The European Broadcasting Union consortium of public-service broadcasters has said it is “deeply concerned” after its member in Bosnia and Herzegovina, BHRT, announced it would cease operations at the end of the month due to financial difficulties.
The broadcaster holds rights to a number of sports properties but has struggled financially for some time and, should it suspend broadcasting as planned, Bosnia and Herzegovina would be the only country in Europe to not have an active public-service broadcaster.
The EBU in February wrote to key decision-makers at the European Union to call for joint action to save BHRT. Bosnia and Herzegovina applied for EU membership days before the EBU made contact.
BHRT’s situation has not improved, with funding programmes for public-service media in the country having been repeatedly deferred. The EBU stated that the “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 have led to the lack of funding.
The union has met with Bosnian government representatives on a number of occasions to try and resolve the situation and contacted the EU in an attempt to implement EU media standards in the country.
The EBU last week confirmed it was owed CHF6m (€5.4m/$6.1m) by BHRT. The broadcaster still owes the EBU a payment for rights to the Uefa Euro 2016 national team football tournament, which begins in France later this month. BHRT had been set a deadline of yesterday (Tuesday) to process the payment, but the EBU said none was forthcoming. The EBU has extended the deadline to June 8, two days before the tournament starts.
EBU director general Ingrid Deltenre said: “We very much hope that the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina recognises the seriousness of the situation and not only commences the necessary reform of the licence fee, but also takes immediate and urgent measures to allow BHRT to continue operations and pay back its debts.
“We believe that a strong public-service media is the cornerstone of a stable democracy and key to social cohesion. It is indicative of a state’s freedom and media plurality. We urge the European Commission and the international institutions to back us in calling on the Bosnia Herzegovinian government to come up with a credible and long-term solution to funding public service media in the country and supporting this nascent democracy.”
BHRT’s portfolio of sports rights also includes club football’s Uefa Champions League.