Unofficial sources report that the Polish Government is planning to cut down on the budget of Belsat TV channel, a unit within the TVP company. The cut by two thirds for 2017 has not yet been approved, but rumors of the existing draft document have been confirmed by Agnieszka Romaszewska, chief director of Belsat, reports the Polish website wpolityce.pl.
The draft document, prepared at the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Poland, reduces 17 million zloty ($4.2 million) to 5 million zloty ($1.2 million) to be allocated for broadcasting of Belsat.
Mrs Romaszewska commented that the decision had been unexpected for her, and such drastic cut down would mean only the end for the channel. She drew attention to the idea for Belsat to broadcast in Russian, which would be another absurdity, as the Belarusian language has been Belsat’s hallmark. I She called the situation as misunderstanding, deprived of any rationality.
Belsat TV is a satellite television channel aimed for Belarus. It is intended to provide an alternative to the censorship of Belarusian state-run television. Based in Poland, where there is a significant Belarusian minority, Belsat is run under the aegis of the Polish state-run television company Telewizja Polska (TVP). It started broadcasting on 10 December 2007. The channel is run by about 70 journalists located in Poland, Belarus, and Lithuania.
Comments from BAJ experts
Aliaksandr Klaskouski, media expert, BelaPAN:
“When it comes to fulfilling this radical surgical variant, it will be a strike on possibilities of informing Belarusian audience, and generally on the ideals of freedom of word.”
“As for the language aspect, the switch of Belsat into Russian – that would been extremely cynical violence… When a channel whose distinct feature was 100% Belarusian language starts talking the language of the state with imperial inclinations – this is beyond any belief... It would be better to slow it down before it’s too late.”
Andrei Bastunets, lawyer, chairperson of BAJ:
“We are saying that there are no independent TV and radio channels in Belarus. It was Belsat who performed the function of such TV. For this reason, journalists of Belsat have resisted persecution on behalf of the authorities for years.”
“There has been the issue of the Russian propaganda discussed lately in Europe on different platforms. One of the main conclusions explains that the audience watching mass media in national languages are affected less. So, the switch for the Russian language… arises bewilderment.”
Pauliyk Bykouski, media expert:
“It would be an insignificant step for the media sphere as a whole. But it would be essential for the journalist community and the civil society. The audience would not notice much because Belsat’s influence is not that high. Another thing is that the channel employs many journalists and gives a choice for those who look for alternative information about events in Belarus and in the world, and there is an opportunity to implement Belarusian-language projects.
“I don’t know if the document will really be approved, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs act the way they think is better for them. But I hope that the decision-makers will take into account not only the factors needed to improve relations with Belarus, but also the factors that are important for the civil society in Belarus.”