EBU removes membership services from troubled TVR

Romanian public-service broadcaster Televiziunea Română (TVR) has lost its European Broadcasting Union membership privileges after failing to pay debts totalling CHF16m (€14.5m/$16.4m).

TVR will no longer have access to the Sports News Exchanges, an EBU member service, and also loses the right to broadcast sporting events whose rights are held by the consortium. The Romanian government had been given a final deadline of April 21 by which to reach an arrangement for the debts, but the EBU today (Friday) said that this was not met. The Romanian State is legally obliged to underwrite TVR’s debt, the EBU claims.

“It is regrettable that we are forced to take this action,” EBU director general Ingrid Deltenre said. “We are disappointed that all our attempts to resolve this matter have received no response from the Romanian government. In recent weeks the EBU has taken note of the Ministry of Finance’s suggestion that TVR may be placed into insolvency proceedings which may in turn lead to a profound restructuring of the broadcaster.

“The EBU is a not-for-profit association which represents 73 public-service broadcasters in 56 countries. The continued indebtedness of TVR jeopardises the financial stability of the EBU itself.”

TVR’s debt stretches back to 2007, and a number of attempts have been made since 2010 to arrange payment settlements. The EBU said it had contacted the Romanian government four times this year but received no response.

On April 15, the EBU requested a CHF10m down payment in a letter to the country’s Finance Minister Anca Dragu. The letter asked for the payment to be made by April 20 but no transfer was forthcoming. The EBU also requested for the remaining CHF6m to be transferred via a bank guarantee, supported by a payment plan by the end of 2016.The deadline was extended until yesterday (Thursday) but again no payment arrived.

TVR’s financial problems come with the broadcaster having yet to strike a rights deal for the Uefa Euro 2016 national team football tournament, in which Romania will compete. Uefa, European football’s governing body, has so far agreed a deal with Telekom Romania. The telco has acquired rights to all 51 matches at the tournament, but only 28 will be on an exclusive basis.

Uefa has held back a package of 23 matches, on a non-exclusive basis, for a free-to-air broadcaster. TVR held rights to Euro 2012 as part of its membership of the EBU. TVR’s main sports-rights properties are: the Fifa World Cups in 2018 and 2022, which it acquired via the EBU, and European Qualifier matches of the Romanian national team from 2014-15 to 2017-18, also acquired via the EBU.