FULL TEXT OF PRESIDENTIAL ADMINISTRATION HEAD RAMIZ MEHDIYEV’S ARTICLE

October 8th, 2009

Azerbaijan’s TV sector: problems and duties

http://www.azerbaijan-news.az/index.php?Lng=aze&year=2009&Pid=7787

Ramiz Mehdiyev,  
Head of Presidential Administration of Azerbaijan Republic

Democratization became a priority of the state political and strategy selection as a necessary factor of the national development after Azerbaijan gained its independence for the second time in the 20th century.   The first Constitution of the Independent Azerbaijan Republic paved the way for the formation and development of human rights, pluralism of views, freedom of speech and information, and civil society institutions.  

The establishing of free mass media in Azerbaijan was adopted as one of the main conditions for the creation of legal government and a civil society, and has always been a focus of attention of the government. The National leader, Heydar Aliyev considered that freedom of speech and information, the independence of Mass Media are important conditions for the creation of the democratic society.

During the soviet period and during Azerbaijan’s independence, Heydar Aliyev was concerned with the development of journalism, the increase of material and technical capacity, and opportunities for the creation of mass media. He valued the significant role of media in the creation of the government and in public and political processes in the country; the promotion of the national values and the ideals of Azerbaijan by the media.  

In 2001, during the presentation event of the award “The Friend of Journalists” to Haydar Aliyev, he said: “We annulled the censorship, we fulfilled freedom of speech and freedom of media as overseen by the Constitution; and we created the conditions for media.  The media is truly free in Azerbaijan.  This means that the speech is free, and opinions are free”.

Thus, the cancellation of censorship in Azerbaijan in 1998 and following years, the harmonization of legislation for  mass media activities conforming with  international standards and developing their independence, and multiple events that were implemented to strengthen material and technical basis all became important steps for the forming of a free and democratic media.

Azerbaijan’s government and society is in the new development period now, all spheres of public life are being renewed, information and communication technologies are applied according to world standards, and people’s well-being is being improved. Mass Media is also developed.  Reducing the tax of press organs, canceling the debts of newspapers by the government, supporting mass media with financial aid, and awarding journalists are all important measures to be implemented in Azerbaijan.

According to "The State Support Conception for the development of Mass Media in the Azerbaijan Republic” ratified by the order (31 July, 2008) of the President of the Azerbaijan Republic Ilham Aliyev, a sequence of measures was defined to develop speech and information freedom, and Mass Media in accordance with the demands of modern time and to solve the existing problems. According to the demands of the conception, “The State Fund to assist Mass Media Development under the President of Republic of Azerbaijan” was established on 3 April 2009 and financing of Mass Media projects began.

The Azerbaijan Republic is leading among the Countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States and Eastern European countries according to the quantity of the Mass Media now. Today, there are 4 thousand Mass Media organizations registered by the relevant state organs in Azerbaijan.

Hundreds of newspapers, journals, information agencies, plus 11 radio channels, 8 nationwide television channels, and 27 regional and cable television channels are operating in the country.  

The development history of Mass Media, and especially the development of the television and radio channels in Azerbaijan played a big role in the establishment and development of Azerbaijani literary language, the enlightenment of our people, the improvement of our culture and national values, and in spreading worldly ideas to Azerbaijanis regarding union and solidarity.

Moreover, public-political, economic and cultural improvement processes, delivering the essence of the country’s politics to people, discussion of actual problems of society, and preparation of the broadcasts were priority goals for television and radio.  

Television and radio broadcasting developed and achieved success in Azerbaijan during independence. Liberal values, the democratization process, the pluralism of ideas, and freedom of speech and information developed in society. These were significant factors for the independence of media organizations and their free activity.

Legislation on television and radio activity has been improved; its legal normative basis has been conformed to the advanced world and European standards; and rules that answer the demands of the contemporary period, market economy, and activity norms have been determined in our country.   

The Azerbaijan Republic Law, “On Television and Radio Broadcast” was adopted in 2002, the National Television and Radio Council was created in 2003 fulfill the implementation of state policy and regulation of this broadcasting in the television and radio sector.

