A few weeks ago on a Saturday I went to the main downtown post office here in Cluj, which ironically bills itself as being the number one post office in town, and discovered that there was only a single, highly frustrated worker on duty. She had her hands full and was quite grumpy and had to be persuaded to get her keyring out and open up an ancillary office in order to get a document.
The “customer service experience”, to say the least, was quite poor. Anyone living or working here rapidly finds out that most Romanian government services are housed in dilapidated old buildings and move at a snail’s pace, the workers often surly and uncooperative.
But there is one Romanian bureaucracy that works at lightning speed, not only compiling and analyzing vast amounts of data in a quick and efficient manner but also frequently updating their website with the latest information. I’m referring to the Consiliul National al Audiovizualului (say that three times fast!), known by their initials CNA.
Similar to America’s FCC, the CNA regulates and licenses all television and radio broadcasts. However, the FCC is far more restricted in its powers and scope, only having authority over broadcasts using the “public’s airwaves”, which is why any cable-only television channel (such as HBO, etc) or satellite-only (such as Sirius radio) can contain nudity and swearing. The CNA, on the other hand, not only has jurisdiction over satellite and cable channels but also monitors and can regulate (at least theoretically) all electronic media, including online news sites and blogs.
The CNA also had a broad mandate that includes enforcing the protection of Romanian “culture and language” as well as the protection of the “culture and language” of official minority languages, not to mention preventing “injurious speech” again individuals and enforcing an extremely rigid “balance of opinions” on all broadcasts, something the American FCC hasn’t done in years.
The CNA is also quick to hand out enormous fines for any broadcasters who violate any of these rules. According to their website, there were 692 sanctions issued in 2013 and a whopping 934 sanctions in 2012. Quite often these fines are substantial, such as the two handed out on Monday (Jan 13), Antena 3 being hit for 20000 lei (roughly 4500 euros) for making accusations against someone and using “injurious” language, while B1TV was fine 10000 lei (roughly 2200 euros) for two instances of using language that was deemed “discriminatory” against someone’s race, religion, nationality, sex, sexual orientation or ethnicity. Whew!
These violations are usually described in great detail with copious legal text and are coupled with a compulsory message to be broadcast by the offender, listing the details of their offense. A perfect example is Decision number 335 of 2013, wherein the CNA found that Antena 3 was running an advertisement for their children’s charity (called the “Always Close” Foundation) that “affected the physical, mental or moral development of children” without a warning ahead of time that the broadcast was not suitable for viewing by children.
How could a brief publicity spot for a children’s charity be “unsuitable” for children? From the CNA:
Pe fundalul sonor al piesei „Won’t be the same”, interpretată de Billy the Kid, se văd nişte imagini în care un personaj, purtând o mantie neagră cu glugă şi având în mână o coasă, este prezent în diferite etape de dezvoltare ale unor copii: leagănă un prunc, deschide braţele pentru a prinde un băieţel care învaţă să meargă, se joacă cu un băieţel în parc, pe o bancă, împinge leagănul în care se află o fetiţă şi învaţă un băieţel să meargă pe bicicletă. Mai apoi, personajul cernit şi copiii aflaţi la locul de joacă îşi iau rămas-bun, îndepărtându-se, iar copiii se întorc la joacă. Pe ecran au fost derulate următoarele mesaje: 2 euro/sms 848; Fundaţia Mereu aproape; Sărbători fericite!”
In other words a “Grim Reaper” figure complete with black hood and scythe was shown appearing in children’s lives at various periods, starting with a baby and then “watching over” children as they played at various things, including riding a bicycle. Then at the end of the spot, the kids wave “goodbye” to the Grim Reaper and viewers were encouraged to send an SMS message and thus donate to the charity, finishing with a message of “Happy Holidays!”.
This scary (and frankly creepy) use of the Grim Reaper figure (which you can see here on YouTube) was deemed officially unsuitable for children and Antena 3 was forced to broadcast the CNA’s text about the violation “at least three times” between the hours of 6pm and 10pm within 24 hours of the CNA’s decision.
And these sanctions against broadcasters roll in week after week, updated quickly on the CNA’s website. The “mea culpa” texts appear on most television station regularly, although I have no idea if the viewers at home really care too much. The CNA has a session scheduled for today at 10am and has another long list of issues to decide, including potential sanctions against three television stations and four radio stations, one of which is the state-run Radio Romania Actualitati (news).
The CNA also takes their mission to protect the Romanian language quite seriously. In October 2012 they hired a team to analyze 12 television stations and 2 radio stations for their use of Romanian. You can see the report on B1TV here (PDF) and see such detailed analysis as this:
￼Original: “minus 2 grade azi dimineață la Miercurea Ciuc”
Correction: “minus 2 grade azi-dimineață la Miercurea-Ciuc”
Yep, that’s right. They missed the hyphen mark in Miercurea-Ciuc (the city’s official name in Romanian) as well as in “azi-dimineata” because it is being used as an adverb. Now that’s attention to detail!
A presenter on B1TV also screwed up by saying “optisprezece” (18) instead of the correct “optsprezece”, which makes me feel better on a personal level because lazy numbers were one of my main stumbling blocks back in the days when I was learning to speak Romanian. Hey, if a native speaker on a news broadcast can’t get it right, I’ve got nothing to be ashamed of :)
According to my research, the CNA was originally organized and financed via PHARE money but has been on its own (i.e. financed entirely by the Romanian government) since 2008, although it continues to have a number of key partners, including journalism organizations in Romania and across Europe.
With a quick turn around, no hesitation in applying hefty fines, transparent meetings of its board and rapid updating on its website, I think it’s very clear that the CNA is the home of the Hardest Working Bureaucrats in Romania!