A crucial part of the European Foundation of Human Rights’ (EFHR) activities is the monitoring of the rule of law and legal changes in the Republic of Lithuania. Recently, EFHR observes with concern the amendments to the Law on the Provision of Information to the Public ct (lt. Visuomenės informavimo įstatymas), which suggests obligating TV broadcasters to screen the works of Lithuanian authors for the majority of the time. The introduction of such a rule would undeniably support national art and positively influence the development of Lithuanian art. However, it also entails a certain threat to the pluralism of the media. In addition to this, it would also limit the authors’ freedom to broadcast the contents selected by themselves and the rights of the recipients who would only have access to TV programmes imposed by the authorities, who would be strictly adhering to the restrictions of the Act.
The project suggests implementing the term of a ” national audiovisual composition”. Thus, the TV programmes’ broadcasters would be obliged to dedicate no less than 70 percent of the airtime (remaining after excluding the time devoted to broadcasting information services, sports programmes, games, advertising, teletext services and TV shops) not only to European, but also to the native- language compositions. For broadcasting the national compositions, the project predicts the urge to dedicate at least 50 percent of the airtime. Radio broadcasters, on the other hand, except for the programmes for ethnic or national minorities, would have to dedicate no less than 40 percent of the time reserved for the music radio programme to broadcast the compositions either of the Lithuanian artists or performances in the Lithuanian language. The extent of the national compositions includes both the compositions of Lithuanian artists and those performed in the Lithuanian language. The author of the amendments project claims he is thus willing i.a. to protect and promote the Lithuanian culture and language.
While registering or introducing any amendments to the Informing Society Act, the authors should adhere to the objectives of the Directive of the European Parliament and Council 2010/13/EU from the 10th March 2013. According to the Directive, the member countries are not forbidden to establish stricter and more detailed regulations concerning the extent and type of the programmes transmitted. Nonetheless, no regulations should oppose the European law. With regard to the 16th Art. of the Directive, the member countries are to assure that, if possible, the TV broadcasters ought to reserve the majority of a given programme’s airtime for the European compositions. The proposed amendments do not completely comply with the objectives of the Directive. What is more, they pose a limitation of pluralism and free audiovisual information movement within the internal market.
According to one of the amendments’ initiators, a well-known Lithuanian artist A. Chošnau, changes in the Act will help to retain the national culture and contribute to improving the working conditions for the composers. On the other hand, it would mean the promotion of the Lithuanian national culture only, limiting the development possibilities of non-Lithuanian composers and artists who are citizens of the Republic of Lithuania. The suggested amendments also neglect the needs of the national minorities and the need to support and promote the cultural heritage and languages of both national and ethnic minorities in Lithuania. It is also worth noting that the protection of national minorities and their languages has recently become an urgent issue of the European Union policy. The national acts should not focus exclusively on the promotion of the national culture, but ought to actively support the culture and composers whose works stray from the notion of the so-called national culture.
Translated by Katarzyna Piskorz within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu