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European banks ready to help Eastern European broadcasters go digital

The European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) revealed their readiness to inject funds into the digitization of Eastern European public service broadcasters, at an EBU-led conference in Vienna.

Senior figures from the two banks described digitization as an advisable, viable business model.

Laura Campbell, of the EBRD’s Department of Industry, Commerce and Agribusiness said: “Broadcasters need digital infrastructure, including network and digitization equipment, to respond to technological changes and ensure preservation of existing cultural heritage. EBRD financing is available for bankable operations that are consistent with that mandate.”

She said the EBRD saw digitization as a way to create potential new revenue streams, including fees for digital library use; creation of cinema pre-shows mixing advertising; branded entertainment and local content; use of the digital infrastructure for non-public purposes and fees from distribution to cable channels for expatriate viewing.

The meeting, entitled Financing digitalization in Eastern Europe: the challenge for public service broadcasters, was the brainchild of former EBU Vice-President Boris Bergant under the EBU Partnership Programme. It was co-organized with the Austrian Federal Chancellery, Austrian Broadcasting (ORF), the EIB and the EBRD.

The meeting’s take-home message was clear: the region’s public broadcasters need to go digital, and those yet to start the process must urgently digitize transmission and production and convert their precious but perishing tape-based archives.