AIM: start

TUE, 30 OCT 2001 02:10:06 GMT

Television, Foreigners, the State

No Picture, No Sound

The latest scandal with the appointment of a new Director of TV FB&H (Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina) is a story about television just for those uninformed. It is much more a story about relations of the so-called international community and the new authorities of the B&H Federation, which are quite obviously reaching the boiling point.

AIM Sarajevo, October 12, 2001

Years-long continuous attempts of the OHR and greater part of the international community to carry out "transformation" of the public television service, which for thousand reasons became mission impossible from the very beginning, have ended last week with the appointment of Jasmin Durakovic as Director of the Federal TV B&H and opening of a new gap in the relations between the protectorate and those protected in B&H. It should be mentioned that in this whole story the professional skills of young Durakovic were of lesser importance, although not totally irrelevant.

As far as the published facts are concerned, the story is rather clear. Last week, the Federal Television Council, which still does not exist de facto although the legal wisemen disagree de iure too about its existence, has elected the mentioned Jasmin Durakovic, formerly member of the "editorial team" of the dying TV B&H, as new Director of this TV house. Miraculously enough, during the election, Haris Pasovic (previously invited by the Council itself, accepted and tested candidate for this position) disappeared from the list of candidates for this post.

Announcing the new Director's name, President of the Council Slavo Kukic said that Durakovic had been elected "unanimously" and that "there were no other candidates". Later explanations and "clarifications" uncovered that the decision of the F TV B&H Council was not quite unanimous (Boris Tihi was against), that at the time of its adoption the quorum was questionable (according to the Council's Rules of Procedure five votes are needed for a decision to be passed, but in this case only four of them voted in favour), that the status of one of the former Council members (Zlatko Dizdarevic, who was not invited to the meeting) was unclear because he was "withdrawing" from membership although he did not make that clear before this "case" occurred. Quite the opposite, his resignation he had submitted two months before this scandal, together with another Council member Dunja Blazevic, on account of everything that "happened with the transformation of a public TV service", was not accepted. This was all duly entered in the minutes. Dunja Blazevic sent her new irrevocable written resignation to Kukic and the High Representative a day after Durakovic's election. She was not present when the voting took place.

The "disappearance" of the up-to-then only candidate, Haris Pasovic, was especially intriguing. The Council called this man (with outstanding professional biography according to all international standards) to enter the competition for a Director. This invitation was agreed on with the OHR and the Government's Working Group working on this. He accepted his nomination rather reluctantly but in the end was simply proclaimed - nonexistent.

According to local generally-known rules, the mentioned "trifles" will be subject of discussion for a long time to come, with everyone "pushing" his version of the story, issuing statements and counter-statements while big mischief - much bigger than the television and this competition - has already been brewing and getting out of control. The temperature in relations between the so-called international community and the new political team elected at the past elections is rapidly rising while the fed-up public is served one scandal after another. First came the case with the third mobile phone operator, then "Siemens case" and conclusion of the deal without properly organised tender and the last was the case of TV FB&H, just as a part of the overall story on transformation of television, which has been time-consuming, rather sloppy and costly process implemented according to exclusive schemes of numerous "foreign experts" with whom practically everyone in this country who knows first thing about TV disagrees.

In essence, the latest scandal with the election of the new TV Director did not break because of the conflict between Durakovic and Pasovic. After all, it neither broke because of serious disagreement between Council members who had left it, foreigners and the local members who stayed on it. When all is said and done, the case was the result of a long-ago determined political concept which the OHR and the "international community" are determined to implement here, as well as real political needs and possibilities of Bosnia and Herzegovina which its current political leadership sees and wants to shape differently. Secondly, that case is to a great extent, just like many before it, the consequence of arrogant, paternalistic and frequently even haughty behaviour of some foreigners who refuse to take into consideration the local intelligence, professionalism and experience even when they are obvious. The most crushing conclusion that can be drawn from all this goes a step further: In these surroundings foreigners often refuse to let capable and even world famous "local people" to key positions, but much rather bet on the obedient and financially "satisfied" second-raters so that their well-paid missions could be extended and renewed indefinitely.

The so-called "transformation of the public TV service in B&H" has been going on for years and until now has produced only two (practically already existing) radio programmes, which have been additionally "refreshed" by people and equipment from the former Radio Fern. The idea on the speedy launching of two Federal TV channels by this September (the new deadline is end of October), was to a certain extent scandalous when it is known that, at the insistence of OHR "specialists" these programmes were supposed to start without a Director and programme manager ("the appointment of these two now, just before the start of programme, would only destabilise and disrupt the crew which is preparing the entire project"). The OHR officials persistently and at all costs insisted on having this project run by people (both foreign and local) who in the undivided public opinion have already given the viewers the worst TV programme ever broadcast from the "grey house" over the last forty years. In addition, it was often politically dubious.

The key issue in this whole story actually came to the surface only at the Press Conference organised by representatives of the B&H Federation Government and Parliament on Thursday in Sarajevo - why are the foreigners (with absolute rights) still running the transformation process of the public TV of B&H. The OHR took this task upon itself at the time when the then ruling national parties could not or did not want to agree on basic civilised principles according to which this job should have been done. Obviously, the situation is quite different today. Despite many inherited and new problems, the Federation Government and Parliament are both capable and willing to take over with full responsibility and aware of its importance. Half-jokingly speaking, the state is finally ready to interfere in its own business and jurisdiction, and assume its obligations when it comes to television.

In the past ten hardest years political parties in power did not need more than a day to come to that wise conclusion. Why doesn't this suit the foreigners now and, by all appearances, even those who live well on foreign funds? Is it because of the money and position they have, or perhaps from fear of "former Reds who are ruling again" (as they like to scare people on television) or perhaps because of all the above. It seems that the problem is in the ground which no one wants to touch: the so-called international community is persistently defending a concept which has been outrun by the political reality in the country. First, they tolerated the extreme chauvinistic media, programmes and contents, although it was evident where it was all leading to. When they decided to do away with them, they defined "transformation" by planning the introduction of "Croatian" and "Bosniac" TV channels in the Federation. Local wisemen stopped the realisation of that stupidity, aware that things have changed.

After that the OHR insisted on the plan of strengthening central entity TVs under the roof of some poor "unified PBS"(Public Broadcasting Service). The most this PBS would be able to achieve for a long time to come would be joint "News" at the non-existent time slot and on occupied frequencies, with occasional broadcasts of football matches of the B&H national team, unless the Yugoslav national team happens to have a match at the same time.

It is irrelevant that things go on, because it was always more important to defend a decision, mostly by eliminating from the game all those unlike-minded. The unfortunate thing is that many who think with their own heads and cannot be bought with foreign currency - persistently have a different opinion.


(AIM Sarajevo)