Euro pubcasters slam ‘excessive’ cuts

Europe’s public broadcasting body has issued a statement slamming funding cuts across the continent as “excessive” and “disproportionate”.

The statement, adopted unanimously by the European Broadcasting Union General Assembly, comes in the wake of “massive” public funding cuts earlier this month that saw Icelandic pubcaster RUV forced to downsize by 20%.

“This is the latest in a series of similarly massive cuts that have been imposed in recent years on EBU Membership, which in many countries are now, as a consequence, struggling to fulfil the most essential parts of their remit,” the EBU claimed.

Almost every pubcaster in Europe has seen its budget slashed since the global economic recession began nearly six years ago. Even leading EBU members such as the BBC, France Televisions, ZDF, RAI and RTVE have been hugely affected, with further cuts expected to affect programming budgets and staff numbers across the board.

Earlier in December, a new law chopped one billion Icelandic krona (US$8.5 million) from RUV’s budget level of 2008 and severely reduced the organisation’s ability to sell advertising space and secure sponsorships, which the EBU estimated will cost a further 400 million krona annually.

In a statement following the cuts announcement, RUV’s CEO Páll Magnússon said: “Viewers will see a difference. Our listeners will hear it. Some programmes will disappear from screens and airwaves, others will be reduced and others still will change significantly. Our ability to provide news to the Icelandic public will be diminished, and newscasts will be shorter and fewer.”

He added: “We have no alternative at this time to meet the cuts demanded by the government but to let staff go and reduce our programming.”

The EBU General Assembly responded by stating: “Providing the public with such information is at the heart of the remit and mission of public service media, which must continue to fulfil this essential role within the European media landscape.

“The managements of public service media companies are making every effort to improve the efficiency of their organisations in consideration of the economic difficulties they face, but excessive budget cuts to public service media cannot serve as a quick fix to a nation’s economic woes; it is precisely at times of crisis that the public needs strong public service media to be an indispensable source of reliable, quality information.”