Genuine democracy aimed commitment of political parties in Bosnia and Herzegovina tested through public broadcasting system

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Source/Author: Dr sc. Najil Kurtić, BHN Bulletin E-journalist

SARAJEVO, 16.02.2018.-The approach and course, manifested by ruling political parties, including the opposition and (almost with no exception) their conduct towards the public broadcasters in Bosnia and Herzegovina, questions their true and genuine commitment to democratic constitution of BiH, including the policies through different social spheres, guided by the idea of public interests and people living in Bosnia and Herzegovina, regardless to any existing and given sub-identity.

Existential crisis that has been causing the turbulence through the period of last few years in public broadcasting system in Bosnia and Herzegovina, has emerged as a consequence of two incomplete and unfinished processes: constitutional and legal political reconstruction in Bosnia and Herzegovina from federal unit (Republic in former Yugoslavia) into a sovereign and independent state of Bosnia and Herzegovina and transformation of public broadcasting service from state (and one – party based system) into a civil and democratic guided system (liberal and plural social system). Both of these processes declined somewhere half their way; although they did manage to move forward from their starting positions, so the return to their initial point was impossible and, to some extent, out of the question, and, on the other hand, it seemed very distant from being finished and completed, so as a result, its final outcome has still been considered very uncertain. Least common denominator here has been a congestion and delay in fundamental transition from single-party based society (in fact, bureaucracy – aimed society) into a liberal and plural society, with the focus on every single citizen (including her and his needs, requirements, priorities, values) or in simple terms, with the focus on true models of reality.

Potential civil position

Only the position of a citizen has the potential to deconstruct particular political visions, based on hypertrophied aspects of ethnic and national identities, with the political will and required and necessary internal consensus of all consensuses are being captured. These consensuses have been covering the issue of Bosnia and Herzegovina as the final goal of the completion of the geopolitical transitional process of the former federal unit (Republic) of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Only civilian (citizens’) identity is neither discriminatory nor excluding; it is not founded on the “or/or” shape basis.

It is vastly complex, complicated and comprehensive, so it sub-summarizes all other identities based on a “and and” form and shaped under one condition, so they would negate and deny the crucial value and fundament of civil and citizens identify: in shortest possible shape and form displayed in Universal Declaration on Human rights and Freedom. In this sense, final continuation of trapped and suspended transitional processes in Bosnia and Herzegovina with the transition of public broadcasting system as its contained part and most crucial priority, and its transformation into a public system of citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, may be ensured and provided by political and social forces truly orientated in order to achieve and attain civil and citizens’ identity.

Therefore, neither left-wing nor right-wing political parties, including hybrid so-called political center – winged parties (biased more to the right, less to the left or little bit to the left and even less to the right) are not, by definition capable of launching processes from the dead point. This is not about the lack of will, as local journalists often claim, including our legendary analysts; it is rather about existential but also about cognitive captivity into nationalistic particular political orientations, values and models of social acquisition (ideology). In specific historically determined geopolitical circumstances, it is hard to expect, in the near future, that the strength and power of political forces would weaken represented by national so called populist parties, founded and established on the attraction of the idea on national geopolitical homogenization gathered around mother – countries in the region, since, it would, in the expectance of geopolitical advantages for executing their historical goals, benefit from inactive and loose, incomplete and excluded from Euro integration process, state society of Bosnia and Herzegovina; that is, frozen process of state constituting.

The utopian unitary Bosnia and Herzegovina, as the state society, primarily based on the three ethnic groups and on the other hand, its citizens as secondary foundation only, but fundamentally from same positions of hypertrophy particular ethnic identities, equally obstructs and prevents the continuation of pre-political ethically defined transitional processes into democratic society, that is, state Dayton based provisory into the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina as common sense and logical outcome of the domination of citizen and civic identity. The continuation of this process is directly related to the end of the process of democratic transition of the public broadcasting system.

