What was the Romanian Government’s position?
The European Broascasting Uniuon (EBU) has withdrawn member services from Romanian public service broadcaster Televiziunea Română (TVR) due to the non-payment of debts mounting to CHF 16 million.
TVR will thus no longer be able to take part in the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest and will lose access to other EBU member services including the Eurovision News and Sports News Exchanges, the right to broadcast specific sporting events, legal, technical and research expertise and lobbying services.
“The decision was made after a deadline given to the Romanian government to make satisfactory arrangements to repay the debt expired, reads an EBU notice. “It is regrettable that we are forced to take this action. We are disappointed that all our attempts to resolve this matter have received no response from the Romanian government. In recent weeks the EBU has taken note of the Ministry of Finance’s suggestion that TVR may be placed into insolvency proceedings which may in turn lead to a profound restructuring of the broadcaster. The EBU is a not-for-profit association which represents 73 Public Service Broadcasters in 56 countries. The continued indebtedness of TVR jeopardizes the financial stability of the EBU itself,” said EBU Director General Ingrid Deltenre.
The EBU regards the Romanian State as legally obliged to underwrite TVR’s debt which goes back as far as January 2007.
Since 2010 numerous attempts have been made to restructure the debt owed and payment plans agreed that have not been adhered to. The EBU has written to the Romanian government on four separate occasions this year alone and received no reply.
In a final letter to the Finance Minister of Romania Anca Dragu sent on 15 April the EBU requested a down payment of CHF 10 million to be received in the EBU´s bank account by close of business on Wednesday 20 April 2016. The Union also asked to receive an unconditional and irrevocable bank guarantee for the remaining CHF 6 million, supported by a payment plan by the end of the year.
The deadline was extended until Thursday, 21st April but no payment was made.
The EBU has in recent years repeatedly campaigned for a sustainable funding model for TVR and has held several meetings with high level representatives of the State including the Councillor of the President, the Minister of Finance, and Minister of Culture. During these meetings the EBU consistently promoted the value of having a truly independent public service media in Romania that ensures pluralism and contributes to an informed citizenship and the cohesion of the country.
‘A debt laying in some drawers for years’
The Government retorted that it hadn’t found the legal and technical solution to pay the TVR’s debts without breaking the competition principle. The Government spokesperson Dan Suciu said that it’s not fair that the current Executive should be accused that it hadn’t paid a debt “laying in some drawers for years”.
“The National Television Society has multiple debts. It would a matter of unfair competition and we would have had to inform all European competition bodies. Unfortunately, we didn’t find the legal and technical solution, besides the financial one, to make a potential payment. We are sorry to see that but we received the notice only a few days ago. It’s an unsolved matter for years, it should be solved for years, there are several year-old debts and it’s not fair that the current Government should be held responsible for not paying a debt that has been laying in various drawers for years,” Dan Suciu said.
Romania’s representative to Eurovision: It’s not fair
Ovidiu Anton, the singer who should have to represent Romania to the 2016 Eurovision contest in May said that Romania’s shutting out from the competition seemed unfair to him.
“I try to smile and to not be carried away, but….it’s unfair. I remain the same frank artist, the same fighter who won by the jury’s and audience’s vote…but despite these, paradoxically, I have to declare myself beaten off…by whom? why? Is that fair?…I don’t know how to say it nicely now, so I’d better abstain,” the singer posted on Facebook.
33-year-old Ovidiu Anton was supposed to represent Romania to Eurovision with the ‘Moment of Silence’ song, after winning the National Selection of the competition. Ovidiu Anton has raced for the national Eurovision contest four more times, in 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2015.