The EBU has been marking 25 years since it officially merged with the OIRT (International Radio and Television Organisation), or Intervision, the union of radio and TV organizations from central and eastern Europe, at its 80th General Assembly in Tirana, Albania.
On 1 January 1993, broadcasters from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria all formally became Members of the EBU as the OIRT officially ceased to exist. Overnight the EBU grew from 35 Members to representating over 60 Radio and TV organizations.
"It is an important step towards the construction of Europe and a historic decision", said the German Albert Scharf, President of the EBU and the Bulgarian Alexander Vladkov, President of the OIRT, at the time.
The former Director General of Czech Television, Ivo Mathé, was one of the people who helped bring the merge about: "In the time of the end of bipolarization, we wanted to be back in Europe as soon as possible," he said recently.
Talks about a merger began in 1990, following the fall of the Berlin Wall. In November of the same year the Eurovision News Exchange (EVN) started to pick up the Intervision News Exchange (IVN) which helped EBU Members provide coverage of major events in eastern Europe, and communist countries traditionally hard for the west to access content from, like Cuba, North Korea, China and the USSR.
The following year Eurovision news items were included in the IVN. An official date for the merger of 1 January 1993 was set in October 1991.
Work then began on the construction of earth stations in Prague, Moscow, Bucharest, Budapest, Sofia and Warsaw to connect OIRT broadcasters to the Eurovision network. Finally in Oslo in 1992, the OIRT confirmed to the EBU General Assembly that they wished to become full Members by virtue of the unification agreement between the two unions.
"I think 1993 was a pivotal time for the EBU," said EBU Director General Noel Curran. "I also think we're about to enter another pivotal time. We have never been under such sustained pressure, both political and economic, and yet there's probably never been a greater need for what we do than there is now," he added.
"We need to work together. North, South, East and West. We need to leverage our strengths, leverage our unique talents. And we need to make the case for what we do. Make the case for public service media, together as a union. And I think we're well-positioned to do that."