Scaring subversion of the public broadcasting idea

The idea of the public broadcasting system is basically subversive in comparison with political relations and structures that, almost continually for almost quarter of a century, dominate on the political scene in Bosnia and Herzegovina. By definition, the function of public broadcasting service operators is to provide stable support to political parties orientated and biased towards the affirmation and accomplishment of democratic relations in the country that prefer common interests and, at the same time, limit the loudness and visibility of political parties that are driven by non – democratic values and practices.

Considering that media systems, whose core in European democratic societies are indeed public broadcasters, are products of deliberate political reactions of key political parties un public communication sector, it is clear that the public broadcasting system, especially BHRT had been intentionally brought into an unbearable economic and social situation and position which remains to the present. Limitation of democratic potentials of public broadcasting services is actually represented and displayed through the power of non – democratic political forces functioning to prevail the acquired positions and undisturbed accomplishments, partial interests and mainly, aimed to remain in power. This is particularly attributive to all non – democratic political structures (political parties, movements, and leaders), regardless of ideological pre-sign which serves as their coat and behind which they often hide.

In this context, and in this specific time, there is no difference between SNSD, SDS, HDZ, and SDA. Not even a symbolic value and attraction of BHRT (as brand) has not been sufficient enough to (nominally speaking) pro – Bosnian political, but also to nationally – profiled political parties, to react and advocate strongly and more convincingly, in order to ensure and provide financing sources and create institutional conditions for the accomplishment of the original and genuine mission of public broadcasters. The way that governing political parties, including the opposition, (and almost without an exception), treat the issue and crisis in Bosnia and Herzegovina, questions their genuine and honest dedication to democratic constitution in BiH, that is, the politics in different sectors in the society guided by the idea of common public interests for all people living in Bosnia and Herzegovina regardless to their sub-identity. God knows how many times it has been proved and confirmed that media systems have fundamentally been officially considered a phenomenon.

They have been created within a process of system fostering, that is, the system of suppressing of particular political discourses and mental models of reality interpretation. According to the above mentioned, the engagement regarding the developing of structural conditions for functioning and development of public broadcasters advances further from the designing system of financing that must ensured that 1) public broadcasters, as far as program is guided by the concept of liberal – pluralistic democracy having in mind public interest and citizens as central ideas and targets, which represents the dominant European political orientation; 2) production level should be in the production scope and technological European standard defined by the television broadcasted in the neighboring countries, that is, the television without borders (the completion of passing into digital broadcasting system and adoption of limitations related to hate speech issues, protection of children and commercial advertising) and 3) to ensure the protection of clientelism based influences of any kind.

Two, out of these three reasons, under Bosnian and Herzegovinian conditions, are considered questionable as far as the nature of political structure (derived from limited comprehension of democracy reduced to ethnic rights) is concerned and these include liberal and pluralistic concepts of highlighting and outlining the citizens’ and civil identity and citizens’ position in everyday social and political processes, which would, for ruling national parties, basically mean the abdication of “unexhausted” sources of their power and denouncing of clientelism influences, the practice of indirect or direct interference into genuine media function of gate keeping (the estimate of news values) and framing (interpretation of news framework).

These are two key reasons used by main political figures when, more or less, they covertly reject or hesitate to launch the continuation of the process of transition of media subsystem Bosnia and Herzegovina, that is, the congruous and consistent transition of the public broadcasting system. Naturally, there is a pragmatic – symbolic value of BHRT dissolution process, that is, the interrogative scenario of the completion of constitutional and legal transition process of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Pale and unconvincing engagement by the international community

The relationship and conduct by the politicians towards public broadcasters in BiH are perhaps best seen through the fact that the concept of the public broadcasting system is, in fact, going through the crisis and is deeply buried in European framework by the penetration of commercial broadcasting models, including all associated benefits that follow accordingly. All four pillars of traditional concepts of public broadcasting in European political space have been shaking for a long period of time. Political support for the survival of public broadcasting which requires public funds financing is weakening within national scope.

