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AEJ concerned about the fate of Romania’s public broadcasting services

 

The AEJ is watching with concern the fast pace of moves by the government in Romania that may put the future of Romanian public TV and radio at risk. TVR, Romanian public TV, has crippling debts and has failed over a period of years to rectify its finances or win public confidence in its editorial independence and standards of management.

Currently the Social Democrat Party-led government is using an emergency procedure to rush through parliament an amendment to the PSB law 41/1994, which determines the governance of both public TV and public Radio together. The sweeping changes include the transfer of significant governance powers from the statutory authority, the Broadcasting Council, to the government.

Critics of the changes, including the opposition Liberal Party, claim this is unconstitutional. The manner in which a drastic set of reforms are apparently being imposed poses existential risks for TVR, which possesses high-value assets including buildings and equipment. The terms on which those assets might be disposed of as part of the government’s urgent moves to stem the losses at TVR give legitimate cause for concern.

It is also important that any changes in the law or public service governance arrangement do not seriously damage the financial stability of Romanian public radio, or its capacity to provide a good quality of public information services through its programmes, which maintain a relatively high degree of public support. The European Broadcasting Union, of which Romanian public TV and radio are members, has reportedly written a letter http://www.broadbandtvnews. com/2016/03/03/ebu-pleads-for- romanias-tvr/ to the Romanian prime minister requesting his ‘urgent intervention’ because TVR faces the prospect of financial collapse. The EBU letter is also quoted as calling for an ‘all-encompassing reform’ that addresses the need in future for sustainable funding and proper governance.

The extent of the deep-seated debt and other problems at TVR is widely recognised. But the AEJ urges the Romanian government to act in ways that show it understands its obligation to preserve the viability and proper management of Romania’s public broadcasting system in the interest of the public as a whole. The government’s actions are open to criticism for failing to provide for an open and full public debate before seeking to enact its proposals, especially with local and national elections due to be held later in the year. Public service broadcasting has particular responsibilities at times of elections and political uncertainty to provide fair and balanced news and information to the population