Bulgarian Media Market Monopoly Saga Reaches US Embassy

Diplomacy | August 12, 2011, Friday // 17:07|  views

US Ambassador in Sofia, James Warlick, is not surprised to hear about the media cartel on the Bulgarian print media market. Photo by BGNES

The state of the Bulgarian print media and its distribution market, where there is an alleged monopoly of the New Bulgarian Media group, has been discussed Friday with the US Ambassador in Sofia, James Warlick.

The meeting participants included the Editor-in-Chief of the anti-government Galeria (Gallery) tabloid weekly, Kristina Patrashkova, its Deputy Editor-in-Chief and Director of "Glassove" (Voices), Yavor Dachkov, the co-Publisher (along with Ognyan Donev and Lyubomir Pavlov) of the tabloid newspapers "Bulgaria Dnes (Bulgaria Today) and "Retro," Nedyalko Nedyalkov, who all met with Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, as well, to discuss the same issue.

After the talks, Borisov ordered a probe of the publishing and distributing media business in the country to be executed by the anti-trust Commission for Protection of Competition, KZK.

The meeting with Warlick is to be followed by meetings with Russian and Israeli diplomatic representatives in Sofia.

New Bulgarian Media Group owns the national BBT TV channel, the Telegraf (Telegraph) daily, Weekend weekly, Monitor daily, Politika (Politics) weekly, the newly-created Vseki Den (Every Day) daily, as well as the local Veliko Tarnovo daily Borba (Fight) and the Plovdiv daily Maritsa. (Telegraf and Weekend are the highest-circulation daily and weekly in Bulgaria.)

The latest developments come shortly after the purchase of a large number of titles by media mogul Irena Krasteva, and her son, Deliyan Peevski, who is a former Deputy Minister and current Member of the Parliament from the quota of the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms, DPS, party, and the recent squabbles over ownership of the WAZ assets in Bulgaria – the first ever monopolist on the local media market, dating back to the 90s.

The beginning of August saw the latest development on the market and the monopoly expansion – where one third of the shares of top Bulgarian daily Standart (Standard) were, allegedly, bought by New Bulgarian Media Group, something the management of the daily firmly denies.

The editors and publishers told the American diplomat about the cartel scheme Peevski has invented and introduced; a scheme for tarnishing the image of any political and business opponent. They also explained that, as a former investigator, Peevski is connected with the secret services.

"We think that once such scheme has been allowed, it would be very hard to change it. But we want to make the practice public, so that it can be halted and we count very much on external diplomatic pressure," Dachkov told the Bulgarian Dnevnik daily, adding Warlick said he knew about the situation and was not surprised by what he heard from the media people.

Dachkov further confirmed that meetings with Russian and Israeli diplomats are pending, and informed about a September media forum with the participation of foreign media and experts.

The US Embassy also confirmed a meeting with journalists has been held, saying they would not issue any further statements on the subject.

Warlick has reminded that his position has not changed since last year.

In June, 2010, during a round table he said the fact that there is no transparency in media ownership in Bulgaria and acquisitions of outlets with the goal to serve political and business interests was alarming. He gave examples with the American experience where there are laws requiring public information on media ownership and professional ethic codes for journalists.

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Tags: Ahmed Dogan, Corporate Commercial Bank, Central Cooperative bank, Irena Krasteva, European Commission, Brussels, bank, GM Press, Slavka Bozukova, Tsvetan Vasilev, Delyan Peevski, Irena Krasteva, Standart, WAZ, DPS, Movement for Rights and Freedoms, Todor Batkov, Corporate Commercial Bank, New Bulgarian Media Group, Bulgaria, Bulgarian, media, newspaper, US Ambassador in Sofia, James Warlick


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