« (Experience, Perspectives) by Boris Bergant (RTV Slovenia) Since November 1999, RTV Slovenia and RAI Italy (through their respective regional centres in Koper/Capodistria, Slovenia and Trieste/Trst in Italy) have joined forces in carrying out the project of regional cross-border television cooperation to be implemented as a multi-phase Central European regional integration project. 1. Background and development to date: The Chairman of the Board of RAI, Prof. R. Zaccharia and the Director General of RTV Slovenia, Mr. J. _ade_ signed on May 21, 1999 in Trieste a Cross-border Television Project Agreement. In November 1999, both regional centres started with reciprocal re-airing of two information programmes (in Slovenian and Italian respectively) within their regular programme scheme. Re-airing current information programmes within the programme scheme of the other party represented the first phase of the regional cross-border television project, which has been since April 2001 taken further to airing 1 hour of jointly developed and produced programmes of various formats and contents covering different issues (especially culture, economy and tourism). This project is unique in Europe, drawing from the positive experience gained in coproducing shows like the Alps-Danube- Adria Magazine, which is now for 20 years bringing together the regional broadcasters of Italy, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary, Bavaria and occasionally Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovakia and Switzerland. The idea for the regional cross-border television project was born by the professional broadcasters of Slovenia and Italy and has been repeatedly discussed and supported by mixed Slovenian-Italian government committees; at several meetings, special support to the project was granted by the Foreign Ministers of both sides. The objective of this initiative is to enhance the information level of audiences in border regions, to strengthen the links between the national minorities and the parent nation on both sides of the border and to facilitate cross-border communication, thus building bridges of good neighbourly relations, understanding and dialogue. 2. Perspectives: Although the current situation represents a communication and civilisation achievement beyond comparison, RTV Slovenia and RAI strive for more. The present form of co-operation is to be expanded considerably during the third phase by introducing a new, independent TV Channel (preferably via satellite) offering regional contents from both participating regions (Primorsko in Slovenia and Friuli-Venezia Giulia in Italy). Yet the circle of participating stations is to be expanded to several other regional centres of neighbouring countries. The new channel would re-broadcast already produced and aired programmes of the participating regional centres, which, unfortunately, cannot be received across regional and state boundaries, as well as shows produced especially for the channel, either by a station independently, in co-operation or as contributions from independent producers. On January 11, 2000, the representatives of RAI, RTV Slovenia, ORF (Austria), RTSI (Switzerland), MTV (Hungary), HRT (Croatia) met in Trieste in order to discuss the possibilities of establishing such a channel. All sides expressed their preparedness and interest to enter the co-operation. Interest to join the project was furthermore expressed by the representatives of TV Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. All participants considered the regional cross-border channel a welcome novelty within the general television offer, opening up a new niche to public service television, contributing to better understanding and mutual respect exceeding borders, motivating to regional activities, enhancing the opportunities of national minorities within this area and providing them a channel of cross-border communication. The technical implementation of the project is unquestionable. The language problem (all contributions would go on air in their original language) can be easily solved by modern technical equipment (simultaneous sub-titling or voice-over). Besides that have many of the participating stations, like RTV Slovenia, the possibility to provide a satellite channel (webcasting might be the alternative). What remains open to discussion, is where to install the broadcasting centre, as well as the cost calculation and allocation of funds. A rough estimate of costs per year amounts to 5 million Euros. The participants underlined the possibility of obtaining subventions from the development programmes of the EU during the initial phase (feasibility study, start of operations). However, in addition to the financial participation of the public broadcasters, which are limited in their budgets, it would require certain (purpose-bound) subventions from the national budgets, for it is undoubtedly an important project with a clear political dimension. The implementation of the 3rd phase is currently stuck on the grounds of the above mentioned reasons. 3. Support of the Central European Initiative: The project has been discussed within the CEI: Heads of Departments of the single Foreign Ministries responsible for cultural exchange have been briefed during the meeting in Trieste on July 20 and 21, 2000, the CEI ad hoc parliamentary committee for information and culture chaired by the Italian senator F. Besostri has during its Ohrid meeting on September 15 and 16, 2000 expressed its support to the incentive of cross-border co-operation of public television stations from the CEI member states and during its meeting in Bratislava on October 12, 2000, the CEI working group for culture accepted the CEI cross-border television project as one of its own. It would be indeed important that the idea be supported also in the CNC London meeting on April 26, 2001 and that, with an appropriate political backing effecting in concrete results as regards contents and material support, the issue be raised as a point on the agenda of the ordinary annual meeting of the CEI Foreign Ministers on June 22, 2001 in Milan.