The law, “On Public Television and Radio Broadcast” was adopted in 2004, and one year later the Public Television and Radio Broadcasting Company began operating. Private television channels enriched television and radio sector in the country and the application of communication technologies in the level of contemporary demands assisted in the preparation of quality programs.

Technical opportunities of the television channels have been improved broadly, news forms of mutual connection and communication have been created, and their ability to operate has increased and their area of influence has expanded. Nationwide channels are already broadcasting via satellite to separate regions of the world.

There is no doubt that television and radio stand higher than other mass media from the standpoint of influence opportunities to public opinion.

The television and radio have entered every house and family, and they’ve become integral part of people’s daily life. Television and radio greatly influence the development of native language, protection of national traditions, forming of the material and moral value systems of society, and social consciousness and creation of opinion about this country in the international community.

However, we should admit that although the freedom of Mass Media is a significant factor in the development of pluralism and securing transparency, they cannot be insured against negative influences.

For this reason, formation of a self-regulation mechanism of media both in the developed western countries and in Azerbaijan with the implementation of the government’s regulated function in the electronic Mass Media sector became a necessity.

The increase of the shortcomings in the activity of television and radio channels of Azerbaijan makes it important to take constructive measures to discuss this question in the society, to seek a way out of the situation, and to eliminate problems.

As we know, taking demands of the contemporary world into consideration, leading television and radio channels of the world are making serious changes in their activities, always renewing and expanding auditorium and opportunities of influence. Balanced program policy, civil air (broadcasting) behavior, serving social interests, enlightenment; and operative, objective, and comprehensive information are the main keys of success for the organization to fulfill television and radio broadcasting.

The monitoring of the television and radio channels in Azerbaijan shows that the TV Channel leaders are not concerned about issues regarding enlightenment, professionalism, creativeness, and application of innovation, the protection of the national or moral values.

The protection of national and moral values, the observation of ethics and the ethic of profession, and the principles of programs being of good quality has been reflected in the third article of Azerbaijan Republic Law "On Television and Radio Broadcasting”.

The fifth chapter (organization of the television and radio broadcasting) of the law provides for the regulations of the terms of the implementation for television and radio broadcasting, demands on programs, protection of the children and underage people, advertising, and other issues.  

In the 32nd article, enlightenment and cultural issues are given priorities along with demands on programs, and the prevention of TV from being loaded with commercials, information, or other types of programs via balancing, the protection of national values and organizing social broadcastings are shown as important factors.  

Broadcaster’s Rights and Duties are determined in the sixth chapter of the law.

The National Television and Radio Council has the authority to implement state policy, and take relevant measures in regulation of this activity in the Television and Radio broadcast sector on the basis of its statue and laws.

It should be noted especially that the NTRC implemented relevant measures regarding the monitoring of the television and audio channels, determined cases of violation of the demands of law, and other issues and expressed its opinion with legislative initiatives to   eliminate existing shortcomings. However, the NTRC has no authority to interfere with creativity, professional, or financial activity of the television and radio organizations. The responsibility for shortcomings observed in these areas falls on the leaders of the television and radio organizations.

Today, television channels have an opportunity to demonstrate programs to promote national and moral values, discussion of social issues, patriotism, intellectual development of children and teenagers, and qualitative, educational programs on other areas.

For example, mugam contests organized by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation were broadcast by Azerbaijan television and were a significant contribution to the protection and promotion of national and moral values and our rich, cultural heritage.

Azerbaijani Mugam crossed the boundaries of the country and won the sympathy of audiences of many Eastern countries. “Gunun nabzi”, “Azerbaijan-yurdum manim”, “Aile hakimi”, “Maclisi-uns” in AzTV, “Carpaz bakhish”, "Ortag mekhrej", "Ishguzar zaman", "Korpu", "Din və jemiyyet", "Ovgat"and other programs  on Public TV are received positively by large audiences.  There are high quality broadcasts of social importance in the other television channel as well. Television channels have a great potential to prepare interesting, quality, professional programs. But these examples cannot be made about all the programs broadcast by television and radio organizations. What are the shortcomings in the activity of the television and radio channels and which measures should be taken to eliminate them?

