Hungarian Government statement

Members of the Belgian Conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel (CSA), the broadcasting regulator of the French Community of Belgium are appointed by the government for a term of four years; members can be re-elected and recalled by the government. Members of the German-speaking community's media authority (Medienrat) are also appointed by the government. 58

country experts

David Stevens (PhD) is research manager and researcher at the Interdisciplinary Centre for Law & ICT of the Faculty of Law of the Catholic University Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium. His academic expertise relates to the evolving role of governments and national regulatory authorities in the telecommunications and media sectors. He publishes regularly on communications and media law in Belgian, European and international journals and is a frequent speaker at national and international conferences. Since 2010, he has been a member of the editorial board of Computerrecht, a Dutch-Belgian journal on law and informatics.


Expert assessment

This citation not entirely accurate, as it appears to mix the appointment procedures for two different bodies within the High Council for the Audiovisual Sector (CSA), and also omits the role the French Community Parliament plays in appointing some of these members.59 Hence, the actual legal framework for the appointment system of the CSA offers more guarantees for independence from the Belgian government than the reference above indicates. Although there have been controversies over the appointments to the CSA's chairperson, the citation omits a number of factors which may lead to an inaccurate conclusion about the CSA's general level of regulatory independence.

It should first be noted that in Belgium, each of the country's three cultural communities has its own audiovisual media services regulatory body and media regulations: the High Council for the Audiovisual Sector (CSA) in the French-speaking community; 60 the Flemish regulator for the Media (VRM) in the Flemish speaking community;61 and the Media Council (Medien-rat) in the German community.62 In case of the Medienrat, the appointments to the chairman, the members of the regulatory chamber and the members of the advisory chamber are the power of the government, as the Hungarian Government's statement correctly cites.63 However, this body also has a large degree of de facto regulatory independence which is not accounted for in the statement above. In addition, it is important to note that these regulatory authorities are only competent for audiovisual media sectors, and do not in any way regulate other sectors of the media or press, which are to a large extent unregulated or self-regulated and under the supervision of the courts.64

The CSA is an autonomous legal entity and its independence is formally established in the law.65 It is composed of several bodies: the Bureau, which is the highest organ of the CSA, and two "colleges:" an advisory body responsible for issuing opinions on broadcasting matters, and a regulatory body, the College of Licensing and Control (Collège d'autorisation et de contrôle, CAC), which is responsible for allocating licensing for commercial broadcasters and monitoring compliance with media regulations. 66 The Bureau is composed of a president and three vice-presidents, appointed by the community government.67 Their mandates last five years and their terms are renewable.68 The CAC is composed 10 members, which include the Bureau's four officers and six additional members: three of which are appointed by the French Community Parliament, and three by the (community government.69 The chairperson of the Bureau is de iure also chairman of the CAC. Their term of office is four years, renewable.70 Hence, as the statement above mentions term lengths of four years, it appears the citation is referring to the CAC, which in fact composed of members appointed both by the government and by the French Community Parliament.

The CSA is responsible for monitoring audiovisual media service providers within the French-language region for compliance with content regulations in the Decree on Audiovisual and Multimedia Services. Competition-based regulations are managed at the federal level and by a separate authority. The CSA, and more specifically, the CAC can issue binding decisions on market players and is entirely independent in doing so.71 CAC can issue warnings, impose fines, publish decisions in the media or revoke licenses. It can in some cases also suspend the distribution of a service (requesting distributors or platform operators to stop offering the service).

There are no specific rules about staggering of the terms in order not to coincide with general election cycles and unlimited renewal of a mandate is possible. Members can be dismissed in case of criminal prosecution, and for non-compliance with conflict of interest or ethical rules.72 However, the Hungarian Government's example only mentions "members can be dismissed by government," which is factually correct in the case of the members of the regulatory chamber (CAC),73 but members of the governing Bureau can only be dismissed by Parliament.74 Hence, the example above is incomplete, as it does not mention that grounds for dismissal are clearly established in the law to safeguard against arbitrary or politically motivated dismissals of CSA members by the government and/or parliament.

However there are several areas in which the government or parliament can exercise oversight over or can directly and indirectly influence the work of the CSA. For instance, the government can ask the CSA to investigate a specific case of breaching the law— although the CSA is under no formal obligation to address to these requests75 In addition, formal accountability procedures include the obligation to report yearly to parliament and/or the community government regarding the performance of its tasks and its finances.76 The CSA's annual budget, which is part of the state budget, must be approved by the government, and the CSA and government also "negotiate" a five-year plan (the current plan covers 2009-2013). The procedural rules for both the CSA Bureau and the CAC also require governmental approval. In addition, the government appoints a representative responsible for safeguarding the good administrative and financial management of CSA.77

There have been some controversies in the past over politically appointed positions to the CSA—for instance, the previous chairperson's term was not renewed for what was reported to be political reasons. In general, however, the appointment procedures mentioned have had a minor impact on press freedom because the regulatory bodies are only competent for regulating the audiovisual sectors, and focus primarily on guaranteeing fair competition between providers and protecting the interests of listeners and viewers (e.g. commercial communication), rather than on enforcing content regulations.

58 "Reply to the criticisms expressed by the international media against the Media Act," Ministry Of Public Administration And Justice, January 3, 2011, available at:
59 See the CSA's website at:
60 The CSA was originally created by the Act of 24 July 1997, later replaced by the Decree on Audiovisual and Multimedia Services (Décret coordonné sur les services de médias audiovisuals) (30 April 2009). Articles 133 to 158 of this Act contain the basic provisions regarding the legal position and status of the CSA, available in French at: This Act is also further elaborated in the "Rules of Procedure of the CSA Bureau," available at: and the "Rules of Procedure of the Regulatory Chamber," available at:
61 See Flemish regulator for the Media (VRM), website at:
62 See Media Council (Medien-rat) website at:
63 Mediendekret, Article 86, see
64 In Belgium, there is no integrated press law, but rather there is an old decree on the print press (stipulating that you cannot abuse print for committing crimes), an act on the duties of professional journalists, an act on the protection of journalistic sources, and an act on right of reply.
65 Decree on Audiovisual and Multimedia Services, Article 133, available in French at:
66 Information on the CSA's organisational structure is available at the CSA's website at:
67 Decree on Audiovisual and Multimedia Services, Article 142, available in French at:
68 Decree on Audiovisual and Multimedia Services, Article 142, available in French at:
69 Decree on Audiovisual and Multimedia Services, Article 139; available in French at:; see also:
70 Decree on Audiovisual and Multimedia Services, Article 139, available in French at:
71 Decree on Audiovisual and Multimedia Services, Article 133, available in French at:
72 Decree on Audiovisual and Multimedia Services, Articles 139 and 142, available in French at:
73 Decree on Audiovisual and Multimedia Services Article 139, available in French at:
74 Decree on Audiovisual and Multimedia Services, Article 142, available in French at:
75 Decree on Audiovisual and Multimedia Services, Article 136, available in French at:
76 Decree on Audiovisual and Multimedia Services, Articles 146, 152 and 153, available in French at:
77 Decree on Audiovisual and Multimedia Services, Article 152, available in French at: