Workers at RTP – Portugal’s State-backed television and radio service – have written an open-letter to prime minister António Costa warning that new measures in next year’s State Budget put the flagship service at risk.
The reason is that the broadcaster’s tax – which used to be paid to RTP via electricity suppliers – is now to be diverted straight into the coffers of the Finance Ministry.
Says the Commission of RTP workers, this is the perpetuation of “colossal” mistakes of the kind instigated by former president Cavaco Silva, when he was in prime minister.
Back in 1992, Silva rubber-stamped the extinction of the “television tax”, substituting it with “compensatory indemnities” which “much later or never” found their way back to the broadcaster. The results, say workers, is that the public company went from a “sustainable management” situation to the point where it was running with a billion euros of debt.
But quite apart from the financial difficulties looming, the Commission of RTP workers claims the proposed new measure “breaks one of the few non-partisan understandings in Portuguese democracy, namely the principle of independence of State media in relation to the government”.
It is even more inexplicable “for a government that prides itself in not drawing up unconstitutional budgets”, adds the open letter, as the effective pulling of funding “goes against Art. 38 in the Constitution referring to the structure and function of State media”.
Thus, while Brussels may have ‘accepted’ the budget there is still a very long way to go before this government gets it through parliament.
On Thursday afternoon, Coca-Cola upped its fury over the looming sugar-tax – claiming it is unfair discrimination in favour of national beverage producers which use far less sugar in their products – and RTP is certainly not going to leave its beef with the penning of an open letter.
Signing off with the “we are certain that during the discussion of this budget your government will listen to proposals to modify this colossal error”, the Commission of Workers warns that if this is not the case, it will simply have to “fight once more for the company”, asking the prime minister one “simple question: What interest does the government have in conditioning the public television and radio service of Portugal?”.