Broadcaster’s financial woes force Bosnia out of Eurovision

Broadcaster’s financial woes force Bosnia out of Eurovision
By Denitsa Koseva in Sofia March 15, 2017

Bosnia & Herzegovina will not be allowed to participate in Eurovision this year due to public broadcaster BHRT’s outstanding debts to the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), the union confirmed to bne IntelliNews on March 15. 

The financial situation of BHRT had been deteriorating for years due to the insufficient level of funding caused by the “progressive erosion of the licence fee, a weak collection system and substantial payment arrears from regional partner broadcasters Radio-televizije Federacije BiH and Radio-televizije Republike Srpske”, according to the EBU. 

“Our member in Bosnia Herzegovina BHRT is not taking part,” the EBU said in an emailed statement.

Currently, BHRT owes over CHF6mn (€5.6mn) to the EBU and has been unable to establish and follow a payment plan to repay any of its debts for the past 11 years.

In December, EBU placed the broadcaster on level three sanctions due to its mounting debts. It had many times attempted to find a solution to the situation at BHRT, including extending deadlines for the start of repayment of the broadcaster’s debt. 

The union said at the time this would mean “BHRT will no longer be able to access any EBU services including the news and music exchanges and access to sports rights”. At the same time, it appealed to Sarajevo to save the country’s public service broadcaster.  

Bosnia’s showing in previous Eurovision song contests has been mediocre. Its only top five result was in 2006, when popular local group Hari Mata Hari came in third place with its song "Lejla", dubbed the Bosnian Romeo and Juliet. 

The country was previously forced out of the contest for financial reasons between 2013 and 2015, making a brief reappearance in the 2016 contest, with Dalal & Dean's "Ljubav je" ("Love is") featuring Croatian cellist Ana Rucner and Bosnian rapper Jala, but failed to advance beyond the semi-finals.

BHRT’s problems worsened later in the year. In May, the broadcaster’s management board said it would temporarily shut down all services on June 30 after it failed to collect BAM25mn (€12.8mn) debt from the broadcasters of Bosnia’s two entities, the Muslim-Croat Federation and Republika Srpska. However, as the date approached, the EBU once again extended the deadline for BHRT to start repaying its debts.

The organisation has previously urged the Bosnian authorities to ensure proper funding for public service media in the country. In an open letter, the EBU’s head Ingrid Deltenre said that public service media was close to collapse because the government had failed for many years to implement the media law and the appropriate funding model.

The Bosnian authorities have not yet adopted any legislative amendments and in January BHRT’s workers staged a warning protest in an effort to push the parliament to solve the problem. The latest attempt to find a solution for BHRT failed in January as state-level MPs did not reach an agreement on whether proposed legislation should be adopted by summary procedure. MP Misrad Mesic has proposed a bill under which the current financing of the public broadcaster via telecoms operators should continue until the end of 2017.