At present this problem is the theme of discussion in our society; both Media and separate public representatives voiced some opinions related to existing problems. But it is seen that there is a need to discuss this problem in a larger community. There is need for not only defining the shortcomings, but also for removing them and making recommendations about the application of the innovations.    
One of the problems which worry the public is the increase in the low quality entertainment and show programs. According to the discussion of this problem in the expert level, the main reason for these serious shortcomings are the business interest of the TV and Radio associations.  They’re filling air time with the programs which are contrary to our mentality, and have a lack of professional specialists among other problems. Why do such programs appear on Azerbaijani TV?

As we can see, private TV channels operate as businesses and try to make money. Private TV channels should increase their ratings and obtain leadership in a healthy competition area. Recently in the cinema industry, the development of show business has affected the level of programming on TV channels. People working the show-business area become famous very quickly. TV channels fight to get the attention of this stratum. This is also beneficial to the interests of actors and singers, and people who are in show business. They need to improve their image and be advertised. This way mutual interest opens the way for show business on TV to invade more time.

Besides, along with bright show business people, the ones that need to be advertised and become famous try to find way to show business on TV channels. And some of them achieve what they want. These people, who do not have natural talent, try to receive attention through their shallow and free-and-easy talks and their dress. This is one of the problems that is easily noticed on the TV channels. As a result, the number of low quality show-business programs that have no social demands for increase.

According to weekly monitoring of the NTRC on TV channels, ATV channel dedicates 32, 3% of its broadcast time to show business programs ("Kheyir ola", "Chal-Chagir show", "Yag kimi", "10-lar", "Perfomans", "106 house", "Tam serbest-solo", "ATV magazin", "Kim kimdir", "Yeni ulduz") . Then Lider TV dedicated 16, 4% ("Mashin show ", "Gizil pille", "Kim, harada, neje", "Javaba sual var", "Solo", "Dostum", "En"), "Khazar" TV 12% ("Nar star", "Ulduzlu khazar", "Mix show", "Ay Zaur"), "ANS" TV 11,3% ("Gunabakhan", "Charshanba akhshamlari Tural ile", "El bilir ki", "Toylar kralichasi"), "Space" TV 8% ("Bazar", "Bazar+", "Komedi-show", "Azeri star") to show-business programs. ATV has the biggest percentage of all. Most of these programs are usually dedicated to topics that have no public importance. They affect the youth and their education negatively and spoil their world view. In these programs they are prpogated by the luxury life of show business people, and their arguments are investigated. Most of the show programs are carried out by the singers or show business peopl instead of professionals. This is not accepted as good case. Most of the time young adults find it hard to learn something from their attitude.

As we can see, the number of programs affecting the development of the society in a negative way is increasing in Azerbaijan. Would repeating such programs like the competition “Azeristar”, for example with “Yeni Ulduz”, “Xalg ulduzu”, “Nar star”, “De gelsin”, “Sozum var” and so on bring fame to the television channel? It is clear that the buseniess interest is preferred here and they want to have income by means of SMS and other means. People are right to think that these competitions serve the business interest of the organizers and TV channels do not intend to define the music potential of these participants.   

 
It must be noted that the low level of the creativity potensial, the restriction of the opportunites of new ideas cause the repeat of uninteresting programs and the films to fill the airtime. And such cases influence qualitaty broadcasting policy and increase its popularity and rating negatively.  One of the interesting things is the defining methodology of TV’s rating of the concrete programs. As it is known, in most countries social investigation companies measure the rating of TV programs by means of special equipments. The obtained results are the main mean to define the effect of increasing the authority, coverage area and thus the profit of the programs and tele-radio organization rating. There are some organizations (“AGB”, “Siar” etc.) which serve TV broadcasters for this reason in Azerbaijan. It is hard to believe that these associations’ methodology and their results are objective and essential. Therefore the increase in the number of low quality and harmful show business programs can be evaluated as the reason of this trust.   

