Bulgarian Rulers Gave 66 M of EU Funds to Media
Bulgaria's Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Minister, Zinaida Zlatanova, published Wednesday a list of media which received EU funds from ministries.
The funds were allocated from the communication strategies of EU operational programs and the Program for Rural Areas Development.
The total amount distributed by several ministries – of Agriculture, of Labor and Social Policy, of Finance, of Environment, of Regional Development and of Economy and Energy - since the beginning of 2007 until May 23, 2013, is BGN 66 M.
The period includes the two last years of the rule of the Three-Way Coalition (2005 – 2009) between the Bulgarian Socialist Party, BSP, the predominantly ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms, DPS, and the party of former Tsar Simeon Saxe-Coburg, National Movement for Stability and Prosperity, NMSP, and the entire term of the Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria Party, GERB (2009 – February, 2013).
The heftiest amounts have been given by GERB.
EUR 80.2 M has been slated in 2007 – 2009 for communication plans. Most of the money, such as for advertisements in print media, passed through advertisement and PR agencies.
Nearly half of the EU funds given to media for advertisement of the rural areas program have been distributed by the Agriculture Ministry under GERB's Agriculture Minister, Miroslav Naydenov – BGN 31.2 M.
Most money has been received by bTV Media Group (over BGN 5.5) and Nova Broadcasting Group (BGN 5.8 M). The funds have been given for time slots to air advertisements and documentaries.
TV7 and News7 (formerly BBT) have gotten BGN 1.1 M and BGN 274 000 respectively; Canal 3 – BGN 400 000.
The public Bulgarian National Television, BNT, has received BGN 2.3 M under the EU communication strategies. The Bulgarian National Radio, BNR, which is also a State media, has obtained over BGN 1 M under 5 operational programs.
Nearly BGN 7.5 M has been given to radios with the private Darik radio getting the most – BGN 4.2 M under all 6 programs.
The Focus Agency, which has a news site online, and a radio chain, has gotten BGN 1.7 M for radio programs, advertisement and media analyses.
The Consortium for Dialogue with the Administration, managed by Monika Yanova, wife of the leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, BSP, and of the Party of European Socialists, PES, Sergey Stanishev, has received BGN 1.1 M to prepare an information campaign for the EU operational program Administrative Capacity.
Media Planning Group has been given close to BGN 1 M to advertise in print media the Program for Development of Human Resources.
The entire list (in Bulgarian) can be found on the Council of Ministries official site.
In recent years, media observers warned on numerous occasions that with the money from the communication strategies of the EU programs, the State was turning into one of the biggest advertisers and the biggest in print media, which could become grounds for alarming dependencies.
The issue with the use of funds from operational programs to finance media gained huge "prominence" after a recording of an outrageous and profane conversation between former Prime Minister and GERB leader, Boyko Borisov, former Agriculture Minister, Miroslav Naydenov, and already-former Sofia City Prosecutor, Nikolay Kokinov, focusing on how to avoid legal charges against the Minister, was leaked.
In it, Naydenov admits that the criteria for media to bid for EU financing had not been written by experts at the Agriculture Ministry, but by his PR Kristina Spasova after she had reached under the table deals with media that should have been granted the funds.
Kristina Spasova (Krisi), 25, Naydenov's former PR and live-in girlfriend (as he says in the conversation) became popular for winning a bid in the amount of BGN 50 000, in a competition with two other brand new companies, to advertise the EU Program for Rural Areas Development on Facebook and Twitter, which was just the first step in her speedy ascension to significant wealth.
According to several journalistic investigations, months after leaving her State servant job, the former PR purchased from a private company 2 luxury offices in Sofia for BGN 0.5 M (repaid only in 7 months), shares in a profitable plant for processing wild berries, and large farming land plots.
After the publications, the National Revenue Agency, NRA, announced they will probe the sources of income of the people involved. The prosecution also announced a probe, but currently it is still waiting for the NRA findings. The EU anti-fraud office OLAF began an investigation as well - Naydenov denied it at first, only to confirm it later.
Its results remain unknown.
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