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News 13 Feb 17

Classical Music Boosts Bulgaria’s Public Radio

The audience of Bulgarian National Radio has enjoyed a 20 per cent boost in audience figures since a bitter dispute with the Bulgarian copyright society forced it to play only music produced before 1945. 

Mariya Cheresheva
BIRN
Sofia
The orchestra of the Bulgarian National Radio. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Bulgaria’s public radio broadcaster has seen audiences grow by 20 per cent after it was forced to play only old music, according to a new survey.

Audience research on Bulgaria’s three national, eight regional and one online public radio channels, carried out between 2 and 29 January by Ipsos Bulgaria, did not explore the reasons for the growth, said Bulgarian National Radio, BNR, at a press conference on Monday.

However, director general of BNR Alexander Velev said he believed the change in music – as well as recent political events and news – were possible reasons for the increased interest.

BNR’s regional shows in Blagoevgrad and Vidin saw the highest growth, increasing their audience share by nearly three times compared to the final quarter of 2016.

At the beginning of 2017, the Bulgarian independent copyright society Musicautor, which holds the copyright in Bulgaria of more than 14 million songs by Bulgarian and worldwide artists, suspended its contract with BNR, demanding higher fees.

The copyright organisation wanted to raise the price from half a million leva (about 250,000 euros) to 1.8 million leva (about 900,000 euros) per year.

It has banned BNR from playing much contemporary Bulgarian and world music until the fee issue is resolved.

Since then, BNR has played only music produced before 1945, along with songs that were “donated” to the broadcaster directly by authors who oppose the suspension.

Although the listeners of BNR seem to enjoy its untraditional musical program, Velev said that he does not want the current situation to continue.

He explained that the public interest for classics could be satisfied by a new digital channel, which the radio plans to launch by the end of the year.

The radio will carry out research into the musical preferences of its audience in the coming months, which could lead to reform of its musical program.

“We will not change the profiles of the programs – we will rather launch new channels with various types of music,” said BNR’s director, according to Bulgarian news website Dnevnik.

Negotiations between BNR and Musicautor, which had reached a dead end, will resume at a meeting of the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture on Tuesday.

Velev said he expects the ministry, lead by Rashko Mladenov, to express an opinion over the increased tariffs, but Mladenov said on Monday that it will not take a position in the dispute.

“I cannot intervene until both sides reach some solution. Whether that will be an agreement or not, I think will be clear in one or two days,” said the minister.

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