Cyprus Mail

Budget storm brewing at CyBC

By Stefanos Evripidou

THE GOVERNMENT wants to see state broadcaster CyBC slash its budget by €6 million next year, said its chairman Makis Symeou yesterday, warning that redundancies would surely follow.

Speaking to CyBC radio, Symeou said he and his general manager Themis Themistocleous were informed of the decision by Interior Minister Socrates Hasikos on Wednesday.

Hasikos told the two senior officials that cabinet decided in its last meeting in Troodos on Tuesday to cut the CyBC budget by €6m for 2014, and also hire consultants to prepare a study on the restructuring of the state channel.

Symeou confirmed a report in yesterday’s Alithia regarding the cabinet decision.

“We were informed of the decision taken to hire experts to study what kind of state broadcaster the country needs; how it should be financed; how it should be staffed; what it should produce; and various other issues,” he said.

The chairman argued that CyBC has wanted to complete and implement this task many times, but each effort fell short.

“This is not a bad thing, as long as use people within CyBC are utilised because staff, from simple associates to management have knowledge and views.”

However, Symeou failed to see the bright side of the cabinet’s other decision to cut CyBC’s budget to around €20m for 2014.

“The decision taken to reduce the state grant by €6m next year is a very negative development. CyBC cannot operate as it does today with such a reduction,” he argued.
Symeou pointed to the fact that in recent years, the state broadcaster made huge savings, managing to halve its budget to around €26.5m for 2013, while permanent staff was reduced from 220 to 105.

The broadcaster still employs hundreds of freelance associates on a contract basis

To shave more off the budget would be impossible without closing down a number of stations, services or programmes.

“But as we are now, we cannot submit a budget for €20m. It will be a budget of redundancies. Every worker who hears us now knows this, how much we have saved, (imposing) zero overtime and benefits. We’ve already reached our limits.”

Symeou pointed to the fact that CyBC is obliged to broadcast foreign language radio and TV programmes in Turkish and English at a great cost.

“Who should I make redundant? Based on what criteria? What compensation shall I give? These things are not possible,” he said, hinting that he may hand in his own resignation.

“I have not ruled out my departure.”

According to the DISY-affiliated daily Alithia, the average annual salary of CyBC permanent staff in 2012 came to €79,012.

DISY leader Averof Neophytou has long championed the reorganisation of the state broadcaster to make it more competitive with private stations, proposing it be deprived of the right to sell commercials.

In a study commissioned last year, Neophytou highlighted that the CyBC budget was larger than all three private channels, Sigma, Antenna and Mega, put together, while its staff numbers were also larger than all three private stations together.

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