Late last week the EBU declared that Macedonian Radio-Television “no longer has access to our services until it pays off its debt.”
And today officials clarified their message, explicitly stating that FYR Macedonia will not be allowed to participate in Eurovision 2018 unless the current situation changes dramatically.
In a statement obtained by esctoday, officials said:
As a result of non-payment of debt, FYROM’s public service broadcaster Macedonian Radio Television (MRT) currently does not have access to the EBU’s Member services, including the Eurovision News and Sports News Exchanges, the right to broadcast specific sporting events, legal, technical and research expertise and lobbying services. MRT will also not participate in the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest as things stand but will continue to take part in the Junior Eurovision Song Contest in November.
The news comes just a week after RTP revealed that 43 countries would compete at Eurovision in May. Assuming that FYR Macedonia was included among those 43 participating nations, the number is now 42 and will remain so unless the former Yugoslav republic manages to pay down (or at least negotiate) its debt.
Despite the loss of EBU member services, the country will compete at the Junior Eurovision Song Contest 2017. Given the small number of participating countries, losing one might be seen as hurting the overall show. Furthermore it would seem unduly cruel to tell their young act Mina Blazev that she’s out of the competition just weeks before she departs for Tbilisi.
Will FYR Macedonia participate at Eurovision 2018? Not as it stands.
In September Macedonian broadcaster MRT confirmed its intentions to return to the Eurovision Song Contest 2018.
But last Thursday it emerged that the European Broadcasting Union would impose sanctions on FYR Macedonia owing to its existing debts both at home and abroad.
Citing an anonymous source within MRT’s Program Council, FYR Macedonia’s Meta news agency reported that the debt amounts to at least 500,000 euros.
But that number could be far higher, as the news agency went on to say that MRT’s total debt to “domestic and foreign trustees” amounts to nearly 22 million euros. Those owed money had not yet sounded the alarm, but the EBU imposed sanctions anyway.
Claire Rainford, the EBU’s Senior Communications Officer, issued a clear and direct statement on the matter.
“Unfortunately, Macedonian Radio-Television no longer has access to our services until it pays off its debt.”
Meta‘s source described the sanctions as “catastrophic,” adding that state television “will not be able to broadcast the programs of any of EBU’s members, or sports matches, films, foreign shows, cartoons, or documentaries.”
Déjà vu? Romania’s exclusion from Eurovision 2016
In April 2016, just weeks before Eurovision, the European Broadcasting Union confirmed that it had withdrawn member services from Romanian public service broadcaster Televiziunea Romana (TVR) over unpaid debts.
That meant that Ovidiu Anton — who had spent weeks traveling Europe as part of his promotional campaign for Eurovision — could not compete at the contest.
The Romanian broadcaster had accumulated debts of over 14.5 million euros since 2007. Since 2010, the EBU had attempted to restructure the debt, but the broadcaster had not yet made the payments. The EBU said they had written to the Romanian government four times that year, without any response.
The EBU gave the Romanian finance minister a final deadline of 20 April, extended to 21 April, requiring a down payment of 10 million Swiss franc (9 million euro). After the broadcaster did not respond, the EBU made the decision to withdraw member privileges.
In a statement, the EBU explained:
“TVR will now no longer be able to participate in the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest and will lose access to other EBU member services including the Eurovision News and Sports News Exchanges, the right to broadcast specific sporting events, legal, technical and research expertise and lobbying services.”
What do you make of all this? Is the EBU right to act? Can FYR Macedonia pull its finances together and get back in the game?