A possible reduction of the TV licence fee from 80 to 65 kuna, charged to all Croatian households, companies and organisations using any type of equipment to receive HRT television and radio broadcasts, will affect not only the national broadcaster but also the national cultural and creative industry, according to representatives of the HRT as well as of the Croatian Audiovisual Centre (HAVC) and the Society of Croatian Composers.

The Bridge party, which is currently negotiating post-election cooperation with the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), the relative winner of the September 11 early parliamentary election, has proposed reducing the HRT monthly subscription fee from HRK 80 to HRK 65.

The opponents of this proposal estimate that this would mean that the HRT's planned yearly revenues would be lower by HRK 227 million.

This will result in the devastation of the industry that promotes the national culture, HAVC president Hrvoje Hribar said, claiming the proposal stemmed from "an unelaborated political decision".

The HRT earmarks 124 million kuna annually as support for Croatia's cultural and creative industry.

For instance, the reduced TV licence fee would mean that HAVC would be granted less than 18 million kuna annually, while currently it is entitled to HRK 21.8 million.

Hribar also notes that the HRT is undergoing a process of restructuring and digitisation which is being funded by loans, and he fears that the reduced fee would also affect those processes.

Hribar said that every citizen had the right to be dissatisfied with the HRT and its programmes, however, "that dissatisfaction cannot be removed by demolishing the entire system but by streamlining the public broadcaster."

He also recalls that Croatia has managed to get the green light from the European Commission for an HRK 80 monthly HRT licence fee. If this amount is reduced, then one can ask why the state authorities allowed "excessive investments" in the HRT in the past, Hribar said.

The Society of Croatian Composers also warns that a lower HRT subscription fee would reduce its annual income by 6 million kuna. Currently, the Society is entitled to HRK 36.6 million from the HRT.

The Society warns that the allocation of funds for culture from the state budget is below 0.5%, the lowest rate in the EU, and that the HRT's financial contributions to the creative industry are very important.

HRT acting director-general Sinisa Kovacic has recently warned that a lower licence fee and subsequently lower revenues would force the broadcaster to close some correspondent offices.

According to some unofficial estimates, 300-400 employees would have to be fired, too, and this refers mainly to those in the cultural and art programmes.

(EUR 1 =HRK 7.5)

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