Romania Pulls Plug on Maverick TV Station

OTV channel, owned by a controversial businessman-turned-politician, Dan Diaconescu, has been cut off for failing to pay long overdue fines.Romania’s TV regulator, the CNA, on Tuesday ordered a populist TV station, OTV, to stop broadcasting on the grounds that the company holding the channel license had not paid large fines imposed for various irregularities.

The fines, worth of over a million euro and unpaid for almost three years, were issued by CNA for illegal political advertising during the election campaign, incitement to racial hatred and for showing a video of former Prime Minister Emil Boc naked in a locker room.

OTV, a channel known for its sensationalism, was founded by the journalist-turned businessman Dan Diaconescu, who also formed and now runs the People’s Party.

The party, which advocates big tax cuts and higher wages and pensions, came third in the December parliamentary elections with around 13 per cent of the votes.

Diaconescu is under investigation for allegedly breaking the law in relation to his a bid for a chemical company, Oltchim, which privatisation officials later threw out.

Diaconescu has called the fines imposed against OTV an abuse of power and an act of censorship, done by politicians who were the subjects of investigation by the channel.

Ocram Televiziune, the company holding the OTV audiovisual license, went insolvent last March following a decision of a Bucharest Court.

OTV obtained its last broadcasting license in 2004. The license was valid for nine years and was due to expire on April 1, 2013.

The CNA’s decision came at a time when more and more people are complaining of low standards in the media, especially in television.

“OTV is the creation of an important segment of the electorate, generally uneducated and frustrated… it represents one of the most hideous creations in Romanian society,” journalist Gabriel Blejan said.

TV is important and highly influential in Romania. Recent studies show that the top activities for most people these days are staying home and watching television, with an average of seven hours’ viewing per person per day.

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