The public broadcaster of Cyprus, CyBC, has lost half its board after the resignation of the Chairman, Makis Symeou on 11 October in protest at a government funding cut of 20 per cent.
Four members of the nine-member board then resigned days later. The departures followed the Cypriot government’s proposal of a reduced 2014 budget for next year of €27m. The broadcaster’s budget was €33.9m last year, another drop from €42.4m in 2012.
In his resignation letter, Symeou wrote that it was impossible to effect such drastic cuts without sacking many employees and without proper planning. He argued that it is premature for CyBC to do so before the results of a recently commissioned government study on CyBC and the new Public Service Remit are released – which is not due until the middle of next year.
The broadcaster’s Director-General, Themis Themistocleous, said: “CyBC has reduced its operating expenditure in the last few years and is willing to reduce it further. But CyBC believes that the 20 per cent cut in its proposed budget in 2014 on top of the 20 per cent cut in the year 2013 is far too much in such a short time period.”
However Cyprus Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos said that the state broadcaster could not be considered the “sacred cow” of semi-state organisations, the day after Symeou resigned.
“Savings start from the top – government, ministries, state and semi-state organisations, down to Joe Public,” Hasikos was quoted in the Cyprus Mail. “No one can be exempted from this effort.”
“No new or interim Chairperson has yet been appointed,” said a CyBC spokesperson when asked about the current status of the board leadership, “this is expected to be done by the Council of Ministers, but the timing is not yet certain.”
The broadcaster, which is over 80 per cent publicly funded, has faced criticism over the average high payscales of its permanent employees. CyBC said that such employees have the status of civil servants, therefore their salary scales are set by the government. In a statement the corporation added that such staff accounted for less than a quarter of CyBC’s workforce.