We Nicelanders are waiting with bated breath to see who will be appointed the new Director of the National Broadcasting Corporation – RÚV. Apparently the candidate has been chosen, and needs to be notified before his or her name is made public.
The madness that has gone down at RÚV in the last couple of months is mind-boggling. Following two downsizing episodes since the economic meltdown, the new government slashed RÚV’s funding to the point where an additional 60 people had to be laid off. It left the place practically in ruins, and incited fury across the entire country such as we have not seen in a very long time. Partly due to the fact that the new administration had, previous to this, repeatedly made both overt and covert threats to take the axe to RÚV because they did not like they way they were reporting on their [the government’s] broken election promises and various other misdemeanours. With this, it seemed like they had actually made good on their threats.
The way it was done was also abominable. People who had worked there for two or three decades were fired on the spot, told to take all their belongings and leave immediately. Their email addresses were closed instantly, even while they were in the midst of working on stories. It was insane. And now, around six weeks later, RÚV is having to hire freelancers to do some of the work that the laid-off staff [that note bene is STILL being paid a salary – three month severance pay – how the hell you save money with that is beyond me] was doing before.
Which makes it seem even more likely that this purge was politically motivated, aimed at certain individuals and/or designed to weaken those offices that the powers-that-be wanted to silence.
Anyway. In the wake of the most recent purge, the director was more or less forced to resign. [How can you steer a ship where just about everybody hates your guts?] And now, the board of RÚV has reportedly selected a new director from among the 39 applicants that sought the position.
Of course what we are most anxious to find out is whether or not it is a political appointment. There was a time, in the not-too-distant past, when the parties in power simply put their people into the top positions at RÚV – director, news director, etc. … these were all hand-picked by the Independence and Progressive Parties.
Five years ago we had massive civil unrest and the overthrow of the government. Many of us are disillusioned with what has been achieved. This will be one of those tests to see whether things have really only stayed the same, or if there has been a subtle paradigm shift.
Update: The person eventually hired to run RÚV was Magnús Geir Þórðarson, who happened to be the Independence Party’s representative on the RÚV board. This created suspicion in some camps, in addition to the fact that, prior to the initial application deadline, Magnús Geir was asked if he planned to apply, but said no. The deadline was then extended, after which it was reported that Magnús Geir had, in fact, applied. [Was he guaranteed the job in the interim or wasn’t he? – That is the question.] On the upside, though, Magnús Geir is very well respected and has a positive reputation. He comes from the theatre sector, where he is known as a sort of King Midas – everything he touches turns to gold. He managed to turn the Akureyri theatre into a flourishing company after years of excessive debt and general mayhem, and subsequently moved to the Reykjavík Municipal Theatre, where he did the same. I know many of us who like going to the theatre will miss him from that sector – but hopefully he will do the same with RÚV as he has done with just about everything else he has touched professionally.