EBU condemns call to abolish Bosnia-Herzegovina's national broadcaster

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has condemned a call by the President of Republika Srpska for the national public broadcasting service of Bosnia-Herzegovina, BHRT, to be closed down. Republika Srpska is one of two administrative domains of the fledgling country, Bosnia-Herzegovina, the other being the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

This is the latest in a series of interventions in the Balkan region by the EBU designed to ensure that each country has an independent and yet properly supported public service broadcaster. The EBU, in Dec. 2011, urged the nearby Balkan state of Kosovo to adopt swiftly a draft law designed to provide RTK, as the national broadcaster, with the independence and security of funding enjoyed by its counterparts in the European Union. Then, a month earlier, the EBU teamed up with the European Union (EU) by announcing their intent to sign a joint framework partnership supporting public service media in South East Europe. The EBU’s Director General Ingrid Deltenre issued a statement emphasizing the need to strengthen the national broadcasters of South East Europe, so that they can become truly independent and sustainable public service media.

The EBU’s latest move was pre-empted by Republika Srpska president Milorad Dodik describing BHRT as a "a monster living in Sarajevo,” implying that it represented the interests of the other part of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Dodik argued that, instead, license fees paid by inhabitants of Republika Srpska should go solely to that domain’s regional broadcaster, RTRS.

But Jean-Paul Philippot, the President of the EBU, of which BHRT is a Member, rejected Dodik's call as irresponsible and counterproductive to Bosnia-Herzegovina's progress.

"A national public broadcaster is fundamental if Bosnia-Herzegovina is to have any chance of national unity or cohesion," said Philippot. "Successful public service broadcasters cherish diversity, provoke national dialogue, and promote understanding, which are essential to any modern, democratic state."