 
Today the leading TV channels of Azerbaijan broadcast uninteresting, unimportant and senseless programs not only inside of the country but also in others countries of the world by means of satellite. What idea do the people have living abroad and foreigners who watch Azerbaijani channels about our country? Which information do we give to them about the public and politic, socioeconomic and cultural processes of our country? The tele-radio association leaders should not forget that TV and Radio not only forms public opinion inside of the country but also shows the face of the country and creates idea about it. It must be taking into account that the inclination to the competitions like “meykhana” and “stars” in Azerbaijan’s airspace can lead to the decrease of the intellectuals’ interest in the local TV channels.

 
In international practice the services of public and state broadcasters are used to decrease the negative effect of such problems. For that reason the Azerbaijani channels which are financed from the state budget should direct their work not to involve advertisement but to the topics which make people think and are actual for the society, talk about history, culture, art, customs and traditions of our people, moral value of Azerbaijan. But unfortunately not only private channels, but also the TV channels financed from the state budget do not work according to their potential in this field. The war condition of Azerbaijan demands that we be responsible to such serious problem to raise national patriotic morality of our citizens, especially young people.

The theme of patriotism is restricted to only such programs about the army like “Esger ani” in AzTV, “Salam Esger” in Public TV, “March” in ANS, “The Leader esger” on Leader TV. However the patriotism is such a large theme surrounding love to the land, the development and flowering of the country, the protection and promotion of the ideas about the land that was formed over centuries. There’s big need for the TV channels to prepare interesting and attractive programs for audiences related with this field. At the same time, the organization of the programs about Armenia-Azerbaijan, Nagorni Garabagh conflict, the history of Nagorni Garabagh and the great statesmen, cultural and art workers who grew here can be welcomed with interest by people, and will help the increase of people’s love to the land and strengthen the patriotic morality in people.

 
It is necessary to prepare the programs which serve to create interest in science and education of children and teenagers and to strengthen their intellectual level. It is possible to use the practice of the leading channels of the world countries. For example, “Umniki I umnitsi” in the first channel of Russia, “Samiy umniy” in STS is popular and has large audiences. The educational programs, cartoons have also special importance in upbringing children in national morality. Unfortunately, there is no production of the cartoons in recent years and that is why the TV channels show foreign films which effect people negatively. The level of a journalist’s research, the programs related with the public, political, socio-economic, cultural problems do not answer to the demands of modern audience. In some TV channels there are no analytic programs and discussions in the expert level dedicated to problems which are interesting to people.  

 
The newscaster problem is serious in the TV channels. The professionalism and the speech of the broadcasters are not relevant to the standards in most cases. Most of the newscasters of some programs, especially of show programs are people who are far from journalism and do not have the professionalism and air culture. The inexperience of some journalists in the TV journalism causes dissatisfaction in the society. There is still the dubbing problem of foreign films. As it is known, the quality of the dubbing depends on involving of the professional persons and the people who have good speech ability. All TV channels have their dubbing studio in Azerbaijan. It is no exception that involving of the professionals in the dubbing becomes a problem. That is why there is need to centralize the dubbing of the feature and documentary films, and cartoons.

 
The informing of the society and he quality of the news programs should be increased. TV channels broadcast news of the foreign TV channels and information agencies about the events happening in the separate parts of the world. Some TV channels do not have a correspondent not only in other countries but also in the regions of Azerbaijan. Moreover, there are shortcomings in the use of modern technologies’ potential. For example, the Mobile TV Stations are not only supposed to show concerts lively. This technology can be used to prepare news and give information from the accident sites directly.   

It must be noted especially that there are a lot of films, series, clips contrary to our national mentality, moral values. The lack of new modern local films is still serious problem. Another problem is the broadcasting of the SMS by means of the lines on TV channels. The content of these SMS’ can cause the inconvenience for serious people. The observations show that unethical, information contrary to our moral values are given in these lines in any hour of the day.  

The rapid development of the internet in modern times forces TV channels which are specialized on definite fields to make efforts in the direction of balancing. For example, business and finance channels like BFMTV channel of France, Bloomberg in USA, CNBC are compelled to prepare political programs and the programs on other fields contrary to their traditional status. Unfortunately, Azerbaijani channels are passive to take account of modern tendency and to form the operations in the level of today’s demands.   

