The Bulgarian National Television (BNT) Is Preparing a Contract for the Digitalization of Their TV Channels for BGN 15 M a year (app. EUR 7,5 M)

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A draft contract between BNT and the “First Digital” company has been presented before the TV channel’s Managing Board on February 14 by current BNT Director, Mrs. Viara Ankova. It proposes the amount of BGN 18 M a year for a period of 3 + 2 years, Bivol and Offnews learned from two independent sources.

After sending an official inquiry to the Bulgarian National Television in order to confirm the validity of this information, we received the following answer: “Currently BNT and the company “First Digital” do not have a signed contract for the public digital broadcasting of our programs. The management of BNT is in negations with a company that will render the service by hosting our programs on the public multiplex.”

The company “First Digital” is property of anonymous company named “Publitel Holding,” registered in Switzerland, in the Canton of Geneva. The Director of the company is a person of Swiss nationality with residential registration in Dubai, a check in the Swiss trade registry showed. The capital ownership of the company of CHF (Swiss francs) 100 000, divided into 100 shares, is private and not public.

“First Digital” in fact is heir company of the Latvian “Hanu Pro Ltd.”, associated with banker Tsvetan Vasilev from Corporate Commercial Bank, labeled “bad apple” in US diplomatic cables.

CCB is the bank which holds the largest percentage of the money of State-owned companies since the rule of the Triple coalition and and later – the one of GERB. This bank is the main source of loans used for media acquisition by Irena Krasteva, the mother of Delian Peevski, MP from the ethnic Turkish party Movement for Rights and Freedoms.

A common characteristic of all media outlets owned by Krasteva is their full allegiance to the current political power. This concentration of media by the use of public resources, received harsh criticism from NGOs such as “Reporters without Borders”. Many EU institutions have also expressed their concerns regarding freedom of speech in Bulgaria.

The multiplexes are another huge media investment of CCB bank and Tsvetan Vasilev. With the active help of Bulgaria’s rulers, he managed to establish a full monopoly in this area, which became grounds for the EU commission to undertake legal actions against Bulgaria.

In 2009 “Hanu Pro Ltd.” won the second bid for the multiplexes and took possession of 3 private multiplexes as well as a permit for the establishment of a new public multiplex which would broadcast the programs of State-owned BNT and BNR (Bulgarian National Radio). In June 2012, in order to hush the already growing discontent of the EU commission, “Hanu Pro Ltd.” transferred the permits for building the commercial multiplexes to a US company called “HD Media Services Ltd” and announced that it would concentrate its efforts on building the public multiplex.

As it appears, the public digitalization contract also turned out to be a tasty bite. At the moment the Managing Board of the public TV channel is being subjected to enormous pressure from the government in resignation in order to sign the contract at the highest price possible, insider sources of Bivol inform. According to the planned scenario, the Bulgarian National Television is to demonstrate fictive care for public finances by staging a fake opposition and reduce the amount from BGN 18 M a year to BGN 15 M a year.

By law, BNT is mandated to conclude such contract, but the proposed price is not at all consistent with the actual expenses. Private TV companies are negotiating with multiplexes prices which are two to three times lower for the same quality of the service.

Ultimately, if this contract becomes a fact, for these BGN 15 M a year, every taxpayer would have to shell an additional annual surcharge of BGN 3 (app. EUR 1.5) for the so-called “digitalization tax”, which will be collected by the banker of every Bulgarian political rule” – Mr. Tsvetan Vasilev.

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