Romania’s audiovisual council has voted to take away the license for struggling news station Realitatea TV, the country’s first news channel that started broadcasting in 2001.
The post will go off air on Wednesday following a 6-4 vote by the National Audiovisual Council on Tuesday.
The parent company Realitatea Media has been in insolvency proceedings for eight years and has not approved a plan to reorganize the company and doesn’t have a tax certificate, paginademedia.ro reported.
The decision comes a day after the station’s owner, Cozmin Gusa, said he would become a member of the Social Democracy Party, which he left in the early 2000s. Parliament recently voted to dismiss the Social Democrat government led by Viorica Dancila. In recent years, the station has taken an anti-Social Democrat editorial line.
Shortly after the vote to not extend the station’s license, the council approved a license for Realitatea Plus, a news channel operated by a company owned by Gusa.
However, the new station will not be carried by major cable companies and will have far fewer viewers.
Realitatea editorial director, Edward Pastia, said it was “a very difficult momen”t for the station. “I was in charge of a few hundred people and I can tell you with certainty that wherever we go, we will always be Realitatea.”
Realitatea has had various owners since it went on air, the most controversial of which was media mogul Sorin Ovidiu Vantu, who was jailed in 2016 for 10 ½ years for embezzling funds from the Petromservice oil company employees association from 2005-2006, through an off-shore company which he used later to take over the major stake in the company.
Vantu, the former owner of the Realitatea-Caţavencu media company, was deemed the fifth richest man in Romania in 2008 with an estimated net worth of 800 to 850 million euros.