Bulgaria grant to Payner pop channel prompts EU concern

Payner Media singers (file image) Payner Media has been promoting pop singers like these for years

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The European Commission has asked Bulgaria for an explanation after it awarded an EU grant of 1m euros (£0.8m; $1.3m) to a music broadcaster.

Payner Media, which uses often sexually explicit images to promote Bulgarian pop music, was awarded regional development funding.

News of the grant, which has still to be paid, sparked protests in the Bulgarian arts world.

Brussels said it wanted to know if grant scheme rules had been followed.

Shirin Wheeler, spokesperson for EU Regional Policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn, said the choice of the recipient was the responsibility of Bulgaria's economy ministry.

Start Quote

Is this the only culture we can show to the world in this idiotic country of ours?”

End Quote Alexander Morfov Theatre director

Speaking to the Euractiv news website, she said the Commission took "the job of safeguarding taxpayers' money very seriously".

"If we have any concerns, we will of course ask the national authorities - in the first instance - to look more deeply," she added.

'Totally absurd'

Payner promotes a form of Bulgarian pop music called chalga, known for its gangster image and regularly featuring scantily clad women.

The style has been popular among some sections of Bulgarian society since the 1990s.

Prominent theatre director Alexander Morfov told BGNES news website: "This is monstrous… Is this the only culture we can show to the world in this idiotic country of ours?"

Mitko Dimitrov, head of Payner, said the grant would be used to create "new jobs for highly qualified experts, mostly young people", according to a Bulgarian TV broadcast seen by BBC Monitoring.

Jazz pianist Antony Dontchev said the decision to give EU money, meant for small businesses, to a thriving company, was "totally absurd".

"You can't help something that has been already been reigning for years," he told the told BGNES website.

"How much more help can you give?"

Bulgarian Rapper Big Sha wrote on his website that during an economic crisis "European money for competitiveness should be given to new and small companies, not to the biggest monopolist".

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