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19th Jul 2019

Bosnian football fans may miss out on Euro 2016

  • EBU: 'It would be the first time a public service broadcaster in Europe would be forced to stop broadcasting because of financial difficulties'

Bosnia and Herzegovina may become the only European country without a public broadcaster and may not be able to broadcast the European football tournament it qualified for, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) said on Wednesday (1 June).

The heavily indebted Bosnia and Herzegovinian Radio and Television (BHRT) announced earlier this week it would suspend broadcasting at the end of June.

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“It would be the first time a public service broadcaster in Europe would be forced to stop broadcasting because of financial difficulties,” EBU said in a press release.

The broadcasting alliance called on the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina, a potential EU candidate, to take “immediate and urgent measures to allow BHRT to continue operations and pay back its debts”.

The broadcaster has more than €12.5 million in outstanding debt, including to EBU.

A European media watchdog also raised concern on the upcoming shutdown.

“Even a temporary shutdown impedes citizens’ right to receive crucial public information and should not be seen as the solution to financial difficulties,” said Dunja Mijatovic, representative for media freedom for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

Football and Eurovision at risk

In addition to the move being a problem for media freedom, it may also unsettle sports fans and lovers of the Eurovision song contest.

The broadcaster had been unable to cough up the funds to broadcast the European football championship, due to begin next week, for which EBU holds the media rights.

EBU has extended Bosnia and Herzegovina's payment deadline to 8 June, two days before the tournament's kick-off.

After a three-year withdrawal from the Eurovision contest, Bosnia and Herzegovina returned this year, almost qualifying for the second and final round. But due to BHRT's debt problems, the country's future participation is at risk.

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