Closure of broadcaster would severely weaken media pluralism in Bosnia
Bosnia-Herzegovina’s national broadcaster BHRT is in serious financial trouble and its closure could be imminent, which would make it the only country in Europe without a public television network.
On 26 April, BHRT’s director Belmin Karamehmedović announced that journalists working for the station would not be paid on schedule this month. More seriously, its employees, some 100 people, could lose their jobs.
BHRT has been struggling financially for several years and its economic model means that it can no longer continue broadcasting. The station receives its income from a tax paid by everyone who owns a television set. The scheme, set up almost a year ago, has been a failure.
The already indebted organization reached a critical point when its income fell by half in April and it owed the country’s power utility 1.3 million Bosnian convertible marks, equivalent to 665,000 euros, in unpaid bills.
Apart from the financial consequences for the staff, the closure of BHRT would deprive the country of its only national public service news organization and would damage media pluralism in a country where many news outlets are split along ethnic and political lines, while BHRT remains essentially neutral.
“RSF calls on the Bosnian authorities to find a financial solution to save BHRT,” said Virginie Dangles, editor-in-chief of Reporters Without Borders. “Its closure would damage the media in Bosnia-Herzegovina and would deprive its citizens of a vital public source of information.”
A group of members of the European Parliament signed a joint letter to the government of Bosnia-Herzegovina on 4 May expressing concern about the future of BHRT and urging it to take steps to ensure the broadcaster’s survival.