Mr. Georgi Sarakinov is Chief Legal Advisor,
Copyright Agency and Chairman, Interim Committee for Radio
Frequencies and TV Channels
Applied Research and Communications Fund 1994
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Until 1992, the state had full monopoly over the electronic media
in Bulgaria. At that time, there existed only the Bulgarian
National Radio and Bulgarian National Television, and their
regional centers in some of the larger towns nationwide.
The new Bulgarian Constitution of 1991 identified the
prerequisites for breaking the state monopoly in this crucial area.
Under Article 18, Para 3 and 5 of the Constitution, the state
enjoys sovereign rights over the radio frequency spectrum and
geostationary orbit positions allocated to this country by
international agreement, whereas the use of the frequency spectrum,
as well as the rules and conditions under which TV Channels are
regulated by law.
Such a law is still lacking although several draft bills have
already been submitted to Parliament.
The state monopoly on air frequencies first began to crack as
early as 1990 and 1991 when the Council of Ministers consented on
several occasions to license the experimental rebroadcasting of
foreign radio stations, namely the Voice of America, Radio Free
Europe (RFE), BBC, Radio France Internationale and Deutsche Welle
on designated channels.
In the absence of specific radio and television laws to regulate,
among others, the terms for opening, licensing and operating
private broadcast media, the only relevant legislation is the
Communications Law adopted in 1975, with its subsequent amendments.
Under this law, the present Committee on Posts and
Telecommunications (CPT) alone is empowered to license radio and TV
transmitters in regard to technical standards.
On the other hand, the transitional provisions of the Constitution
authorize the National Assembly to exercise direct control over
broadcast media until a particular law is adopted. In practice,
this control is administered by a standing Parliamentary Committee
on Radio and Television.
With view to synchronizing the authorities of these two bodies
over licensing of private radio and TV companies, the need for
which was becoming ever more obvious with the progress of
democratic reforms, on January 9, 1992 the Parliamentary Committee
on Radio and Television, in association with the Committee on Posts
and Telecommunications, set up an Interim Committee for Radio
Frequencies and TV Channels. Its powers are defined in the founding
statutes; it accepts and considers applications for production and
distribution of radio and TV programs, and recommends applicants to
the Chairman of the CPT who, in turn, is authorized to grant
permits (licenses) for broadcasting radio and TV programs over
designated frequencies, and for constructing cable radio and TV
The interim committee consists of 10 members, five of whom are
elected by the Parliamentary Committee on Radio and Television, and
the rest are nominated by the Chairman of the CPT and are not CPT
employees. The interim committee elects its own chairman and
secretary, who are not Members of Parliament.
Pursuant to Article 18, Para 5 of the Constitution, the interim
committee will be active until the entry into force of a radio and
The interim committee adopts, and the chairmen of the Committee on
Posts and Telecommunications and the Parliamentary Committee on
Radio and Television approve, certain "rules and procedures" to
comply with in its activities. These require mandatory interviews
with individual bidders to discuss their general programming
proposals. The interim committee is free to take decisions
independently of other agencies. These decisions are final and do
not require further approval. The Chairman of the interim committee
is required to report its decisions to the Parliamentary Committee
before they are published officially.
In the absence of a specific law, the interim committee has
identified, and made public, several conditions, requirements and
priorities which it takes into account when considering
Under this document, natural persons registered under the
Commercial Code and juridical persons are eligible to apply for a
licence to construct and operate private radio and TV stations and
cable networks. Applicants are required to sign a mandatory
declaration whereby they officially agree that, if granted a
licence, during the licence term they will:
1. refrain from accepting full-time employment in the state
2. observe copyright and other intellectual property rights as
stipulated in the existing law;
3. refrain from broadcasting programs inciting to national and
religious intolerance, pornography, violence and violation of human
Television licensees are required to
ensure that at least 20% of the films they broadcast are Bulgarian,
and another 20% are European.
Once approved by the interim committee, an application is reviewed
with regard to technical standard requirements by the CRT. Should
these requirements be met as well, the applicant is awarded a
licence for a term of 5 years for radio, and 10 years for
television. Licences cannot be transferred or sold.
