Bulgaria: Public broadcasting and democratic well-being

Bulgaria: Public broadcasting and democratic well-being

The bill on amendments to the Law on Radio and Television (NPT) has been a bone of contention in Bulgaria. “Laws that regulate the reality of the media can not and should not be drafted by politicians. This is a law that can and should only be written by people who work in the media, who understand their importance and can heed their problems”. This is how constitutional judge Atanas Semov commented in an interview on the Bulgarian National Radio (BER) on the scandal that broke out regarding the bill for the amendment of the Law on Radio and Television, which was submitted to public consultation.

The publication of the bill also led to the resignation of BER general manager Anton Baltakov. He justified his personal decision by saying that there was “a lack of administrative will to change the Bulgarian legislation in the bill, which would guarantee that BER would be an independent institution completely free from political interference”.

In an interview with BER’s Horizont program, journalist Raina Konstantinova, chair of the BER Public Council and former director of the European Union Broadcasting Corporation, commented that the problem lies, under current law, with the program, and the commitments of the new general manager can not be met.

“If you are given the confidence to manage millions and, like a neurosurgeon, influence people’s brains and hearts, you need to have the necessary tools, as well as like-minded people and the know-how. It is very important to synchronize the mandates of the directors and the boards. Every future manager could face the same issue. This is a misconception that needs to be corrected”.

“For 27 years, a strange debate has been going on in Bulgaria about the ‘ownership’ of public media. There are still many, including politicians, who believe that the Bulgarian National Radio and the Bulgarian National Television are state-owned media. But BER and BET belong to everyone… The issue of public media is extremely important for the democratic well-being of a society”, stressed Raina Konstantinova.

Amendments to the law on radio and television are needed to minimize the influence and attempts to intervene in the independence of the public media, which the government is trying to exercise.

“A good law for the media should make the possibilities of exerting pressure completely impossible”, says Atanas Semov.

“Political influence in the media must be minimized. We are not talking about private media that are officially political. Mechanisms of government intervention in the work of the media condemn their activities to serious dependence, regardless of the journalists’ good will”.

However, their funding from the state budget to some extent hinders the independence of public media.

“The government can not give up some bad practices without pressure, but I think this bill is a good start in terms of financing the media”, said Velislava Antonova, a political analyst at the media. Antonova clarifies that now is the time for one to state their active position and what kind of public media they want to have.

Whatever changes are made to the bill until it is approved by Parliament, the bitter aftertaste of intense controversy will remain as a red light in public consciousness. The Union of European Journalists – Bulgaria also warned of problems in the media environment in Bulgaria, announcing its position through which it strongly opposes threats against journalists due to questions posed in the performance of their duties. Some time ago, TV journalist Anna Tsolova found herself in the difficult position of having to ask “questions she did not like”. However, he insists that “the role of journalists will continue to depend on a single boss – the truth and the need to correct power”. /ibna