Zagreb, 28 April 2000

Dear Colleagues, dear Friends,

First of all I wish to thank you for the activity, support and efficiency you expressed during the last two meetings of the CEE group:

1. 7/4/00 in Dubrovnik, during the TV Assembly
2. 13/4/00 in Madrid, during the Radio Assembly

The common theme of both meetings was the proposition concerning the future work and the tasks of the CEE group. To put it precisely, all the members agreed about the main propositions for the future activities, which are mentioned in our report of 10/3/00. The members also expressed satisfaction with the past reports mentioning that they would like to have more information on the work of the TV Committee. Starting the Web site of the CEE group was commended. It is up to us to make use of this possibility as good as possible. Further more, there is a wish to widen our work beyond the EBU domain, in order to strengthen mutual co-operation.

Since a very important period is ahead of us, in which crucial decisions for the EBU are to be taken, as well as for our Group, I kindly ask you to send all your remarks and proposals to the Web site. Namely, the Administrative Council is to be held on 25-26 May 2000 and the General Assembly on 30 June and 1 July 2000.

May I remind you that our next meeting will precede directly the General Assembly in Lucerne and will be on 29th June starting at 9:00 until 14:00, followed by the lunch. Please note that there will be no additional invitation to the meeting.

This report consists of:

1. Basic conclusions on future work
2. EBU Financial Committee report (B. Bergant)
3. Report on the TV Committee (M. Nemčić)
4. Report on the Radio Committee (M. Nemčić)
5. Proposition for better and broader co-operation among members of CEE Group (M. Domanski, Telewizja Polska)

Sincerely,
Marija Nemčić
Head of International Relations
HRT/CROATIAN RADIO TELEVISION

 

1. BASIC CONCLUSIONS

Basic conclusions of our meetings are related to the main tasks that are ahead of us in the next three months:

  1. We have agreed that our permanent representatives in the Administrative Council are Russia and Poland. New representatives for the remaining two places will be Hungary and Slovakia. We shall endeavour to get the fifth place in the future.
  2. Our candidate for the Vice-President of the EBU will be Boris Bergant (RTV SLO). Since the Vice-President of EBU is, by his function, a member of the Administrative Council, consequently we shall already have five representatives in the body.
  3. We shall insist that the non-formal group of 5 members (big members) be enlarged with one more member - Russia.
  4. We have already achieved that the Vice-President of the Radio Committee is from the CEE group. In Madrid, Vlado Senica, RTV SLO was elected unanimously.
  5. Training of the staff in Geneva is to start as soon as possible. The decision and the conditions approved by the Administrative Council should be sent to the members soonest possible.
  6. Agreement on the candidate for the President of the EBU
  7. Agreement on the candidate for the General Secretary of he EBU

2. TO THE MEMBERS OF THE CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPEAN REGIONAL GROUP

I would like to inform you on some open questions, which I am faced with within the EBU Financial Committee.

They will most likely be dealt with also at the next assembly of the Administrative Council by the end of May and at the EBU General Assembly in July.

At the last meeting of the Financial Committee on April 11, 2000 in Geneva, the internal auditors Roxstroem and Bona proposed an in their 1999 independent report new method of membership fee calculations.

The basis for this proposal was the claim of the Permanent Service that the data on households with TV and radio sets provided by the member stations differ a great deal from the results of various commercial analyses and independent reports.

Supposedly, the Permanent Service also has problems to obtain the data.

On top of that, it seems that it has come to a gap in the interpretation of the EBU Code of Finance passed two General Assemblies ago.

Section 2.1.1.1. the second paragraph states:

"Radio and/or TV licences means all registrations of radio and TV sets which in principle give rise to a license fee payment, regardless of whether the fee is actually paid or whether under some social law provision there is reduction or total exemption from the obligation to pay."

Obviously, the interpretation of this paragraph differs a great deal. Some organisations, like RTV SLO, do understand it as considering all households having registered a TV or radio receiver to the broadcaster. Membership fee is calculated on the basis of this number without regard to whether the subscribers pay or not or are in delay with their payments so that we need to recover the debt.

Yet, we certainly did not understand it as obliging us to pay also for those who for various reasons did not register their receivers (blind viewers and listeners); in the majority of cases, we do not have any legal possibility to claim payment from them. All we can do is to make an effort to attract as many subscribers as possible.

The Permanent Service, however, reads it in a different light, namely that we ought to pay also for those, who do not pay subscription/license fee, which seems to me personally rather illogical.

