadcasting license
- Permanent deregistration
At its meeting yesterday, the audiovisual council should have escalated the sanction as the law requires and suspended NIT's license for a period of time (i.e. a "hair cut"). Instead, they sanctioned the channel for a second time with suspension of advertising (which is like trying to wash nits out of your hair with a shampoo you know won't have any effect).
There are three lessons to draw from this:
- More men and women of character, who are prepared to impartially uphold the law, need to be appointed to the Audiovisual Council, replacing the communist party hacks left over from their period in government.
- The application of sanctions needs to be clarified (i.e. it should be made crystal clear that the same sanction may not be applied twice for a repeat offence.
- The sanctions list should be expanded to include reparatory measures. In the case of NIT, for example, they should have been forced to give air-time to other parties in sufficient quantity so as to balance the pro-communist material already broadcast by the channel.