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EBU makes latest appeal over future of BHRT

The European Broadcasting Union consortium of public-service broadcasters has made a final 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 EBU’s “last-ditch appeal” to the Bosnian government comes with BHRT having been placed on level three sanctions due to mounting debts. As a result, BHRT will no longer be able to access EBU services such as sports rights, along with news and music exchanges.

BHRT has accumulated debts to the EBU of more than CHF6m (€5.6m/$5.8m) over the past 11 years. The EBU has supported BHRT during this time, and has been in regular contact with Bosnian authorities to discuss the need for amendments in the law on public-service broadcasting.

The necessary amendments have not been made, despite the EBU having received repeated assurances that they would be. As a result, the EBU has been forced to impose the sanctions to “protect the financial stability of the union”.

EBU director general Ingrid Deltenre said: “We greatly regret that the government and parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina have failed to secure sustainable long-term funding for BHRT. We know that strong public service media is essential for building democratic institutions, supporting nation building, promoting social cohesion and reinforcing democracy and democratic values.

“Unfortunately we have been left with no choice but to regretfully impose level three sanctions on BHRT to protect the financial stability of the union. We will continue to work with BHRT to try and obtain sustainable funding for their critical work. We hope authorities will act now in order to save such an important democratic institution.”

BHRT’s future looked bleak during the 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 has been promised financial support from the government to repay part of the CHF6m debts but this support has not been forthcoming and the authorities have now been handed a final warning.

BHRT’s rights portfolio has included club football’s Uefa Champions League. Its possible collapse could place Bosnia and Herzegovina at risk of being the only European country without a national public-service broadcaster.