It is a fact that we have many members, which are not based on the concept of license fee and are financed out of a budget. How to define the number of subscribers in such a case? This certainly needs further discussion.

Personally, I regard it unacceptable that in a Union based on non-compulsory membership somebody controls the members and provides the Permanent Service with data. This is an infringement of the members' sovereignty.

Furthermore, it is likely that membership fees exceeding the extent that they are able to pay in accordance with their income might overburden some members. We will need to seek for a compromise acceptable to all.

I would be most obliged for your opinion and suggestions in this regard.

Personally, I see two possibilities:

  • To stick to the interpretation of considering the number of subscribers registered with the broadcaster; the member organisation has to inform the Permanent Service in Geneva by the defined deadline about this number, serving as the basis for membership fee calculations.
  • That those broadcasters not receiving license fee, but basing on budget subventions, agree with the EBU on the number of viewing households. The EBU will respect the data provided by the member, and only in case that they differ greatly from other international information sources, the Permanent Service and the member will have to adjust the data jointly.
  • If a member fails to provide the data by the deadline, the Permanent Service is allowed to use some independent source as the basis for the calculations.

The second possible scenario, which I consider more acceptable, is:

The basis for the EBU membership fee calculation would be - similar to the system of copyrights - the turnover of the EBU member broadcasting organisation.

This would certainly represent a major shift of the current obligations. The Permanent Service is of the opinion that it wouldn't be acceptable to the rich western members, which would suddenly have to pay more!!! I consider this argument as inappropriate and would like to have your opinion on this!

I would be most obliged for your comments, suggestions and guidelines concerning further proceedings serving the common interest of us all.

Sincerely,
Boris Bergant
Ljubljana, April 19, 2000
EBU Vice-president

3. REPORT ON THE TV COMMITTEE

The meeting of the TV Committee and the 6th TV assembly was held in Dubrovnik from 5th until 8th April 2000. The main topic of the meeting was the analysis of the activities of the TV Department as well as the projects that are realised on the user-payer principle or from the General Budget. Three members of the TV Committee with the assistance of the TV Department did this analysis. Although it was a very complex task, the report was a very thorough one and of high quality. It was decided that such reports are made three times a year. The aim of the report is to enable the TV Committee members to make judgements and offer guidance on the strategy and the prioritisation.

The activity files identify 88 activities currently performed or planned by the Television Department. These are very diverse - from running expert and programme groups to co-productions, special workshops, interdisciplinary activities and study and development. A great number of activities currently performed by the TV Department are new: 28 out of 65 began in 1998 or 1999. The report shows also the lack of resources and working time to adequately cover current activities

President of the TV Committee proposed the idea of setting up "The Fund for Development of Television". This is a very important idea, which should in future promote and make possible the better and quicker development of ideas and co-operation among the members in the area of programme. At the time being, the initial funds are to be found which would not be an addition to the General Budget, but a capital that would be invested in particular projects. The TV Committee has to set us the way of using these means. As to the new rules of acquisition of sports rights the improved proposition was presented, though it was not accepted yet.

The TV Assembly is considered to be the very successful one. The topics of the professional discussions were:

Good news? Strategy for the competition in information services and formats for the 21st century. The discussions were very interesting ones. More than 15 broadcasters presented their successful projects accompanied by the professional explanations of the way of production.

4. REPORT ON THE RADIO COMMITTTEE

The Radio Committee held a half-day meeting in Madrid on 12 April 2000, the eve of the Radio Assembly, under the chairmanship of Mr Nicholas Keynon (BBC).

Following reports from the Television, Technical and Legal Committees, The Committee took note of the draft programme for the next Rencontre de Torremolinos conference, to be held on 10-11 May 2001 on the theme "Highlighting Radio News in the Future".

The Committee was informed of the follow-up to initiatives on DAB, notably the DAB conference organised by the Portuguese EU Presidency in Lisbon on 6-7 April 2000, at which Mr Philip Laven and Mr Thomas Alexanderson (EBU) had been guest speakers and Mr Jose Manuel Nunes (RDP) one of the rapporteurs.

The following Members have now signed on as partners in the Eurosonic project: VRT, RTBF, RAI, NOS, RTE, SER, RDP, MR, HRT, SSR, ER, SK/SR, YLE and BNR. Replies are still expected from the BBC, GRF/SRF, RUV and ARD. Members having adopted a wait-and-see attitude are STR/SR, NRK, DR, RTVSLO, ORF and PR. As from early June 2000 Mr Laurent Pavia (SSR) will join the project as an Acquisition Officer on a part-time basis.

