The presentation and discussion of the guidelines for editorial standards of public broadcaster, as well as of policy paper written for this purpose, was the aim of the roundtable discussion held on November 30 in Tirana.
Keynote speakers were Thoma Gellci, General Director of public broadcaster Radio Televizioni Shqiptar (RTSH), and Lutfi Dervishi, media expert. Participants included journalists, civil society activists, and students of journalism. The roundtable was opened by Remzi Lani, director of Albanian Media Institute, who addressed the stagnation of the expected reform of public broadcaster in the last 25 years due to numerous factors. However, he considered it a positive signal that the public broadcaster finally drew up its own editorial standards, as a sign of good will to improve the professionalism of this body.
The General Director of RTSH started his speech by addressing the controversy of the process that led to his appointment, the allegations to political bias and the questions on whether he could be a consensual figure. He emphasized that the important idea for him was that the public broadcaster as a system and institution should reform and start to make changes, and not depend so much on the director, as has been the case in the last 25 years, suggesting that a move to strengthening the profile of the institution, rather than its director would be much desired. He proceeded with describing the process that led to finalization of the editorial guidelines of PBS, the actors and organizations consulted, and the novelty brought about by editorial guidelines, especially when considering that no other media has adopted their own guidelines. He also focused on the importance of adopting the Statute and the five-year Strategy of RTSH as the next steps and fundamental documents the institute must have.
Lutfi Dervishi spoke in greater detail of the final version of the editorial guidelines, stating that it aimed to be as exhausting list of ethical dilemmas as possible, since the intention was to cover in detail even cases not covered in the general Code of Ethics. A novelty of the guidelines was that it determines a clear chain of responsibility and modus operandi, especially during live broadcasting of crisis, accidents, or other similar events. The guidelines also cover the activity of co-productions, and set the normes of ethical behaviour amd responsibilities. Another important effect of the guidelines was also a more accurate definition and orientation regarding conflict of interest in RTSH, since this has been a major controversy of RTSH employees conduct for a long time. Offering legal protection for journalists is also now an obligation for the institution, while the RTSH is still discussing which would be the best mechanism that would guarantee the implementation of guidelines, choosing between a council of ethics or a so-called ethics guardian.
The participants discussed these developments and focused also on other important features of RTSH activity. The main discussion evolved around the difficulty of respecting ethical guidelines in an institution that is especially notorious for serving each government. Other issues discussed that are closely related to integrity of RTSH and to its future development included the ongoing process of digital switchover and the technical difficulties experienced, the urgency for digitizing archives of RTSH, the lack of professionalism and the relatively old age of many journalists in RTSH, the intention to set up an Academy for training RTSH staff, and expected changes in structure of RTSH. Specific attention was also paid to the need to increase and intensify online presence of RTSH, through different formats available to the public, as well as through social networks, since RTSH is clearly lagging behind in this field compared to commercial media.