BULGARIAN NEWS AGENCY (BTA)
БЪЛГАРСКА ТЕЛЕГРАФНА АГЕНЦИЯ
Address: 49, Tsarigradsko Shossee blvd., Sofia, 1000
Telephone: +359 2 9262 210
Year of Establishment: 1898
The Bulgarian News Agency (BTA) celebrates its 125th birthday on February 16, the date when its first news bulletin appeared in 1898. Here are the milestones along this venerable road:
January 27, 1898: “Bulgarska Telegrafna Agentsiya” [Bulgarian Telegraph Agency (BTA)] is established with Department of Press and Library of Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Public Worship by decree of Prince Ferdinand I.
February 1, 1898 (Old Style): Oskar Iskander, Armenian, Doctor of Philosophy, publisher and editor of newspapers, takes office as first Director of BTA, appointed by Order No. 28 of January 27, 1898; annual salary: 5,580 leva.
February 16 (New Style February 28), 1898: BTA puts out its first news bulletin, hand-written by Iskander himself. The agency celebrates its birthday on this date.
February 17, 1898: First seven news items, initialled “B.T.A.”, are published in Unofficial Section of State Gazette under heading “Bulgarian Telegraph Agency Cables”.
1898: As government institution (unlike most news agencies at that time, which were privately owned), BTA receives national budget subsidy of 20,000 gold leva even in its first year.
1898-1914: Reuters Telegram Company (London), Agence Havas (Paris), Wolffs Telegraphisches Bureau (Berlin), St Petersburg Telegraph Agency and Athens News Agency are BTA’s principal sources of news.
1898-1928: BTA uses messages telegraphed in Morse code to Sofia’s General Post Office. Messages transcribed and published in bulletins with one-day lag.
December 4, 1901: BTA issues its first typewritten news bulletin.
April 25, 1903: Parallel hand-writing of bulletins is discontinued, and all BTA news bulletins start to be typewritten.
1909: Agency separated from Foreign Ministry’s Department of Press and Library.
1912: BTA renamed “Direktsiya po Pechata” [Press Directorate] with two divisions, BTA and Press.
after June 9, 1923: Information Desk is added as new division to Directorate. Beginning of Agency’s external news service, with special bulletin covering events in Bulgaria, translated and circulated abroad in French.
August 1, 1928: Incoming news services received aurally in Morse code and transcribed by hand by newly established Radio Service with Press Directorate.
1932: Press Directorate renamed Press Division with Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Public Worship, with three sections: BTA, Press, and Documentation.
1932: Siemens HELL Writing Telegraphs, leased from Reuters, Agence Havas, GTA and Stefani, are installed at BTA, revolutionizing agency’s communications. Radio monitoring service begins operation, listening to 147 foreign radio news broadcasts and recording them by hand.
1934: Agency issues strictly confidential T-4 bulletin in four copies (for Palace, Prime Minister, Press Director, and archives). It digests worst reactions to Bulgaria in foreign media.
1934: Documentation service goes into operation, with single employee (press attache) clipping articles about Bulgaria from Bulgarian and foreign newspapers and magazines.
1936: Press Directorate restored, with three services: BTA, Press Service, and Information and Documentation Service.
1937: BTA publishes three bulletins daily, in Bulgarian and French.
1940: Agency appoints its first full-time press photographer.
1944-1947: Agency operates its first English-language service.
1947: Morse broadcasting of External News Service begins.
December 23, 1949: Press Directorate together with its BTA Division are separated from Foreign Ministry, becomes institution in its own right, reporting directly to Council of Ministers.
1951: BTA publishes two foreign-language newspapers: La Bulgarie nouvelle in French and Novaya Bolgariya in Russian, and two magazines: Bolgariya in Russian and Free Bulgaria in English.
1951: Home News and International News daily bulletins are launched.
July 12, 1951: Press Directorate reorganized and renamed Bulgarian News Agency, to be headed by director general, By Decision No. 51 of Politburo of Bulgarian Communist Party Central Committee.
September 25, 1951: Press Directorate together with all its services renamed “Bulgarska Telegrafna Agentsiya” [Bulgarian News Agency (BTA)] by Council of Ministers Decree No. 1183 which also approves Rules of Organization for BTA.
March 1952: External News Service is established as separate department.
1952: PressPhoto is set up as separate department. First film in archives shows May Day parade in front of Georgi Dimitrov Mausoleum, with Party House under construction in background.
1954: BTA posts its first ten resident correspondents abroad.
March 1957: BTA launches teletype news service from Sofia for newspapers based in Bulgaria’s next largest cities: Plovdiv, Ruse, Varna, and Burgas.
