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Bulgaria/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.6 Media pluralism and content diversity

Bulgaria has state- and private-owned radio stations and television networks providing national coverage, as well as numerous private radio and television stations providing local news coverage. Cultural events and issues of international, national and local relevance are covered extensively in their programmes. Both the state-owned and private electronic media have numerous, mainly weekly, programmes for minority cultural groups. For example, the daily Turkish news programme broadcast by the Bulgarian National Television.

According to the regulations of Article 71 of the Radio and Television Act, BNR (Bulgarian National Radio) and BNT (Bulgarian National Television) should provide assistance to the creation and dissemination of national audio and audiovisual productions:

  • BNR allocates at least 5% of the subsidy received from the state budget and "Radio and Television" Fund for the creation and performance of Bulgarian musical and radio-dramatic productions; and
  • BNT allocates at least 10% from the subsidy received from the state budget and "Radio and Television" Fund for Bulgarian film and television productions.

The Radio and Television Fund was created by Article 98 of the Radio and Television Act. The money made available to the Fund is raised by:

  • monthly reception fees for radio and television programmes;
  • initial and yearly licensing and registration fees for radio and television; and
  • interest rate resources already in the fund.

Resources collected via the Fund are to be used for the financing of:

  • BNR and BNT (for preparation, creation and dissemination of national programmes);
  • council for Electronic Media;
  • projects of national importance, related to the introduction and usage of new technologies in radio and television;
  • significant cultural and educational projects; and
  • projects designed to extend the dissemination of radio and television programmes over population and / or territory.

There is a lack of transparency of media ownership and capital in the commercial broadcasting sector, with no public register of ownership. The provisions on media ownership in the Law on Radio and Television (1998) - and also the Telecommunications Law (2003) and the Law for the Protection of Competition (1998) - aim to prevent broadcasters from monopolising or even dominating the market. In practice, however, there are no effective anti-monopoly regulatory mechanisms.

Two Articles in the Law on Radio and Television refer to the monopoly prevention:

Article 105 (4) The following shall be ineligible to apply for a license: .... 9. any telecommunications operators placed in a monopoly situation on the market;

Article 108. Upon submission of documents for the granting of licenses under Article 111, the applicants shall declare that they do not hold any interests, shares or rights of any other kind to participation in radio and television operators, in excess of the permissible limit, according to the anti-trust legislation of the Republic of Bulgaria. (The Competition Protection Act defines the concentration of economic activity, and the Commercial Law regulates the procedures for transformation of companies).

Up to now (2006), no measures have been taken to combat concentration in the media sector, even if the issue is being actively discussed between the media experts. One of the discussion panels at a seminar for radio and television activities' regulation, held in June 2004 by the Council for Electronic Media, and with the support of the Council of Europe, was devoted to concentration in the media sector. The circumstances in Bulgaria had developed mainly a vertical system of concentration - the telecommunication operator, in the majority of cases, is an owner both of a television and of a radio channel, of the studio complex, of the broadcasting equipment, of the transmitting cable network - i.e. of the entire chain for media broadcasting.

The seminar concluded that there is a deficit of media concentration regulation and that it is in the public interest that regulation should be a compulsory part of the Radio and Television Act.

There is no available statistical data on the correlation between imported and locally produced programmes in Bulgaria. The Radio and Television Act sets the programming quotas: there must be at least 50% of the total annual programme time for European and Bulgarian programming, excluding newscasts, sports shows, game shows on radio and TV, commercials and the radio and TV market, when that is practically possible.

The NGO Centre for Social Practices has been working for two years on a project called "Voices of Exclusion: Minority Empowerment Through the Media", which includes a series of training seminars for minority communities - Turks, Roma and Muslim Bulgarians - that are conducted in the country's mixed regions. The aim of the project is to empower minorities and facilitate dialogue via media programmes, thereby inserting their agendas into the public debate and sensitising decision-makers. The project provides a one year training programme for students from these groups to become leaders, to put together production teams - and most of all - to learn how to communicate their messages via the media. The goal is to help them to be understood; for their messages to be read, watched and listened to with the hoped effect of generating support for their cause. It is very important that the real voices of the Turks, Roma and Bulgarian Muslims are heard and understood by the others.

The training programme is made up of 300 school hours taught in 11 units (each of them lasting three days). The "Voice Of Exclusion" project is financed by the EuropeAid programme of the EU.

The press is entirely privately owned and provides the widest coverage available on public debates on reforms in the field of culture. Recent issues reported on have included reforms in the theatre, the Protection and Development of Culture Act, the Media Act, production of pirated CDs, cultural heritage protection, etc.

Chapter published: 20-01-2011

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