IFJ Calls for “Urgent Regional Review of Policy” as Public Broadcasting Crisis Bites in Eastern Europe

The International Federation of Journalists, the world’s largest journalists’ group, today said the chaotic progress towards public service broadcasting in some countries in South-Eastern Europe was “deeply damaging for workers’ rights and for the future of quality and democratic media in the region”.

The IFJ says that a new report on media issued by the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe confirms the profound crisis for public broadcasting in the region.

“Throughout the Balkans and within the heartland of new European Union membership, public broadcasting is under intolerable pressure,” said Aidan White IFJ General Secretary. “The media landscape is littered with badly-drafted laws, complacent political attitudes and the constant threat of commercialisation, which is driving down standards.”

The IFJ says that recent problems with funding for public television in the Czech Republic and Hungary and the dismissal of three general directors of public broadcasters in Bulgaria, Moldava and Serbia in the last two months are symptoms of a deeper malaise which results from a failure to create genuinely independent public broadcasting.

The IFJ says that the problems in Serbia continue because of wrangling over the composition of the Broadcasting Council and RTV Moldova faces destruction because of a new law, which is opposed by the media community. In Bosnia-Herzegovina a draft law on public broadcasting presented by local Government has been rejected by international administrators. At the same time the IFJ says working conditions of journalists and workers have suffered. As an example workers this week at Radio and Television Montenegro (RTCG) have requested a meeting with the Parliament Speaker and Prime Minister over financial problems, which have led to cuts in salaries.

“Throughout the region there is hardly a country untouched by the broadcasting crisis,” said Aidan White. “There is an urgent need for a complete overhaul of regional policy to deal with the problems being faced at national level.” The IFJ launched a campaign for public broadcasting in Central and Eastern Europe in 2002. Although in most countries the transition from State-controlled broadcasting to public service systems began years ago politicians still try to influence the editorial content and new media laws have failed to create public service systems along western European lines.

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