1957-1958: In another technological breakthrough, BTA replaces Morse telegraphy and HELL transmission equipment by electro-mechanical typewriters (teleprinters or telexes), in use until late 1980s.
1958: External News daily bulletin launched.
1958: BTA receives services of 18 foreign news agencies.
1959: BTA introduces phototelegraphy for facsimile reception and transmission of pictures.
1959: First External News item goes out on ticker.
1961: BTA’s present head office at 49 Tsarigradsko Chaussee Blvd. is completed. Designed by architect Evgenii Zidarov, under construction since 1959.
1961: Start of news transmission by teletype to Sofia’s dailies.
1963: BTA joins East European ring for exchange of text information.
1964: Siemens sets replace old teletype tickers.
September 29, 1964: By Council of Ministers Order, Agency acquires separate legal personality to operate on cost-accounting basis, effective January 1, 1965.
January 6, 1965: BTA launches its weekly magazine Nauka i Tehnika [Science & Technology] (folds in 1991).
January 8, 1965: BTA launches its weekly magazine LIK (Literature, Arts, Culture) (folds in 1992, re-launched in 1998, goes all-digital in 2013, revived in 2022).
January 10, 1965: BTA launches its weekly magazine Po Sveta: Po Stranitsite na Svetovniya Pechat [Around the World: An International Press Digest] (folds in 1991).
January 20, 1965: BTA launches its illustrated weekly magazine Svetut v Snimki i Karikaturi [The World in Photos and Cartoons], renamed Paraleli [Parallels] on January 1, 1970. Circulation peaks at 300,000. Folds January 1, 2011.
1970: BTA furnishes Bulgaria’s first newsroom (on top floor of Agency building).
1970: BTA Local Press Department launches teletype news service to all district capitals.
September 17, 1970: BTA admitted to European Alliance of News Agencies (EANA).
1971: BTA starts building its first international multiplex text and picture exchange system PIX, RAKAL.
1972: Picture of US pilot shot down and captured in North Vietnam, taken by BTA reporter Stefan Tihov in Hanoi, wins World Press Photo Award, most prestigious honour ever for Bulgarian press photography.
July 28, 1973: By State Council Decree, BTA granted status of committee with Council of Ministers, effective August 6, 1973.
1973: BTA launches annual Balkan Athlete of the Year Poll among Balkan countries’ national news agencies. First winner of honour, presented on December 27, 1973, is Bulgarian sprinter and middle-distance runner Svetla Zlateva.
1982: First electronic teletype receivers introduced.
1984: BTA External Service launches Daily News, hard-copy daily newsletter in English and Russian. Russian version discontinued 1991.
1988: Typewriters start to be phased out and replaced by personal computers (first at External News Department).
1990: BTA discontinues all restricted bulletins. Between 1965 and 1990, agency supplies such bulletins to nomenklatura apparatchiks with five degrees of classifications and in circulation ranging from 2 to 500.
October 17, 1990: First satellite dishes installed on BTA rooftop.
May 13, 1991: BTA opens Press Club at its Sofia head office.
March 1, 1991 – November 21, 1991: BTA closes down its all 27 overseas correspondent’s bureaux and discontinues its external services and publications in Russian, German, French and Spanish, mainly due to financial constraints.
December 23, 1991: BTA External Service launches Bulgarian Economic Outlook, hard-copy weekly newsletter in English (merged with Daily News in 2010).
1992: Building local are network starts at BTA.
June 29, 1994: 36th National Assembly adopts provisional Statute of Bulgarian News Agency (effective as gazetted on July 12, 1994), defining BTA as “autonomous national news organization.”
1994: BTA’s logo, commissioned by longest-serving BTA director Lozan Strelkov and done by prominent Bulgarian artist Boris Angeloushev in 1965, with “1898” (year of Agency’s establishment) added in 1991, is registered with Patent Office.
1995: BTA joins European Pressphoto Agency (EPA).
April 28, 1995: Association of Balkan News Agencies – Southeast Europe (ABNA-SE) is established, with BTA as founding member.
September 1996: BTA starts building its own global X.25 network, NEWSNet, bringing text items and pictures to all subscribers.
December 23, 1997: BTA launches its own website, www.bta-bg.net.
July 14, 1998: BTA’s website receives Best of Europe Award in media category of poll conducted by Europeonline, Europe’s gateway to the Internet.
2001: BTA begins building its intranet. Hard-copy news bulletins transformed into electronic news services.
March 19, 2003: Stoyan Cheshmedjiev resigns as BTA Director General after three-week protests against his management methods and unprecedented two-day work stoppage by BTA staffers.
August 6, 2003: BTA launches its thoroughly renovated website, www.bta.bg.
