One of the most relevant issues in 2012 was media freedom, freedom of speech and decriminalisation of slander.
5.3.7 Mass media
According to the latest statistical data (2012), there were 58 TV broadcasting companies (54 in 2008) and 68 radio companies (62 in 2008). The total transmission of TV programmes was 441 255 hours and for radio programmes 478 885 hours (of which 60.8% music programmes). The Macedonian Radio and Television as a Public Broadcasting Service broadcasted 21 357 hours of TV programmes (13.9% feature programmes) and 37 435 hours of radio programmes (62.5% music programmes).
2011 data given by the Broadcasting Council shows that there are 1 771 employees in the TV industry, of which 1 513 are employed on a regular basis and 258 on an honorary basis.
From June 2013 the TV signal has been completely digitalised. The main operator will charge the national TV stations 150 000 EUR for transferring to the digital platform, and the local stations 20 000 EUR. Following the reaction of the Minister for Information Technology that the prices were too high, the main operator reduced it by 10%.
The following quotas are listed in the 1997 Law on Broadcasting:
There are no additional laws or regulations which encourage the production of indigenous programmes with cultural or artistic relevance.
According to the State Statistical Office in 2009 there were 14 newspapers (with a yearly circulation of 7 131 000) and 110 magazines (with a yearly circulation of 9 176 000).
One of the most relevant issues in 2012 was media freedom, freedom of speech and decriminalisation of slander. According to the Ministry of Justice, 296 journalists were accused and prosecuted in the past three years for slandering government officials or other holders of public office. Most of them were cancelled but 9 journalists were convicted and had to pay fines of 5-32 000 EUR (in each case). At the same time, some of the so called pro-government media accused several journalists of giving negative information to "Freedom House" about the media situation in the country.
All this, together with suggestions from EU representatives, resulted in long negotiations between the government and the Association of Journalists about the decriminalisation of slander. The final agreement was that the maximum penalty should be 27 000 EUR, introducing a kind of scaling of responsibility: 2 000 EUR for the journalist, 10 000 EUR for the editor in chief and 15 000 EUR for the media company. At the same time, these cases should not be treated under Criminal Law but under Civil Law. The Association of Journalists has stated that it was the best they could do at the time. However, most of the experts and journalists think that the problem is far from solved, that the penalties are still very high and that it gives the owners of the media strong censorship instruments.
On 30 January, the Reporters without Borders released its latest World Press Freedom Index for 2013. Macedonia was ranked in 116th place of the total of 176 countries, a drop of 22 positions compared to the previous year and an astounding 83 positions over the last three years. According to Reporters without Borders, the reasons for the deterioration of media freedom in Macedonia lies in: judicial harassment based on often inappropriate legislation, the lack of access to public data, physical and psychological violence against those who work in news and information, official and private advertising markets used as a tool, the grey economy's hold over vital parts of the media.
No representative of the government commented on the findings presented in the Reporters without Borders' report.
See also chapter 4.2.6.