The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has expressed deep concerns about the threat to Croatia’s HRT by plans to make a reduction in the receiver licence fee part of negotiations to form a new government.
The EBU says it believes the opportunistic move, suggested by the MOST party as a pre-condition of entering into a coalition with HDZ, is an attempt to weaken the independence and editorial quality of HRT, which is still the most trusted and relevant source of information in Croatia.
As a result, the EBU DG Ingrid Deltenre has written to the president Andrej Plenkovic and president of MOST Bozo Petrov to express her concern.
She said: “Sustainable funding for HRT is essential to protect its crucial role in society. Discussions on the level of the licence fee should be held publically and not form part of coalition negotiations.
“Underfunding of PSM undermines the opportunity for free and impartial debate. We urge politicians, responsible institutions, and future members of the Parliament to refrain from politicising PSM and to protect its values for the benefit of all Croatian people.”
HRT TV reaches nearly 75% of the Croatian population each week and has a market share of 28.4%, the highest among PSBs in the Balkans.
The licence fee is €128 a year, lower than the average of EBU members, and has remained unchanged for four years despite HRT having the legal right to increase the rate.
In that time, pressure has increased on the broadcaster following a government decision that HRT take over covering the cost of licences for households exempt from paying the fee.
MOST is proposing a reduction of 19% in the licence fee.