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EBU makes fresh call to save BHRT

The European Broadcasting Union has issued a fresh call for national authorities to come to the aid of its member, Bosnia and Herzegovinian Radio and Television, as the operator continues to struggle with funding issues.

The consortium of public-service broadcasters said urgent measures are required to secure adequate and sustainable funding for public-service media in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It has been almost a year since the previous model for collecting a licence fee – via telephone bills – expired.

The two telecommunications operators in BiH, Bhtelecom and M:tel, have been voluntarily collecting the fee but the EBU said this is now under threat with the amount of funding collected via this method already down 50 per cent month-on-month in April.

BHRT has accumulated substantial debts of around €20m ($21.3m) over many years, due to insufficient levels of funding caused by the erosion of the licence fee, a weak collection system and substantial payment arrears from regional broadcast partners.

In December, the EBU placed BHRT on level three sanctions due to mounting debts. As a result, BHRT is no longer be able to access EBU services such as sports rights, along with news and music exchanges.

BHRT’s future looked bleak during last summer, with the EBU initially announcing that the operator would be forced to stop broadcasting at the end of June. The EBU did however reach a last-minute agreement with BHRT for the broadcasting of the Uefa Euro 2016 national team football tournament in France, which ran from June 10 to July 10. BHRT’s rights portfolio has also included club football’s Uefa Champions League in the past.

The EBU said in a statement: “The collapse of PSM in BiH would have a devastating effect, not only on the media system, but on a society already split with ethnic divisions.

“The international community is ready to provide support and advice on best practice in order to save this important institution for society and for democracy and the EBU urges all relevant institutions to lend their support.

“The Government of BiH must urgently find a long term, sustainable solution for funding BHRT to ensure the country does not become the first in Europe without a national PSM.”