Such negative cases on TV channels are repeated by radio channels too. Radio djs make discussions about the topics which they consider suitable but are not important to society and are unethical in most cases. Thus today the programs of the TV channels and Radio do not satisfy Azerbaijani audiences and are not relevant to people’s desire. As a result the audience prefers to watch the foreign TV channels which carry out more qualitative program policy and present interesting programs by means of satellite and sputnik.   
TV channels should make turning in their operations and carry out air policy which serves the interest of the audience and society. First of all the conception and strategic target of the TV channels should be defined and they should avoid to repeat each other. For example, the existing standards (BBC and CNN standards can be considered mainly) should be learned and progressive innovations should be applied..   

The perfection of the administration, management and marketing, the studying of the existing experience in the world and the application of the innovations should be in the center of the attention.  
Appropriate measures should be carried out in the direction of choosing skilled personnel, rising level of the activities, preparing journalists knowing foreign languages, rising professionalism of the personnel. There is a need for the development of TV school, studying of the modern tendency and the application of the innovations in Azerbaijan. The journalism faculties of Azerbaijan universities give education in journalism field and teach the basics of journalism theoretically. But a journalist has to be taught again when he/she comes to the concrete work. In some countries television academies operate and they are engaged in the investigation of the problems in television sphere and the preparing of the journalists. It can be considered that it is the time to think of measures to raise the level of the personnel’s professional skills working in the TV channels in this period.  

The experience of the leading TV channels of the world shows that most of the programs are prepared by different companies (productions). Those companies implement the orders of the TV channels and sell ready products to them. The most of programs presented by Azerbaijani TV channels are prepared by TV Radio association itself. However, the operation of the productions is very low in Azerbaijani television and radio space. The strengthening of this field, the developing and creating of the companies which can fulfill the orders of the TV channels and forming their useful operation mechanism is very important in Azerbaijan. The strengthening of the strong competition atmosphere among the TV channels is an important factor for developing of the TV Radio broadcasting, their inclining to the existing innovations in the world.  
Using modern standards in the presentation of the programs is very low. For example, while the leading TV channels of the world use innovation “No comment” (presentation of the video footages without comment) largely, no TV channels use this practice in Azerbaijan. Wining the sympathy of the audiences should be the purpose with more interesting programs and the business interests should not be preferred in the educational programs. TV should not consider that its work is over with only giving information and entertaining. It also can make its audience think and direct.    

Maximum usage of internet’s opportunities is very necessary in the age of internet. Internet’s opportunities are very large to give information operatively. Modern 3G technology (third generation mobile communication – to create mobile video communication by mobile phone and speedy internet) is used in most countries of the world as well as in the states of the region. The efforts should be strengthened to apply this technology in Azerbaijan.  

National TV and Radio Council, the leaders of the TV channels, specialists, experts should learn the demands of the society, public interest, desire and wishes of the audiences, carry out measures in the direction to balance air space, to remove the shortcomings.   
The conception, strategic targets, air policy of the TV channels should be coordinated via public interest, the purification of our society, the protection of our national and moral values should serve to strengthen Azerbaijani statehood.   
It must be noted especially that in the relevant legislation of some countries, for example, in Estonia, the fining and penalty, the restriction and cease of their operation have been defined for the violation of the law. The sum of these fines is very high and is applied on the increasing range. It is true that the fines are fixed for the violation of the law in Azerbaijan Republic Administrative Penalty Code too. However, the sum of these fines is very low and there is no fixed sum for some cases (the protection of the national and moral values) defined by the law. It seems that there is a need to include penalty measures for the violation of the demands that protects national and moral values in the Administrative Penalty Code.   

National TV and radio Council should carry out appropriate measures within the framework of the authorities defined by law and continue the important measures related with the protection of balance among the TV channels, following issues related to ethics.   
 
Today Azerbaijani audiences wait for objective information about the processes and events happening in our country and in the world, professional commentary about them and qualitative educational programs. Radio and TV should play an important role in the protection of our national and moral values, the application of Azerbaijani ideas, Azerbaijan language, culture, the spread of the historical truth about our country. Let’s hope that TV and Radio organizations will increase the attention to the actual problems of the society, answer to the demands of the listener and audience, and prepare attractive programs meeting the interest of people from different spheres.