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Open Letter

From the editorial staff of Radio Bulgaria, Bulgarian National Radio, May 31-st 2017
The Presidency of the Republic of Bulgaria
The Parliamentary Committee on Culture and the Media
The Parliamentary Committee on the Policies for Bulgarians Abroad
The Council of Electronic Media
The Union of Bulgarian Journalists
The Podkrepa Labour Confederation
The Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria
The Management Board of Bulgarian National Radio

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The BNR Director General Alexander Velev has publicly announced his plans to close down the production in foreign language of the BNR created by the staff of Radio Bulgaria Chief Editorial Office saying it is “an anachronism from the times of communism and the Cold War.”

However the current Regulations of the Structure and Organization of Work at BNR read that Radio Bulgaria Chief Editorial Office today “carries out the mission… to present the face of Bulgaria the cultural and national identity of the country, in the world's media space to foreign audiences and to the Bulgarian communities abroad.” The Regulations also state that Radio Bulgaria presents on a daily basis – with texts and audio on the internet – up-to-date information about Bulgaria to the world in eleven languages: Bulgarian, English, French, German, Spanish, Russian, Serbian, Greek, Turkish, Albanian and Arabic. The Regulations have been approved by the current Management Board whose Chairman is Mr. Alexander Velev.

Contrary to the quoted Regulations, in December last year, the Management Board of BNR closed down the website in Arabic which caused dismay with a view to the situation surrounding the migration crisis, notably migration pressure on Bulgaria on the border with Turkey.

On 30 May 2017, BNR Director General Alexander Velev invited the journalists from Radio Bulgaria to let them know orally, once again contrary to the Regulations, that the structure will be liquidated because it is a propaganda anachronism from the times of communism. Mr. Alexander Velev said that media production in Turkish, Russian and English alone would remain.

To quote him, shutting down Radio Bulgaria should complete on 1 September 2017. In this regard, he suggested that starting from 1 June until 1 August 2017, every journalist from Radio Bulgaria who voluntarily applies for leaving the job will be paid four gross monthly salaries, will have unused paid leave paid, and will retain the right to get benefits on the labour market as regulated by the law. Those who do not accept the deal will be made redundant starting from 1 September 2017 without access to the mentioned four gross monthly salaries.

This raises a number of questions, among which:

Why did the Director General announce plans to close down Radio Bulgaria while there are talks underway for the adoption – with a delay of a few months – of the Collective Labour Contract at BNR which provides trade union protection of the Radio's employees?

If foreign language programming is an anachronism from Cold War times, why is it that the public radio stations in a number of countries still have it, among them the Voice of America, the Voice of Turkey, Vatican Radio, Radio Romania International to mention but a few, who generate content in foreign languages and transmit it to the respective audiences via radio wavelengths but also via satellite and online?

What are the criteria applied in prioritizing certain languages in which there will continue to be foreign language content within the system of the BNR?

Ladies and gentlemen, we believe that the decision whether to have foreign-language content produced by the Bulgarian National Radio or not, how many languages there should be and in which languages is not an administrative prerogative of this or any other management of the BNR currently in office, but is a matter concerning the foreign policy of Bulgaria, its security in the long term.

Bulgaria is taking over the rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU in the first half of 2018. Radio Bulgaria's foreign language production, which has a well-established readership abroad, is an extremely important information conduit. In this regard, terminating the production in major European languages like French, German and Spanish is nothing if not bewildering.

We consider the decision to terminate Radio Bulgaria to be short-sighted and an end in itself. On a daily basis its website is visited by thousands of foreigners and Bulgarians worldwide. A large part of published content is also multiplied via the social networks.

It is our opinion that the plans of the BNR management should be put to discussion and evaluation, so as to prevent administrative decisions that would be damaging to the face the country presents to the world.
From the editorial staff of Radio Bulgaria
Bulgarian National Radio

Sofia, 31 May 2017