An ongoing campaign to restore the BBC World Service on FM in Sofia may produce some results
Issue 32, May 2009
by Stamen Manolov
Over 2,000 people*, both expats and Bulgarians, have joined the Facebook campaign to restart the BBC World Service broadcasts on FM in the Sofia area. Sofia is among the few European capital cities apart from Moscow where the BBC World Service is not available on FM.
The Bulgarian Electronic Media Council, the state watchdog in charge of granting and withdrawing broadcasting licences, justified its 2008 decision to switch off the BBC in Sofia by asserting that the BBC had broken the rules by not having any Bulgarian-language programmes, which the BBC had discontinued with the closure of its Bulgarian Section in 2005.
The BBC requested a change of its licensing conditions and challenged the penalty notices in court, but the Bulgarians were adamant: they were sticking to the letter of the law.
But where is the spirit of that law, the basis of which is the public interest, asked a group of over a dozen Bulgarian and expat intellectuals, former and current politicians and ordinary citizens of Sofia in a letter dated 13 April. The letter was sent to the BBC and the Bulgarian Electronic Media Council, as well as the prime and foreign ministers of both the UK and Bulgaria.
The signatories of that letter, which urged the government leaders to use their good offices to reverse the ban, include philosopher and media expert Georgi Lozanov, bestselling US writer Elizabeth Kostova, publicist Neri Terzieva, director of the Centre for Liberal Strategies Ivan Krastev, former Bulgarian ambassador to the United Nations Stefan Tafrov and former ambassador to the United States Stoyan Joulev.
The letter was initiated by banker Martin Zaimov, who is also the deputy head of the Sofia City Council, while the Facebook campaign was started and is being administered by Anthony Georgieff, the editor of Vagabond.
70 years ago, on 10 March 1943, Bulgaria's pro-Nazi government decided to defy Berlin and halt the deportation of Bulgaria's 50.000 Jews. This was down to the actions of one man - Dimitar Peshev. Just two years later he faced Communist justice and found himself on trial for his life. His niece Kaluda Kiradjieva remembers