Failure to Reform Bosnia TV Dismays Workers

The building of BHRT in Sarajevo. Photo: BiHVolim/Wikicommons.

Workers at Bosnia’s state TV, BHRT, have reacted angrily after parliament failed to reform the public service network’s crumbling finances on Tuesday.

by Rodolfo Toe, BIRN, Sarajevo

Workers at Radio Television Bosnia and Herzegovina, BHRT, Bosnia’s only state television, have reacted angrily after the House of Representatives of the Bosnian Parliament on Tuesday dumped a proposal to change the financing of the public television, a reform which is seen as much needed by the network if it is to survive.

Damir Smital, president of the Independent Union of BHRT, told BIRN that the decision of the parliamentarians was “shameful.

“We are really surprised by this decision and by the attitude that our politicians have shown towards the public television service,” Smital said.

He warned that if reform to the financing of the public TV is not urgently found, “BHRT will not be in a position to sustain its expenses any longer.”

He also said that both management and workers of BHRT are waiting to see if the Bosnian government plans other solutions, before deciding their next move.

A draft law on reforming the financing system of the television station was discussed on Tuesday in the House of Representatives.

The proposal included switching the TV tax which every owner of a TV set needs to pay to people’s electricity bills, and rebalanced the share of revenues from advertising and taxes that should go to the state television and the two entities’ public networks.

The new formula, of 40:30:30, was discarded after the proposal it failed to obtain the necessary votes from delegates from Republika Srpska, Bosnia’s Serb dominated entity.

The state television’s financial woes have worsened during recent years, as a growing number of citizens refuse to pay the TV tax, which is currently included in the bills of fixed telephone operators.

The management of BHRT has long advocated reform to the current method of collecting the TV tax, which expired on June 30, claiming that including it instead in users’ electricity bills would be more efficient.

Momcilo Novakovic, president of the Commission for Communications and Transport in the House of Representatives, said the House of Representatives will at least try to adopt a law extending the current model of financing during its next session, scheduled for August 1.

“It’s urgent to create a working group … which should find a permanent solution,” he added.

At the end of May, the board of directors of BHRT announced that it would stop broadcasting at the end of June if no solution to BHRT’s financial woes was found.

The decision was eventually suspended by the board of directors of BHRT after Bosnia obtained the right to broadcast the EURO football championship, which lasted until July 10.

“The main reasons for delaying the interruption of broadcasting is the need to air the final of EURO 2016 [on July 10] and the commemoration of the genocide in Srebrenica [on July 11],” the board of directors said.

It is currently still not clear if BHRT will keep on broadcasting, or it will keep to its menace to interrupt its service in the near future.

BIRN tried to contact Belmedin Karahmemedovic, the director of BHRT, to comment on this issue, but could not get any reply prior to the publication.

The article was originally published on Balkan Insight. It is republished here with permission. 

Latest news

* - References to Kosovo are without prejudice to positions on status. They are in line with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244/99 and the opinion by the International Court of Justice on the Kosovo declaration of independence.