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Public Broadcasting Imbroglio

The High Representative of the international community in Bosnia, Paddy Ashdown, has warned local authorities and managers of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) that it stands to lose 1.5 million euros in aid and expert media assistance if they fail to implement reforms by 7 November.

The warning comes on the heels of a restructuring plan submitted by the BBC Consultancy, which was hired by PBS to help with the transition.

Local authorities, PBS managers, and the Radio and Television Workers Union are up in arms over the plan, which calls for a 40 percent reduction in staff and the sell-off of the building of the state television headquarters in Sarajevo.

At a 3 November press conference, Ashdown said that 7 November “is the last day Bosnian authorities and PBS management have to convince the European Union that they have a strong will to reform the public broadcasting system.”

Ashdown expects the prime ministers from the state and the two entities--the Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) and Croat-dominated Federation and the Bosnian Serb-dominated Republika Srpska--to give instructions to their respective Communications Ministries for the restructuring of PBS by the deadline. Those instructions must be based on recommendations laid down by the Office of High Representative (OHR) in late July 1999.

Ashdown said that the 7 November deadline was set two months ago, and that Bosnian authorities and PBS management have known about it since then, but were hoping the international community would reconsider (or overlook) it in the meantime.

Earlier in October, Ashdown had reminded authorities and PBS management that European standards call for a public broadcasting service that is independent and financially viable. In addition, management control and working practices must be improved, and any new solutions must build on what has been so far achieved: one public broadcasting system for the whole of Bosnia, composed of three broadcasters with shared infrastructure.

(TOL 06.xi.03)

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