What to Watch on Bulgarian Television
Bulgarian National TV page gives you a look into the world of TV in Bulgaria – from history through to current broadcasts.
Like most institutions in Bulgaria, Bulgarian National Television has gone through different stages directly related to the constant deep changes the country has suffered since its foundation to the present day. Of course, the events occurred during the XX and XXI centuries are the ones whose influence has been noticed on the development and performance of television.
Bulgarian National Television, although in a way still a monopoly, produces a number of different types of programs: news coverage, documentaries, arts, and education programs, sports broadcasts, programs for children and youth, and programs for visiting tourists. Although still under close supervision, since the end of 1989, mass media, including television broadcast, no longer have been strictly censored.
TV journalists played an important part in the opening of radio and TV to the plurality of views in society. Many of these journalists openly spoke about their anti-communist positions, and the TV journalistic staff joined the general strike on November 1990, just a few hours before the resignation of the communist government.
As the communist regime ended in the late 1980s, Bulgaria lost its control over all aspects of audio and visual production. This led to many cases of copyright infringement and piracy. But this is just the negative side of things because television broadcasts in Bulgaria would get a new impulse after the beginning of the democratic period.
Moreover, in 1993, Bulgaria adopted The Copyrights and Related Rights Act, which protects television, music, and movie rights. By 1995, Bulgaria’s National Assembly altered this act to cover the individual rights of all performers, producers, and other contributors, as well as protecting the production company. The Convention on the Protection of Sound Recording guards the rights of any sound or recording companies in order to keep illegal music downloads and the likes from occurring.
Television played a vital role in the political transformations in Bulgaria, as in every East European country after 1989 because of the necessity of day-to-day information about the changing events that kept people in front of their television sets for many hours every day.
In 1959, Bulgaria launched its first state television programming. Two channels, BTV 1 and BTV 2, contain shows displaying Bulgaria’s culture, arts, education, and generic broadcasting. The third station, BTV 3, dedicates the station to Russian television. The three channels monopolize much of Bulgaria’s television by broadcasting shows for up to eighty hours per week.
In Bulgaria, two-thirds of all programs are created within the country and the remaining shows are imported from other countries. Fortunately, the television system has changed to a greater extent during recent years, and the citizens of Sofia, over one million inhabitants, can now watch:
- BTV 1 (Bulgarska Televizija/Public)
- BTV 2 (Bulgarska Televizija/Public)
- Nova Televisia (1994/Private)
- Sedem Dni (1995/Private)
- MM Telivision
- BNT Sofia
- Russia’s Ostankino
- France’s TV 5
In spite of the efforts to advance the world of television, which strives to satisfy the audiences as much as possible, private channels concentrate on a small range of local consumers. This restricts television media from expanding beyond the range of their broadcasts. Additionally, competition from European cable television companies is available to those who can afford to pay higher premiums. Therefore, the two television channels that are controlled by the Bulgarian government lose much of their potential audience.
The process of licensing local TV broadcasters began in 1993, following the same procedure as with local radio stations. But Bulgaria will have to step in and provide the necessary investment and ongoing advertising revenue.
New technologies such as cable and satellite television still have relatively limited use in Bulgaria. Cable TV in Bulgaria is not yet widely spread all over the country; small private entrepreneurs have built some extemporaneous cable systems in densely populated towns in the provinces, where, at least in the beginning, cable was not laid, but hung between houses and blocks of flats connecting subscribers’ premises with a central studio, often equipped with a satellite dish. Depending on the available technology, those systems provide subscribers with a number of satellite TV channels and sometimes also with a home-assembled movie channel. Residents of apartment buildings in other cases purchase and install shared satellite dishes.
At present, people seem to trust the mass media again, although still parliament-controlled and predominantly state-financed as they are. Moreover, radio and TV are still the most commonly used information sources and journalists usually bear criticism by offended parties. But journalists are just a group among the many who took and still take – part in liberating TV and face the struggle to dismantle the totalitarian media system. Moreover, the most varied efforts and initiatives are being attempted, and they will succeed, no doubt, in erasing the traces of such a restrictive regime.
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