The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) has initiated a call backed by the international community, including the EBU (European Broadcasting Union), to save public service media (PSM) in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH).
Urgent measures need to be taken to secure adequate and sustainable funding for PSM in BiH. It has been almost a year since the previous model for collecting the licence fee – through telephone bills – expired. The two telecoms operators in BiH, Bhtelecom and M:tel, have been voluntarily collecting the fee for PSM ever since but this is now under threat and, this month, the amount of funding collected via this method is already down 50% on the previous month.
This leaves broadcaster BHRT in a perilous position. BHRT have accumulated substantial debts of around 20million Euro 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.
This week, the European Federation of Journalists and the International Federation of Journalists with the support of the BiH Journalists Association have posted an alert on the situation of the Council of Europe’s Platform for the protection of media freedom and safety of journalists. The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) has also backed the calls to save PSM.
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.