New agreement gives hope to BHRT  

12th June 2024

A cooperation agreement was reached by the two Bosnian public broadcasters, BHRT and RTV FBiH, which is hoped could solve the longstanding instability of BHRT.  

TV Tower in Sarajevo
TV tower located on Hum hill in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Credit: iDaSad / Shutterstock.com

IN BRIEF:

  • Two Bosnian public broadcasters BHRT and RTV FBiH reached a cooperation agreement, after weeks of disputes and important cuts in their programmes.
  • BHRT and RTV FBiH’s Directors General also signed a contract for the collection and distribution of the Radio and Television tax, which could ease the unstable financial situation in which BHRT was for years.
  • Journalists protested against the poor working condition at BHRT, after not being paid for more than 50 days.

IN FULL: 

 By Charlotte Pion 

Hope for the future viability of public broadcasting in Bosnia and Hezegovina has been renewed, after an agreement was finally reached between the Radio and Television of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BHRT), the nationwide public media, and the Radio Television of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (RTV FBiH). This agreement came at a time of crisis for BHRT, with the public broadcaster’s finances in serious peril. A few days before the accord was made, BHRT’s journalists went on strike after not being paid for more than 50 days.  

The last week of May was erratic for Bosnian public media. The heavily indebted national public broadcaster BHRT announced major changes to its programming with 15 of its television shows cancelled. Additionally, the long-standing feud between BHRT and RTV FBiH reached its peak the last week of May, with both broadcasters failing to agree on a sustainable funding system solution.   

Read more: BHRT warns it’s on the brink of collapse

Finally, BHRT agreed to sign the cooperation agreement with RTV FBiH, a decision which enabled the funding of the immediate needs of both broadcasters 

The Sarajevo Times reported that in addition to the cooperation agreement, a contract with Elektroprivreda BiH, the public electric utility company, concerning the collection and distribution of the RTV tax was signed by the heads of both public broadcasters.  

A public media trio at odds 

The relations between the country’s public media entities have have often been thorny.  

At the root of the problem lies a complicated distribution system of the licence fee between three different organisations. 

The public broadcasting system in Bosnia & Herzegovina was meant to cover and unify the different ethnic groups cohabiting in the country: BHRT was founded on the idea of a nationwide public media; RTV FBiH has been dedicate to the Bosnian Muslim-Croat population; and the Serb Republic Radio-TV (RTRS) to the Bosnian Serb entity.  

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The three broadcasters were meant to be funded through a “Radio and Television” tax collected on electricity bills. However, the RTV FBiH and RTRS reportedly accumulated money from the RTV tax, while not passing on their allocation to BHRT, which was meant to receive 50 per cent of the tax revenue, while FTV and RTRS were supposed to share the remaining half. In addition, the institutional body envisaged for the fair allocation of the RTV tax was never created.   

 As reported by Balkan Insight, this made the collection and distribution of the tax much harder and led BHRT to accumulate a debt of about €48 million since 2015.  

Earlier this year, the national broadcaster announced they were on the brink of collapse, until the Council of Ministers saved them at the last minute by providing them with four million BAM (approximately two million euros). “This decision seeks to ensure the financial stability of public services, which is one of the 14 priorities from the Opinion of the European Commission for accession to the negotiations with the European Union”, said the Council of Ministers of BiH. 

This financial lifeline came with the condition that a “fair method of collecting the RTV tax” must be found along with “the adoption of new laws to ensure the stability of public services”.  

Turbulent negotiations, journalists sound the alarm  

The negotiations for a sustainable funding system for public media have been eventful. In May, the services of RTV FBiH were momentarily interrupted, due to the high debt they owed to BHRT. The federal television programme from the RTV FBiH depended on BHRT for years as it was using its buildings and provided them with the technical services necessary to produce their programme, while still withholding the money due to BHRT.  

In addition to the disagreements between the two media entities, the working conditions of journalists deteriorated greatly because of the lack of funds. On 28 May, the journalists of BHRT went on strike to denounce the fact they were not paid for more than 50 days and were caught in the crossfire of the fight between the two public media management.  

“The financial situation is very serious, and this media outlet faces shutdown unless the RTV tax is redistributed. We are caught in the aftermath of past political decisions, made by those we trusted in elections, who are responsible for a stable RTV system,” said BHRT1 editor and host Zeljana Mehmedika Ciric 


The Public Media Alliance welcomes the restoration of the financial relationship between BHRT and RTV FBiH which provides some hope for the future viability of public media in the country. However, for public service media to truly deliver on its mandate, provide value for audiences, and produce the best quality of content, it needs reliable, sustainable and long-term funding. PMA urges broadcasting leaders and the political authorities to do their utmost to provide this sort of funding resolution for BHRT.