Shock report delivered on Portugal’s TV status

The economic downturn has led an influential working group to advise Portugal’s government that the number of publicly financed TV and radio channels should be dramatically cut back.

The suggestion is that RTP (Portugal’s public broadcaster) should transmit just one general interest channel and no longer carry advertising.  Its “international” channel should be managed by the government, says the report, adding that the country’s Regulatory Authority for the Media (ERC) be scrapped, as should RTP Information (a 24-hour news channel). Also recommended to be killed off is RTP Memory (a re-run channel).

“The public service missions that the state is obliged to carry out can be performed well by one single free-to-air television channel,” the working group says in the report. Working on the principle of the existence of just one general-interest channel, that new RTP must concentrate information into “short newscasts, limited to essential details” that are of “a truly informative nature,” without commentators, reads the document, as reported by BBC Monitoring.

The entire public broadcasting service must stop airing advertising, in any form, including product placement, argues the working group. However, it does not say how the financing process must be remodelled.

“As for the current RTP, the Memory channel has no ‘public interest whatsoever’ – ‘it would be more useful to make classic content available via the website’; maintaining RTP Information cannot be justified, because the private channels already guarantee ‘sufficient news services’; and the regional channels of the Azores and Madeira must follow the new rules of the public service, general-interest channel.

RTP Africa should be merged with RTP International into a channel that promotes the external presence of the country and of the Portuguese language and culture. Moreover, this channel must be “an instrument of foreign policy,” defined by a “contract programme” and funded by the Foreign Ministry.

It is not just in television where major changes are proposed. In radio, the state must reduce its network from three to two national frequencies; and control of the Lusa news agency should be placed in the hands of its private shareholders, although with a contract to provide a public service by means of a co-financing agreement, reports BBC Monitoring.

In the case of the Media Regulatory Body, the report argues that “it must be scrapped” and, in the event of disputes, “regulation must be performed by the courts.”

Returning to RTP, it must stop producing most of its content, opting instead for commissioning and promoting the activity of domestic production companies. In addition, the state could even finance production of the private operators, if that were in the public interest.

In the management area, RTP must stop being a state-owned enterprise, shifting first to a “nonprofit organization model.”

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