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Independent Radio and TV Plan Looks Doubtful by Election Time
Time, Money Conspire in Bosnia
SARAJEVO, April 16 (Reuters) — Millions of dollars urgently needed to build independent media facilities to support free elections in Bosnia may not be donated despite pledges of $1.8 billion in aid for the country, the OSCE said on Tuesday.

"There was interest from the European Commission and from individual donor countries at the reconstruction conference but nobody set aside a specific amount for the project," said Joanna Van Vliet, spokeswoman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Sarajevo.

A donor conference in Brussels over the weekend raised $1.2 billion for Bosnian reconstruction in addition to $600 million previously pledged.

Hoped to Link Existing Media
The OSCE had hoped to secure funding to link existing independent television stations in Bosnia and to create a mobile radio network to ensure media access for candidates and parties in country-wide elections scheduled for mid-September. But the OSCE's chief of mission in Bosnia, Ambassador Robert Frowick, and others dealing with the issue are concerned the media issue may get short shrift in reconstruction funding.

With major, state-owned radio and television outlets firmly in the hands of ruling nationalist parties, independent media are necessary to guarantee a level political playing field for the 1996 elections, the OSCE believes. The Dayton peace agreement which ended 43 months of war in Bosnia late last year gave the OSCE responsibility for organizing and supervizing elections in Bosnia.

Frowick told reporters this weekend the organization had hoped to get money for the independent media project in Brussels and that there was no time to waste. "We have very little time within the framework that was given to us (at Dayton) ...September 14 is the outside limit (for elections)," Frowick said. "Timing is now crucial. We're looking at a decision point (on whether to go forward with elections) in mid-June. We're talking about a little more than two months, so the finances have to come immediately."

Parties in Power Dominate Airwaves
At least half a dozen independent television stations sprang up in Bosnia during the war using donations from international organizations and citizens living abroad. But government-controlled broadcast media in Bosnia's Muslim-Croat federation and Serb republic still dominate the airwaves and the independents would need considerable financial and technical help to compete.

The OSCE and others had originally entertained the notion of constructing a Public Service broadcasting system for Bosnia based loosely on the British and Canadian Broadcasting systems and their charters. The scheme was abandoned as infeasible due to the time and expense entailed. Frowick said the international push for media access as a result of the Dayton peace agreement had produced some positive results.

"On Bosnian state radio and television there has been some progress in opening equitable access to opposition political voices," he said. "Unfortunately there has not been a predilection on (Serb republic) radio and TV to follow suit."

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