Regional TV miracle which connects and unites

Television is a universally accessible and powerful media which should be used by the civil society to educate, enlighten, engage and inform the public. With that vision of fostering reconciliation in South Eastern Europe by approaching the wider audience in the region and offering a frank exchange of ideas in an open debate about the issues which are badly affecting the neighboring countries, the European Fund for the Balkans (EFB) and the Center for Democracy and Reconciliation in SEE (CDRSEE) decided to join forces in creating the first ever SEE current affairs regional TV talk-show “Vicinties”.

Starting from April 2012, and during its 4 seasons that followed, this roundtable TV talk show has managed to evolve in an ambitious project that gathers a number of policy makers, analysts, representatives of the civil society, public figures, journalists, experts and activists from the Western Balkans to discuss, debate and exchange ideas on different and often controversial topics.

Expert guests from across the region are gathered in one studio with a live audience to openly debate issues that transcend borders – Stereotypes, How to survive the economic crisis, Media—do they help or hinder mutual understanding, Great powers and the Balkans, To be young and to live in the Balkans, The European Union between lament and rhapsody, Vicinities through caricature, Our history vs. Your history, Violence of youth over youth, Transport Networks, Learning Democracy, Youth Unemployment, Climate Change, About the Elderly, Regional Cooperation, The Aftermath of War.

In its format and content “Vicinities” stands as a unique effort of reconciliation, better understanding and freedom of expression – addressing all this serious subjects in an open, straightforward and entertaining approach. It is the also a rare example of regional TV-product which is broadcasted in the Bosnian/Croatian/Montenegrin/Serbian-speaking countries of Southeast Europe and beyond it and because of that it has received a big exposure and wide audience

A significant number of representatives of the European Fund for the Balkans community network were regularly included in all the discussions as active participating audience, which additionally strengthened the regional dimension of the initiative.

The number of channels broadcasting Vicinities has increased over the years and at present day it counts ten regional TV stations. In 2015, the Albanian public broadcaster RTSH joined the Vicinities broadcasters’ team, as well as the Albanian-language channel of TV Kosovo, RTK1, which was welcomed as major step for expansion and reconciliation. For the fourth season, the number of regular-season shows increased to 14, including the two pilot episodes of Vicinities Europe – a pan-European version of the successful Balkan talk show Vicinities. This new concept and its two pilot episodes “Migrant and Refugee Crisis in Europe”, and Quo Vadis, Europe? were officially offered for broadcasting to all the member stations of the CIRCOM Regional Network. A number of CIRCOM member stations have already chosen to broadcast the shows, and the two episodes are available free of charge to any interested CIRCOM member station.

The regular financial support coming from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Germany, was additionally strengthen by the partnership with the Regional Cooperation Council and the ERSTE Foundation, which supported the production of the well-established regional concept.

Vicinities has proven itself as a successful tool for enabling sincere exchange, interaction and communication in the Western Balkans, but also as a positive media example for attracting the attention of the public in recognizing the similarities and differences that exist in this common space. That is why, the show goes on.