The compliance with technical standard requirements is regulated
in a special ordinance of the CRT published in the "State Gazette"
No.55/1992. The situation is somewhat different in regard to cable
services. Licensing of cable services is provided for in a CRT
Ordinance of May 1993 (published in the "State Gazette" No.
43/1993). Only applicants whose program proposals have been
approved by the interim committee are eligible to compete for a
Since it was founded (practically from
June 1992 until the end of July 1994), the interim committee has
had 161 sittings, and has reviewed several hundred applications.
All applicants have been interviewed, each interview lasting from
30 minutes to two hours.
Over the same period, the interim committee has granted 76
licences for broadcast radio, 44 for wire radio, 35 for television
(15 of which may carry their own programming), and 134 for cable
operators. Of all 76 broadcast radio licences, 10 were granted to
foreign radio stations (8 to RFE, one to BBC and one to Deutsche
Welle). In these ten cases, the interim committee simply legalized
radio stations already operating. In order to respect Bulgarian
regulations and regulatory authorities, the foreign radio stations
were invited to go through the mandatory application procedures,
which they agreed to do. Thus the actual number of licensed
Bulgarian operators of local radio broadcast stations amounts to
66. Of these, CRT has endorsed only 27 which are currently in
operation: seven radio stations based in Sofia (FM+, Express,
Tangra, Darik, Radio 99, Signal+ and Vitosha), four in Plovdiv
(Kanal Kom, TNN, Atlantic and Vesselina), two in Varna (Galatea and
Kanal Kom), two in Bourgas (Glarous and Yuzhen Bryag), two in
Rousse (Pristis and Tempo), two in Sliven (Bimako and Kanal Kom),
one in Turgovishte (Radio Turgovishte), one in Petrich (Bella), two
in Stara Zagora (Trelli and Vesselina), one in Veliko Turnovo, one
in Yambol (Vesselina), one in Blagoevgrad (Maya), and one in Gotse
Several stations operate on experimental basis and have been
allocated frequencies, but they have not yet obtained technical
approval. Others await vacant frequencies, and still others, only
recently approved by the interim committee, have not been awarded
FM+ is the first officially launched Bulgarian private radio
station. It was licensed on October 22, 1992, which is also the
birthday of Bulgarian private electronic media. Of all 13 TV
companies approved by the interim committee, only 3 (in Sofia,
Kurdjali and Dobrich) have received licences as of July 31, 1994.
There is no official cable operator because the first 25 licenses
were awarded only in the spring of 1994.
In May 1994 licensing procedures
were created for a national TV service. The existing rules and
regulations could not apply automatically because they referred to
regional television exclusively. Therefore, the Parliamentary
Committee on Radio and Television adopted special rules that were
almost identical to those regarding regional television. The only
difference is that the interim committee is required, after having
interviewed all bidders, to select at least two applicants and
submit them to the Parliamentary Committee. Having reviewed all
eight applications by the end of June 1994 the interim committee
approved two, Tempo and Premiere, and referred them to the
Parliamentary Committee that will announce the outcome of the
competition this autumn.
In addition, the interim committee supervises whether the existing
private radio and TV stations comply with their stated program
schedules. Nine stations were inspected in 1993 and no violations
of the program requirements were found. In conclusion, it could be
said that three years after the collapse of totalitarianism,
Bulgarian private electronic media have made their first steps.
Despite the lack of a specific law, developments have been kept
under control (as far as radio and TV are concerned) from the very
beginning. The same is hardly true for cable television. In this
case, the official reaction has been somewhat belated and has
fallen far behind chaotic practices. It is worth noting that
Bulgarian society thinks highly of the existing private radio
stations. Their reputation is somewhat higher than the print media.
The size of their audiences, however, falls short of the audience
of the Bulgarian National Radio.
The delayed passage of a radio and television law, although a bad
testimonial for Bulgaria, has one advantage: working with temporary
normative acts provides an opportunity to gain experience that will
be crucial for the creation of a stable legislative framework of