Inadequate political culture by citizens, as a result of penetration of commercialized contents of Transnational commercial broadcasters, has reflected through the lack of support by the citizens, regarding the concept of public broadcasting. Effects of the so-called “poor journalism” and popular media culture resulted in the audience of mild and poor taste which prefers commercialized formats with the declining comprehension for any kind of participation in public broadcasting financing. Financing model has, in all countries, been a subject to interrogation and the solution is yet to be found in order to protect the public broadcasters from the necessity of required quality, sacrificed to commercial imperatives. Viewership survey confirmed that the audience more often preferred to watch commercial programs and that the audience loyalty was decreasing as they were not ready to pay tax fees for public broadcasting system operators.

The following questions in Bosnia and Herzegovina consequently arose: 1) what was the point of having public broadcasting services in a most recent media environment with numerous TV channels and programs providing everyone with their needs? 2) Should investing in media commercial offers be justified if the offer contained a variety of elements and if it was considered miscellaneous and what were the possible circumstances of these kind of media houses, including the model of their financing, in relation with the market position of commercial media houses, also including the quality of contents provided and broadcasted by those operators and 3) can the concept of public broadcasters be considered as efficient model that would ensure the freedom of speech, bearing in mind that the problem of limiting media freedoms has been apparent and evident in both, post – communist society and in traditional democratic society? The way the broadcasters react to changes in media environment lead to their commercializing and, to some extent, lead to their self – destruction.

The political structure of Europe is changing, non – liberal options are getting stronger and their understanding of media freedoms and liberties has become quite different as it does not necessarily include public broadcasters. Taking into consideration the recent global tendencies, we may understand poor and unconvincing engagement of the international community in BiH, regarding the solution of the existing problem of the public broadcasting system in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We could hardly identify an imperative – based attitude by the representatives of the international community in relation to the necessity and required need for the sustainability of the public broadcasting system. As far as the questions on pre-accession stage are concerned, regarding the European Union demands, the section relating to Informing the society, only two or three of these questions actually concern mass media whereas all other questions are focused on the questioning of the conditions for the unobstructed spreading of European telecommunication market.

Besides, we do have relevant experience regarding how European public reacted when Greek national public broadcasting service was shut down. All in all, we should not rely on European imposed pressure, in order to sustain public broadcasting service in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The certain collateral benefit may emerge as the side effect of the pressure imposed upon us in order to resume with the constitutional, legal and democratic transition in BiH, that would, at the end, result with the alterations of the concept of political governing structure-guided and directed towards the domination of civil concept of democracy. Until this occurs, a little encouragement would be useful to us so that the actual existential crisis at the BHRT could be resolved on long-term basis (five – years period) by budget means financing specifically (aimed and directed) to the fund for national broadcasters by the dispersing of VAT collected amount or through the system of shares in fuel or tobacco taxation (excise duties).

The least problem of all problems would be to find appropriate institutional protection format; a format protecting from clientelism – based influence by the state representatives on the program production and program broadcasting as well. It would be even difficult to imagine that this kind of influence may even increase in comparison with the existing one; the one which has been used by political party officials and the people they appoint in many boards of directors as well as unethical appointing of their own people in editorial offices through various positions and functions.

In the meantime, the subject of media policies must reply to the following set of questions: How and to what extent should public broadcasters be financed? How to ensure that they serve the public (citizens) instead of serving particular political structures? How to protect the public from the aggressive volume of commercial media corporations and penetration of neoliberal values of economy and politically based Darwinism? How to create and provide a universal service (publically accepted) to all social specters if it is ethnically, culturally, politically and socially diverse or even antagonized? How to ensure objective, nonbiased and even sufficient amount of criticism and skepticism (characteristics and elements expected by well – informed classes of our society upon which the influence, impact, and reputation are based) and not to question economy and political support by the ruling official authorities, including the government? How to revive public support without abjuring commercial elements and effects to the extent that would not question general mission of serving the common interests, including classical values and functions of professional journalism operations? How to coexist with commercial networks respecting the actual and real state of power in media sector instead of following their conceptual positions? How to reply to consequences of psycho–demographic splitting and fragmenting the public audience which has been serving for decades for the effectiveness of marketing campaign and aimed to link and to bound of particular civil categories for specific program channels and formats provided by commercial broadcasters?

Exposing and consequently providing the public with unique and universal messages and values has become rather difficult at present as they (public) can hardly gather around the same media house (space) of public discourse.