The Committee also took note of the latest progress on the Radio Millennium Days project.

While undertaking its annual Activity Review, and following consultations with the Technical Committee and the EBU Technical Department, it was decided that the Technical Department should henceforth provide the secretariat for TTI (formerly Broadcasts for Motorists), which has taken on an increasingly technical nature. However, programme issues will continue to be dealt with by the Radio Committee.

The Radio Committee adopted a revised version of the Code of practice, now integrating the rules for charging for technical facilities at joint Radio and Television events.

The Committee also noted a request, made by the Co-ordinator for international Broadcasting at its Specialised Meeting on 6-7 April 2000, that an International Broadcasting Project Group is set up. It was decided that the Committee should rule on this request at its next meeting.

The Committee supported an application from the National Association of TV & Radio Broadcasters of Russia (NAT) to become an EBU approved participant, subject to further information on NAT's usefulness for EBU Radio, to be submitted to the EBU before the next meeting of the Administrative Council on 25-226 May 2000.

The next meeting of the Committee will be held in Geneva on Friday, 29 September 2000.

5. TO THE CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE EBU MEMBERS

Dear Colleagues,

Having read the materials sent to me to the Dubrovnik meeting, dealing both with our achievements in 1999 and the proposals for the future, I have the impression that it is assumed that one of the main goals of our group is to achieve the leading or meaningful positions in various bodies of EBU.

It is undoubtedly an important element of our actions. It can result in certain benefits, and, first of all, it can make the EBU officials familiar with the real situation of numerous TV organisations in Central and East European countries, where in recent years the transformation process has proceeded in various ways.

I do not think, however, that this goal should dominate in our plans.

Our regions are differentiated in various respects.

Our basic, or perhaps main goal, seems to be to remove the differences between our group members as well as the ones existing between our group and the other members of EBU. Let me mention just a few of them:

  • there are differences between our economic potentials,
  • between the program mission to be fulfilled by the public television,
  • technological and production ones,
  • as well as the differences between legal solutions, particularly the ones connected with copyrights,
  • the lack of rules dealing with the media,
  • the lack of international solutions connected with access to archival materials among EBU members,
  • participation in satellite and Internet news,
  • the co-operation with commercial and cable television, which also have influence on the creation of the public opinion.

In my opinion, it is equally important for our organisations to actively participate in the activities of committees and task forces within EBU, particularly in the ones dealing with television, radio, technical and legal aspects, finances and statistics, news, sport, music etc.

Our representatives hardly participate in the activity of the above mentioned groups or do not participate at all.

TVPP S.A., for instance, is the co-ordinator of the regional news' exchange from our European area of ERNE; this activity can have huge influence on the general image of our countries on European television. These materials are also accessible to world news agencies, which are going to buy interesting materials and disseminate them on in other regions of the world.

However, the situation in this area does not look optimistic - only four countries - namely Romania, the Czech Republic, Russia (only EBU Office in Moscow) and Turkey actively participate in the exchange.

The activity of Slovakia, Bulgaria, Hungary and Ukraine, with two or three news per month, can be described as moderate.

Very little amount, i.e. one or two news per quarter, are received from Lithuania, Slovenia, Greece and Bosnia.

Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Belorussia, Moldova, Macedonia and Albany do not participate in the exchange of materials at all.

The above mentioned examples of news exchange are proof of fundamental differences concerning the attitude to the creation of one's own image on television. Our presence on TV channels is not just a source of information about the life of a given country, but also proof of our professionalism and competence.

We should advise Eurovision authorities that forms of co-operation in the area of co-production require changes. Nowadays it mainly relies in joint covering the cost of particular projects. Our organisations would be willing to participate in providing news and production services rather than participating in costs.

The other essential question is adjusting the training EBU programs to the needs of television in our Group.

The training courses organised by EBU are directed mainly at the organisations of our region. Still the authors of the training courses are not very familiar with the reality, in which we conduct our activity. Therefore, the subject of the training courses quite often does not meet the real needs of the organisations. The most important subjects to be touched on in the framework of the training courses are the following:

  • legal aspects connected with the adjustment to the rules in force within EBU
  • new television technologies,
  • production and co-production systems, including services.

On the basis of my experience I can say that the language barrier is a serious obstacle in our representatives' activity in EBU.

Therefore, we suggest considering possible specialist language courses for the television employees participating in EBU activities.

TVP S.A. could be involved in such an undertaking.

Maciej Domanski
Director of International Relations, TVP