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Bulgaria pubcaster taps Dimitrov topper

KARLOVY VARY — Bulgarian National Television (BNT) on Thursday appointed Stefan Dimitrov as general director. Dimitrov is best known as a pop music composer, but two years ago served for several months as general manager of the first channel of the two-channel pubcaster.

Dimitrov’s appointment comes at a time of sweeping changes in Bulgaria, following government elections in April that brought in a government of reform-oriented democrats. It also follows the June appointment of filmmaker Evgeny Mikhalov as the new director of Boyana Film Studios. Mikhalov had served as VP of the Cultural Commission in Parliament for two years.

Both men inherit their posts at a time of economic crisis for film and television production. A new Currency Board, put into place July 1, has been setting firm budgetary restrictions. A decrease in the funds earmarked for culture makes it look unlikely that any funding will go into either feature or TV film production over the next year.

State funding of film production had been running at an average 40%-50% of a film’s budget, with television making up the bulk of the remaining costs. The new TV budget completely eliminates money for film production. The Union of Cinematographers is expected to protest the cuts.

With little real competition from private television, BNT1 and BNT2 dominate the ratings. The pubcaster draws ratings of 60%-70% in Sofia, and 85%-90% elsewhere. No national private terrestrial broadcaster exists in Bulgaria, although there are local stations in each city and numerous (often pirate) cable broadcasters.

Boyana Film Studio faces other problems. One of the major film studios in Central Europe, it recently hosted the production of Mario Bellicchio’s “Prince of Homburg” and has attracted Greek, Italian and French productions in recent years.

Although the studio remains state-owned, it still must pay state property taxes. Located in a desirable resort area just 20 minutes from Sofia, the studio’s surrounding scenic property has been eyed by developers hoping to build lucrative villas on the site.

With aging equipment and total dependence on foreign productions for income, the studio’s future is far from secure.

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