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Final Day of Fifth World Meeting of Bulgarian Media

24. May 2009. | 09:38 10:02

Source: EMportal, BTA

BTA Director General Maxim Minchev closed the Fifth World Meeting of Bulgarian Media which this year was held in Bourgas and Varna. Discussing how the news media are faring in a time of economic downturn, media organizations complained of shrinking income from advertising and lack of government support for the Bulgarian communities abroad.

BTA Director General Maxim Minchev closed the Fifth World Meeting of Bulgarian Media which this year was held in Bourgas and Varna.

"In five years we became a club in which there are familiar faces and new people join. No one leaves this club - we talk, criticize each other, make proposals, but we have to look for opportunities to make its goals higher. We have to set greater challenges before ourselves," Minchev said.

In his words, this club can materialize the idea of former foreign minister Solomon Passy for Bulgaria to be nominated for the Nobel prize for the salvation of its Jews. This club can also work for the objective of the world learning more about Bulgaria and Bulgarian artistic figures.

Minchev expressed the hope that there would be a sixth meeting.

Speaking of the fifth edition, the BTA Director General said it had met with the highest approval and had been financed only thanks to business, not with the help of the state, which ensured greater freedom.

New media, those related to Internet, will inevitably swallow traditional media, and that could happen quite soon, media expert Georgi Lozanov said earlier on Thursday, addressing the participants in the meeting.

In his opinion, traditional media will not disappear altogether but will acquire a rather boutique character, for certain communication elites.

The new media continue to have a rather generational profile and to be marginal to some degree, but the wind of change can be felt, Lozanov said. In his words, this will happen with the change of generations.

True civil social processes, the processes of resistance are developing in the new media, the media expert noted, adding that critical attitudes are also shifting in this direction.

With Bulgaria's accession to the EU a neoconformist attitude was created because the EU was associated with certain values which we tried to uphold along the way of resistance and when we became part of the EU we thought they had nearly been achieved and come to characterize the Bulgarian society, Lozanov said.

The objective of becoming part of the EU swallowed and screened the concrete strategies of resistance. The process was enhanced by the global crisis which made the matter of survival of media a complicated one.

This, in turn, made media enter corporate circles in order to exist, he explained.

Thus free journalism is increasingly transferring to the new media. What characterizes this journalism is that the audience alone takes over the functions of communicator and begins doing journalism. It does not have external limits of its own freedom.

According to Vladimir Petkov of Econmedia, the new media will swallow the classical ones but until then we shall speak of integrated media products - radio, TV and site. Thus under one brand and one editorial office the media will reach readers and viewers by all possible means.

Internet will change traditional media, Petkov noted and added that the process of change will also affect journalists. Investment in sites is a ticket to the future.

Discussing how the news media are faring in a time of economic downturn, media organizations complained of shrinking income from advertising and lack of government support for the Bulgarian communities abroad.

The discussion was held Wednesday, the third day of the Fifth World Meeting of Bulgarian Media in the Black Sea cities of Varna and Bourgas.

Advertisements in the print media have slumped by a quarter and electronic media organizations are the only ones still making a profit, said Josif Davidov, the publisher of the Spanish-based Nova Douma newspaper.

In Spain, more than 153,000 Bulgarians feel the brunt of the crisis and its worst side, unemployment, said Davidov. Unlike Bulgaria, Romania invariably sets aside a significant budget to keep up its image abroad, regardless of crisis and internal problems, and in the past half-year alone it has spent some 18 million euro to encourage expatriate Romanians keep up their mother-tongue proficiency. Bulgaria has spent nill for the same.

Radio owner Radosvet Radev said that while nobody in Bulgaria knows the true face of the Bulgarian crisis, economic players are slashing their advertisement budgets and consider then an unnecessary luxury. Radev expects advertising budgets to be halved this year: from the usual 250-300 million euro a year to 150-170 million at best.

Radev believes that the Bulgarian media organizations are reacting adequately to this by cost reduction and job cuts, among other emergency measures.

Integration against crisis Kina Bugovska of the US-based e-zine "21st century Bulgaria" urged e-zines to integrate to better handle the crisis. She hopes that the BTA-organized forum would facilitate contacts and thanked for the valuable ideas for stronger cooperation.

She called for more investment in culture and said that it will create new jobs and will encourage business. "Culture attracts tourists - it is not a luxury," she said.

Evgenii Vesselinov of the US-based "Obzor" newspaper said that his organization has felt no crisis and the reason for that is that it is a team of enthusiasts. He underscored the importance of feedback from the readers.

Svetlozar Momchilov of "Bulgaria Sega" said that the Bulgarian media could cut costs by creating an information pool that will eliminate the need for each organization to have its own reporters.

MP Solomon Passy who chairs the parliamentary foreign policy committee, told the participants in the forum that while a stronger government policy on expatriate Bulgarians is truly needed, some things are already being done in that direction. He mentioned as an example the availability of free Bulgarian visas for ethnic Bulgarians living in Macedonia and Moldova.

Taking up another issue, Passy suggested that the participants in the Fifth Meeting could give more publicity to Bulgaria's role in rescuing its Jews from the Nazi death camps during World War Two and thus push forward the idea for giving Bulgaria a Nobel Prize for peace. Passy sees this as a cause to pool the efforts of all Bulgarian media organizations.

Difficult digitalization In a discussion on the digitalization of television on the third day of the Fifth Meeting, participants questioned the way in which this process unfolds in Bulgaria.

Krassimir Simonski, deputy chairman of the State Agency for Information Technologies, said that the government has provided over 160 million leva to the Defence Ministry since last year, to make frequencies available for the digitalization of TV. The deadline for digitalization is 2012.

Publisher Martin Zahariev noted that the construction of a multiplex - that carries the signal of several TV and radio providers - costs millions of euro.

Under the Geneva frequency plan, Bulgaria will have six multiplexes of national coverage, each with 4-5 programmes and opportunities for extra services.

According to media exper Georgi Lozanov, the process of TV digitalization in Bulgaria fails to meet the expectations. The latest amendments to the applicable legislation allow too much government involvement in the process and in the work of the news media. "In this situation it is better not to have digitalization," Lozanov argued.

Kai Urbanek of Austria's ORS said that the envisaged division of network and multiplex operators in Bulgaria is not the way to go. He doubts that Bulgaria will be able to meet the 2012 deadline for digitalization.

He also said that his company has serious investment interest in Bulgaria and is one of the bidders for construction of multiplexes. If it wins, it will invest 50 million leva (some 25 million euro) in Bulgaria.

Dimiter Tsonev of the Bulgarian National Television (BNT) said that digitalization will force this public TV to produce new programmes. The available budget is not sufficient for that and BNTwill have to use market tools for producing new programme, Tsonev said. BNT's topmost task at present is to carry through the internal digitalization of its systems.


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