Verkhovna Rada suspends the funding of the NTRBC. Poturayev hopes for the President's veto
The Verkhovna Rada has amended the 2023 state budget bill, suspending the funding for the National Television and Radio Broadcasting Council and the salaries raises for the media regulator's staff.
According to "Detector Media", on February 24, the parliament adopted the bill No. 8399 "On Amendments to the Law of Ukraine 'On the State Budget of Ukraine for 2023'" in the second reading. This bill suspends the Article 78 Part 4 Paragraph 1 of the Law "On Media" for a year, which deals with the NTRBC funding and the salaries raises of for its staff.
As the publication writes, according to this act, the official salary of a NTRBC member is set to be equal to 75 times the subsistence minimum for able-bodied persons, as established on January 1 of the calendar year. The official salary of the NTRBC chairperson is set to be 1.3 of the regulator's staff salary, and the first deputy, deputy chairperson, and executive secretary should receive 1.2 of that amount.
The subsistence minimum in 2023 is UAH 2,684, so the salaries should be UAH 201,300 for a NTRBC staff member and UAH 261,690 for the NTRBC chairperson under the new law.
As of now, before the Law "On Media" comes into force, the NTRBC members's salaries are regulated by the Law "On the National Television and Radio Broadcasting Council". According to it, the NTRBC chairperson's salary should be 12 times the subsistence minimum, and 10 times for a NTRBC staff member; in 2023, that would amount to UAH 32,208 and UAH 26,840, respectively.
In his comment to "Detector Media", the Chairman of the Committee on Humanitarian and Information Policy, Mykyta Poturayev, said that he assessed the adoption of the aforementioned act "very negatively."
"The Law "On Media" is the sixth item in the list of conditions required for negotiations to start. Blocking the funding for the national regulator, the formula of which had been agreed with European experts, may lead to the sixth item being "unchecked" off the list, and therefore prevent the negotiations from taking place as scheduled. After all, the lack of funding will make it impossible to implement the law. Therefore, I hope for the President's veto, which can allow us to quickly fix this situation, which is potentially a great risk for our country's European prospects," said Poturayev.
Ihor Rozkladay, a media lawyer and CEDEM deputy director, also considers this decision to be inappropriate, because this year the regulator is facing an extra workload with regards to the implementation of the Law "On Media".
"This is a wrong decision, because if such complex laws are introduced, there should be maximum support so that the state body can perform all its functions. Now we will be looking for money from donors to create an electronic office, etc. This is not a strategic approach. It undermines the ideas that had been laid down in the law, namely, the regulator's independence." He is convinced that the parliament should review the budget and ensure adequate funding of the regulator. "And this has nothing to do with the NTRBC members as persons. It's just that the new system needs to work right from the very beginning, as stated in the Law "On Media". If the public or the authorities consider one of the regulator's members to have vested interest, then this should be a separate discussion. In order for us to have an independent regulator, it must have independent funding," the lawyer added.
We remind that the law was adopted in the first reading on February 7. According to the Law "On Media", the official salary of a NTRBC member is set to be equal to 75 times the subsistence minimum for able-bodied persons, as established on January 1 of the calendar year. The official salary of the NTRBC chairperson is set to be 1.3 of the regulator's staff salary, and the first deputy, deputy chairperson, and executive secretary should receive 1.2 of that amount.
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