Media regulatory bodies in Romania; the limits of institutional change by Raluca Petre

The starting point of Romanian media regulatory institutions after 1989 had more to do with cultural and freedom of expression priorities than with economics. The main fears in the first years after the fall of communism were not related to economics, as the cultural and educational priorities took precedence. During that period, the ideas related to economics were rather limited, while freedom of expression and plurality were running high on the agenda of the personalities in charge with media issues. It is perhaps telling that most members of the National Audiovisual Council’s (CNA) first board were mostly persons with a background in culture, education and arts.[1]

At the institutional level, the structures governing the Romania media have traditionally functioned within the Ministry Imageof Culture and related cultural institutions. At the beginning of the nineties new structures emerged at the level of scholarly institutions within the Romanian Academy out of the need to consider media and information as separate fields, outside the realm of politics, “a de facto separation of power and state authority as well as for the creation of a total transparency climate in the realm of mass-media”(Raveica, 1993: 1). At that moment, these were the main priorities of the newly freed society. The cultural industries were not yet an issue, as Romania was just emerging out of a communist system, with specific state ruled property regime.

CNA, the national autonomous body in charge with observing the application of media rules and regulations as well as with granting media licenses, started with cultural priorities ruling above others. Thus, they declared, “faced with imposture and aggression, as servants of culture, we will not give up. This is to be known!” (Raveica, 1993:1) Moreover, in the institution’s first mission statement, one of its priorities was “to promote the intellectual adventure of the free spirit, unconstrained by dogmas and prejudgments…” (Raveica, 1993:1). It is indeed the case that this institution moved over the years to a more economically sensitive area of regulation and observation.

In the communist period, at the level of the legislature, The Committee for Education, Science and Culture was in charge with the media. After the fall of communism, institutional inertia became visible when it came to the parliamentary commissions to regulate media as cultural understanding takes precedence over the emerging economic realities. In present-day Romanian Parliament, there is a Committee for Culture, Arts and Mass media at both the level of the Deputy Chamber and of the Senate. It is noticeable that the commissions in charge with media legislation also manage cultural issues. Culture stands first, while media comes second. Thus, media is still firstly considered as a cultural issue in the institutional construction of the post-communist state and regulatory structures. At the same time, the system of being appointed into one of these committees is rather political than technocratic.

The specific shape of the institutional design after the fall of communism affected media policy discussions and decisions. It is debatable though to what extent this institutional arrangement, whose logic is to be found in the classic European understandings of media in its cultural dimensions, is efficient in the fast changing Romanian economic environment. I believe that no consistent media policies could be generated from an institutional structure that mainly deals with culture. In the changing world that is driven by globalization processes, where financial dimensions take precedence over political and mainly over cultural issues, the institutional locus of media decision making in Romania can be considered obsolete and in need of  reconsideration.

Despite the cultural features of institutions and actors dealing with the media field in Romania, the policy dimension of the current activities of the above-mentioned is rather limited. This situation can be understood against the background of policy making in Romania in the communist period. This type of activities were the prerogative of the high party members. The policy actions were following the unique party program. It was indeed the case that no other voices could have an input into the top decision making procedures. On the other hand, the first to lose their legitimacy after the fall of communist were activities that had ruled the policymaking of the falling apart communist system. The ones that replaced them were trained individuals in their respective field, but lacking the policymaking dimension. This systemic weakness is still present in the Romanian media field, almost two decades after the fall of communism.



Petre, Raluca, “Media Regulatory Bodies in Romania; the limits of institutional change” (2010) în Mihai Coman (ed), Models of, Models for Journalism and Communication, Bucureşti, Ars Docendi, pp. 290-298

Petre, Raluca, „Rolul de reglementare în domeniul media al comisiilor parlamentare” (2009) în Instituţii interne şi internaţionale, Raluca Radu & Romina Surugiu (coord.), Editura Universităţii din Bucureşti, pp.35-43

Raveica, Titus (1993) „Un argument viabil” (A Viable Argument) in MONDO-MEDIA, no.1, CNA, Bucureşti

[1] Titus Raveica, the head of the Council was a university professor, Ecaterina Oproiu – film and arts critic, Alexandru Piru  – professor of Romanian literature, Răzvan Theodorescu – History of Arts professor, Radu Coşarcă – editor, Tudor Gheorghe – actor and Horia Murgu – sound engineer.

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