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In face of criticism, CyBC promises to modernise

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The state-run broadcaster CyBC on Monday conceded it has financial and other problems, but promised to “modernise” so as to keep up with trends in news and infotainment.

The corporation’s budget for 2022 was up for review at the House finance committee, where MPs scolded the CyBC for having too many full-time employees and urging the organisation to ‘cut the fat’.

The committee asked for a briefing about the entity’s hiring practices, particularly the hiring of people on open-ended contracts who through time manage to gain statutory employment status with all the associated benefits – an issue highlighted by the auditor-general recently.

Disy deputy Onoufrios Koulla said the CyBC currently has 371 permanent staff on its payroll, with a goal set to reduce this number to 263.

“We can get better results with fewer resources and less cost,” he noted.

The opposition took the opportunity to slam the current administration for turning the CyBC into a mouthpiece for the government.

Akel’s Andreas Kafkalias said that for years now the Disy-led government’s policy is that “news is what the government says is news, and what makes the government look good.”

Decisions on appointments and promotions in the CyBC, he added, are based on “getting a cushy job for our friends”.

CyBC board chairman Michalis Michael told lawmakers that the organisation “wants to modernise, wants to move forward, leaving behind us the bad practices of times past”.

He cited a survey on people’s views about the content offered by CyBC, which showed that “people are fed up with coverage of issues relating to the pandemic, political party activities that are not news, and that viewers have shifted toward entertainment.”

Regarding the new CyBC premises, to be erected next to the existing ones, Michael said an estimate placed their cost between €25 million to €27 million. The current building will be demolished, but the emblematic tower will be left standing “for historical reasons”.

Also, the CyBC will transfer to the state land worth €65 million, to be used for other needs.

The finance committee was also reviewing the budgets of other state-run entities – the energy regulator, the Transmission System Operator, and the Gaming Commission.

On the latter, Disy MP Savia Orfanidou said its revenues have come to €18 million, and are expected to rise further once the casino resort opens its doors at the end of the year.

The finance committee and other House committees are scrambling to approve the budgets of semi-governmental organisations, to avoid the scenario where employees are not paid for March. That’s because most of the entities are currently operating on the so-called ‘twelfths’ system – where disbursements are made on an ad hoc basis. By law, this temporary payment arrangement can only last through January and February.

To date, only 21 out of 47 semi-governmental organisations have secured approval for their 2022 budgets. Just two had submitted their budgets to parliament on time.

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