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Cyprus

Neophytou: time for a real dialogue on what a state broadcaster should be

Disy leader Averof Neophytou

Ruling Disy leader Averof Neophytou on Sunday assured that both Cybc’s staff and pensioners would be paid at the end of the month as parliamentary meetings with the state broadcaster’s board and the interior ministry would come up with a revised budget that could be voted into law on time.

Neophytou was speaking two days after his party was one of the main opposers to passing the Cybc’s 2019 budget in parliament on Friday when it was voted down by 24 votes against and 17 votes for approving the €34.360m in funding.

The budget was voted down by Disy and Diko, with Neophytou saying his party would not support giving money to a ‘soap opera institution’. Diko head, Nicholas Papadopoulos said that there was bad management and a failure of the broadcaster to take initiatives to modernise.

Expanding on his decision Sunday, Neophytou said during a news conference that Disy wanted to see “a strong state-owned broadcaster that will provide the Cypriot people and taxpayers with valid, timely and objective information with equal treatment… a state-owned broadcaster whose existence the taxpayer pays in order to promote the culture and customs of the country”.

In order for Cybc to serve its role and mission, it was necessary first and foremost to be fair with its employees and there was no political party that disagreed with this, he said. All parties had been talking about two tracks of employee at the Cybc for several years. A third category of workers with special contracts had also been created, he added.

“Cybc has more staff than the sum of the workers on all of the private radio and TV channels,” Neophytou said. It’s budget was also larger than the total expenditure of all of the private radio and TV stations combined.

Neophytou clarified that he would have no problem voting for such budgets, provided that Cybc fulfilled the mission of a state broadcaster.

He would, he said, invite all the parties to a dialogue with the government and he had sent a message to Cybc staff that the budget was not voted down to deprive them of their salaries.

“There is not going to be any worker, nor any pensioner without a salary at the end of the month,” said Neophytou.

“From tomorrow [Monday] there will be a dialogue to come up with a budget that takes into account Disy’s positions and those of the other parliamentary parties,” he added.

Neophytou added, with that said, it was time for a real dialogue to begin on what a good state-owned broadcasting organisation should encompass. Part of that should be that Cybc ought not to be churning out the same type of fodder as the private stations.

“There is no reason for taxpayers to pay €33 million a year to maintain the Cybc,” Neophytou said, adding that he wanted to see in the revised budget, a differentiation of the Cybc’s role and mission.

“People want information and news on important issues…what is happening in the world, what is happening in our region. Is it news every night to be given the position or written statements of the political parties?” the Disy leader said.

“I said it many times and I will repeat. This is not news.”

Meanwhile the audit office said on Sunday it would release data and figures for Cybc’s expenditure within the week.

Auditor-General, Odysseas Michaelides, posted on social media that the special report for Cybc for 2017 was on the audit-office website.

“For the year 2018, the financial statements have not yet been prepared by Cybc and therefore their auditing has not yet begun,” the tweet said.

“Our service was scheduled to begin its own management and regulatory review at Cybc the day after tomorrow [Tuesday]. This check and the completion of the report, taking into account the comments of the auditee, usually takes a few weeks.”

“We will disclose within the week (as far as possible by Thursday) data on the number and staff costs on 31.12.2018 and some figures for total operating costs for 2018, and comparisons with previous years,” Michaelides added.

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