According to local experts, during the last two decades media policy in Albania has not been based on a specific strategy or a vision, but mainly follows economic interests – both in print and the audiovisual sector. The state institutions seem too lag behind and even slow down in their attempts to catch up with the groundbreaking developments in the media market.
Even though, after the collapse of the communist regime in 1991, new newspapers appeared immediately, the press law was not approved by parliament until 1993. The same can be said about the regulation on audiovisual media. The first private commercial TV station started broadcasting in December 1995, however the first law on broadcast media was not passed until 1998, three years later. It took another two years and only in 2000 the regulatory authority for broadcast media was established. Between 1995, when the first commercial TV was opened and 2000, when the first regulatory body was created, more than 100 audiovisual media outlets were operating in an unregulated market.
For a brief period between 1998 and 1999 Albania had a Ministry of Information; but apart from the government, media regulation and policy has been shaped by several actors, including civil society and international organizations such as the OSCE, the Council of Europe and the EU. As a result, the regulatory framework produced during the last two decades, has has seen periodical changes and amendments, not always considered adequate. For example, the press law passed in 1993 was amended in 1997, leaving only one article that very broadly prescribes freedom of the press. So currently the print media in Albania is regulated through this one article only. The audiovisual media law that was passed in 1998 was also amended several times over the past decade in response to developments in the TV market and with the advent of digital television. Law nr. 8410, “For public and private television in Albania” regulates the audiovisual media market, including public broadcasting, private television stations, cable and satellite transmissions. In 2007, the parliament passed a law on digital terrestrial transmissions, which however was never implemented.
Based on this law “For public and private television in Albania” in 2000 the National Council on Radio and Television (NCRT) was created as the regulatory body and later replaced by Albania Media Authority, AMA. The law also established the Supervisory Council of Albanian Radio Television as a supervisory body for the public broadcaster RTSH. The selection of the members of these regulatory bodies has always been marred by allegations of undue political influence, which have also affected the relation of the regulator with the broadcasters. In 2006 changes were made regarding the appointment procedures at the NCRT, from a formula based on political bipartisanship into a formula where members were selected based on professional merit. However, the changes were introduced without consultations of the media community and only with the votes of the then ruling majority in parliament, raising questions on the intentions behind the amendment of the law.
Following several years of debates, in March 2013 Albania’s parliament passed the law nr. 97/2013 “On Audiovisual media in the Republic of Albania,” with the goal of harmonizing the Albanian legislation with the EU directive on Audiovisual Media Services. Both the opposition and the ruling majority supported the law; however, the selection procedures for the recruitment of members of the new regulatory body, the Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA) remained disputed. The law not only establishes and sets the rules for the functioning of AMA, but also seeks to regulate the licensing of digital terrestrial transmissions in the country, which had broadcasted unregulated since the first operator was established in 2004. The law also establishes new ground rules for the regulatory bodies of the public broadcaster RTSH. In 2012 parliament passed a strategy for the switch off of analogue transmission and their transfer to digital terestial transmissions. The strategy aimed to implement the 2006 Geneva Convention for digitalization, where Albania had become a signatory. This convention called for the switch off of analogue transmission by June 2015. Since 2004 in Albania 9 operators had launched digital terestial transmissions amidst a legal vacuum.
In 2014 and 2015 AMA launched two tendering procedures for the distribution of digital frequencies. The operators that were invited had to have a national broadcasting license or experience in digital terrestrial transmissions. However, both procedures became marred by legal challenges and were finally cancelled. Another problem faced by this “Beauty Contest” was the limitation of media concentration by the audiovisual media law passed in 2013. Article 62 of this law prescribed that no physical person or entity could control more than 40 per cent of the shares in a national broadcaster. However at least two operators selected for the frequency tender did not fulfill this criterion. In May 2015, a ruling majority MP, Taulant Balla, introduced an amendment to the law, which aimed to scrap article 62/3 all together, which came to be known as the “Balla” amendment and was strongly opposed by the European Union, Council of Europe and the OSCE. Despite the international criticism, TV operators went further and filed a lawsuit in the Constitutional Court, asking that any media ownership restriction to be considered as unconstitutional. In May 2016 the Constitutional Court ruled in their favor, practically giving a green light for the monopolization of the audiovisual media market. With the restrictions on ownership lifted, AMA proceeded to award the digital terrestrial transmission licenses to Top Channel TV, TV Klan, DigitAlb, Media Vizion and ADTN – a new company wholly owned by DigitAlb. In March 2015, the ruling majority passed a law in the parliament that would compensate the broadcasters with 5 million EUR for the digital switch over.
Media Integrity Matters, Peace Institute, (2014).
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Monitoring for the Implementation of the Audio-visual media law, Albanian Media Institute,(2015). Accessed on 16.01.2018
The strategy for switchover from analogue to digital terrestrial transmissions], AMA, (2015) Accessed on 16.01.2018
Digital broadcasting set to transform communication landscape by 2015, ITU, (2006). Accessed on 16.01.2018
Albania’s Digital TV ‘Beauty Contest’ Turns Ugly, Reporter.al, (2015). Accessed on 16.01.2018
Law 97/2013 on Audiovisual Media, AMA, (2013). Accesed on 16.01.2018
Constitutional Court opens the way for the monopolization of digital TV, Reporter.al (2016 ). Accessed on 16.01.2018
AMA awards the fourth license; however, digitalization process remains open, Reporter.al (2016). Accessed on 16.01.2018
The government pays the digitalization bill, 5 million euro for private media, Reporter.al (2016). Accessed on 16.01.2018