New Bulgarian government to change digital plan

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov and his Cabinet have made it their mission to undo last-minute changes implemented by the previous government at the end of its four-year term.

Like all other European Union member states, Bulgaria must switch to digital television signal broadcasting by the end of 2012, but the process has been delayed for years, raising the prospect that Bulgaria will miss the deadline. Bulgaria will scrap the plan to build and maintain the network infrastructure that would rebroadcast the digital signals of Bulgarian National Television (BNT) and Bulgarian National Radio (BNR), according to Transport and Communications Minister Alexander Tsvetkov .

“The only solution for BNT’s and BNR’s switch to a digital signal at a time of economic crisis is to call a tender open only to fully private bidders,” Mr Tsvetkov said in a statement. Under the plan adopted by the previous government in May 2009, a public-private partnership would have built the network, for which 150 million leva was allocated from the state Budget. The tender could be called at the start of 2010, once the necessary legislative amendments are approved by Parliament.

BNT and BNR would then pay an annual fee for the rebroadcasting service, which would be part of the yearly Budget subsidy to the state broadcasters. As it is, BNT and BNR pay such fees to telecoms firm Vivacom, the former state fixed-line monopoly, whose subsidiary NURTS rebroadcasts the analogue signal.

The private operator of the new digital network would be required by law to fully cover Bulgaria’s territory, which would ensure that BNT and BNR reach about 30 per cent of Bulgaria’s population that only has access to terrestrial television, the ministry said. The Cabinet will also set up an interdepartmental task force to review proposals on how to make digital-to-analogue converters easily affordable. The Transport and Communications Ministry said that its proposal was for the Government to offer private operators tax incentives in exchange for lower converter prices