Last week, the government announced that one of the possible ways to reduce the costs incurred by RTP could be a temporary transfer to private hands. In reaction to this, RTP’s Board has resigned.
"You cannot treat a public broadcaster like an electricity company or a staff canteen", said EBU Director General Ingrid Deltenre. The EBU represents public service broadcasters in 56 countries in and around Europe, including Rádio e Televisão de Portugal (RTP). "Such a reckless move would add to the strain on Portuguese society during this time of crisis, and put at risk a public institution that has served Portugal well since the Salazar dictatorship".
"The citizens of Portugal should be worried. Editorial independence and pluralism will be endangered. Citizens could lose a trusted reference point forever, " added Deltenre.
In an open letter sent today to Portuguese Prime Minister Pedro Manuel Passos Coelho, the EBU condemns the proposed privatization as an unprecedented step that may end public broadcasting in Portugal. Never has such a model worked out.
The proposal would lead to unresolved legal questions with regard to competition law and European expectations based on the Amsterdam protocol and the recommendations of the Council of Europe.
“EBU Members, including RTP, share a set of common values: working for citizens, not shareholders; and for democracy, not for profit. This is what sets us apart from commercial media.” said EBU President, Jean-Paul Philippot. “The privatization of RTP could have a significant impact on future generation’s understanding of Portuguese culture,” he concluded.
A decision to privatize RTP would not solve Portugal’s current financial crisis, in fact Portugal is one of the EU countries that provides the least amount of funding for its public broadcaster. Moreover, RTP's current Board has already submitted a radical plan to reduce the already severely cut annual budget by €55 million to just €180 million, as requested by the government.
The EBU has offered the Portuguese government its in-depth knowledge of the various public media systems in Europe to provide the advice, assistance and expertise necessary to preserve RTP as a true public broadcaster in the European tradition.
(Source : European Broadcasting Union)