Bosnia & Herzegovina – This week saw the news that BHRT, Bosnia’s state television station, will temporarily stop broadcasting from 30th June due to its financial situation. The EBU has today said that it is deeply concerned and that this would be the first time a public service broadcaster in Europe would be forced to stop broadcasting because of financial difficulties.
The financial situation of BHRT has been deteriorating over many years with an insufficient level of funding caused by the progressive erosion of the licence fee, a weak collection system and substantial payment arrears from regional partner broadcasters Radio-televizije Federacije BiH and Radio-televizije Republike Srpske. Unfortunately, the necessary funding reforms for public service media in Bosnia and Herzegovina have been repeatedly deferred.
The EBU statement revealed that it has been actively supporting BHRT to find secure funding over recent years. It has met on several occasions with government representatives to try and come up with a long-term solution for the licence fee and has called upon the European Parliament and the European Commission to support the implementation of EU standards in the media of the country.
The EBU has revealed that BHRT owes over CHF 6 million. The BHRT board of directors cited the debts that Bosnia’s two entities’ television networks, RTRS (Radio-Television Republika Srpska) and FTV (Radio-Television of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina), have built up over the years, because they didn’t transfer to BHRT the revenues from the some of the taxes they collect and commercials they sell, despite being legally obliged to do so.
“The total debt that the two entities’ networks have with BHRT is 12.77 million euros: Radio-Television FBiH 8.4 million euros, and Radio-Television RS 4.49 million euros,” the board of directors said.
BHRT was unable to fulfill its financial obligations including payment for the rights to the forthcoming European Football Championships. Several unsuccessful attempts have been made to establish a payment plan for the debt. The initial deadline of 31st May has been extended until 8th June with the hope that the country’s government will take action. BHRT has repeatedly asked Bosnian Council of Ministers in recent months to approve a reform of the law on the public radio-television system, in order to solve the long-standing problems of its financing.
However, so far the Bosnian Parliament was only able to approve a temporary extension of the current system until June 30.
The situation in Bosnia mirrors that in Romania, which resulted in Ovidiu Anton being barred from performing in Stockholm due to TVR’s unpaid debts to the EBU.
BHRT has previously missed Eurovision Song Contest due to financial problems between 2013 to 2015. This year’s entry, Dalal & Deen feat. Ana Rucner and Jala, was paid for by the entry’s own production company and several sponsors, but did not make it out of the semi-final.