MEPs to the authorities: BHRT has played a key role during COVID-19 crisis

MEPs to the authorities: BHRT has played a key role during COVID-19 crisis

SARAJEVO, November 24 (FENA) – A group of members of the European Parliament and representatives of the European Broadcasting Union expressed concern about the financial situation of the Public Broadcasting Service BHRT in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and call on the BiH authorities to consider granting a special aid package to support the public service broadcaster in BiH.

We, the Members of the European Parliament would like to express our great concern about the survival of the Public Service Broadcaster BHRT in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH).

The Bosnian Public service broadcaster BHRT has played a vital role during COVID 19 informing citizens about official announcements, state measures and important updates, acting as a media hub of official information and distributing it to all private media, schooling children and providing diverse content addressed to all groups and segments in society.

The significant increase of BHRT audiences and the trust in the broadcaster have proven its crucial role in society.

Yet, facing the economic consequences of COVID 19 the public service broadcaster is estimated to be losing around 10 to 20 % of its income monthly due to the inability of people to pay electricity bills.

The BHRT income has already been insufficient being generated through an agreement with only one of the three electric companies in BiH and only on the territory of the Federation of BiH.

This difficult financial situation has been even further exacerbated through the drastic drop of advertising revenues during COVID 19 due to the absence of sporting events and the crisis. This situation seriously threatens the existence of BHRT and its ability to deliver its remit to society is jeopardized.

In the context of the second serious wave of the virus in Europe, Public Service Media are expected to play an even bigger role in society.

BHRT will be expected to ensure schooling for children, to send its crews with a risk for infection in the field to gather crucial information for the citizens, to provide entertaining programs to the people during the lockdown.

In addition, the broadcaster will have to strengthen its security and disinfection measures in order to ensure the safety of its staff and the continuation of its operations. All these unplanned demands, financial deficiencies and additional costs the broadcaster has to cover from a continuously diminishing income.

Having in mind the important role of Public Service Media for society and democracy boldly underlined in various Council of Europe instruments and the Amsterdam Protocol of the Treaty of the European Union, and in particular the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe Recommendation 1878 (2009) on Funding of public service broadcasting stating that the Assembly invites the ministers to “to reaffirm at the national level:

the importance of public service media responding to their national or regional requirements through a clear mission, a sustainable structure and adequate long-term funding determined at the national level;”

We urge the BiH authorities to consider the allocation of a special help package for the support of the Public Broadcasting System in BiH, embracing BHRT, RTV FBiH and RTRS, which will ensure the existence of this important democratic institution, especially in the context of the current humanitarian crisis, wrote the Members of the EU Parliament in their address.