October 31, 2003: BTA’s website wins top prize in electronic publications category of 5th BG Site poll.
October 8, 2003: BTA National Press Club opens at Agency’s building in Sofia, offering state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment, fibre optic Internet access, possibility to file reports straight from news conferences, video screens, news conference interpretation facilities, audiovisual links, TV interactives and Internet connectivity. Since then, network of BTA press clubs expands to 23 in regional capitals across Bulgaria (Sofia, Blagoevgrad, Burgas, Dobrich, Gabrovo, Haskovo, Kardzhali, Kyustendil, Lovech, Pazaradjik, Pleven, Plovdiv, Ruse, Shumen, Silistra, Sliven, Stara Zagora, Targovishte, Varna, Veliko Turnovo, Vidin, Vratsa and Yambol), two in other cities (Kazanlak and Samokov), and 5 abroad (Bosilegrad, Serbia; Taraclia, Moldova; Skopje, North Macedonia; Bucharest, Romania; and Ankara, Turkiye).
September 24-25, 2004: News Agencies World Council (NACO) established in Moscow, with BTA as founding member.
May 23-25, 2005: In Sofia, BTA initiates and organizes First World Meeting of Bulgarian Media. Establishment of Association of Bulgarian Media Worldwide is ushered in at forum. Since then, sixteen World Meetings of Bulgarian Media have taken place annually (Chicago, Illinois; Rome, Italy; Madrid, Spain; Varna and Burgas, Bulgaria; Vienna, Austria; The Hague, The Netherlands; Bucharest, Romania; Plovdiv and Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria; Bosilegrad and Caribrod (Dimitrovgrad), Serbia; Athens, Greece; Prague, Czechia; Chisinau, Moldova; Skopje, North Macedonia; Tirana, Albania; Rila Monastery, Bulgaria; and Jerusalem, Israel).
May 29-31, 2006: Black Sea Association of National News Agencies (BSANNA) is established in Kyiv, Ukraine, with BTA as founding member.
September 27-30, 2006: BTA hosts Annual Meeting of NAWC.
November 10, 2006: BTA receives Chernorizets Hrabar Grand Prix for its contribution to Bulgarian journalism.
2010: BTA’s English-language Daily News discontinues hard-copy version, switches to pdf format with full-colour pictures, distributed to subscribers online.
December 1, 2011: 41st National Assembly passes Bulgarian News Agency Act (effective as gazetted on December 16, 2011), defining Agency as “independent national news organization”, accountable to and overseen by Parliament, which gathers, processes, stores and distributes textual, visual and audio news in Bulgarian from rest of world and Bulgaria and in English from Bulgaria and Balkans for rest of world.
April 2014: BTA launches its own audiovisual studio producing video clips, comments and interviews with leading local and foreign experts, researchers, public and cultural figures.
September 7-11, 2016: In Sofia and Nessebar (on Black Sea), BTA hosts international conference entitled “The Role of the News Agencies in Time of Crisis”, attended by 30 directors of 20 Balkan and Black Sea news agencies. 25th General Assembly of ABNA-SE and 8th Annual Meeting of BSANNA take place during forum on September 9.
March 12, 2018: Sofia Municipal Council passes resolution renaming public transport stop opposite agency building “Bulgarian News Agency” to mark its 120th anniversary.
March 14, 2019: BTA opens Multimedia Centre at its basement level (named MaxiM on March 1, 2021 to honour its initiator, long-serving director general Maxim Minchev).
June 13-15, 2019: In Sofia, BTA hosts Sixth News Agencies World Congress (NAWC), attended by 200-plus delegates from 100 countries, leaders of top news agencies on all continents and journalists of most influential world media.
October 15, 2021: BTA sets up its own training and internship facility.
February 16, 2022: BTA’s all own news products become accessible free of charge under an amendment to the Bulgarian News Agency Act gazetted on March 9, 2021. This ends limited range of users entitled to gratuitous access and paid distribution of information submitted by institutions.
April 28, 2022: In Helsinki, Finland, at 32nd Conference of MINDS International (Mobile Information and News Data Services), BTA is admitted as 23rd member of this global network of leading news agencies collaborating in mobile information services.
September 19, 2022: In Burgas (on Black Sea), BTA hosts 30th ABNA-SE General Assembly, which decides that Association will be headquartered in Bulgaria and elects BTA Director General Kiril Valchev as its Secretary General for three years.
October 6, 2022: ABNA-SE is registered in Bulgaria as non-profit association with its seat in Sofia and registered address at BTA’s head office, 49 Tsarigradsko Chaussee Blvd.
Kiril Valchev was born on 24 May 1973 in Sofia. Graduated from the Saint Constantine-Cyril the Philosopher National School for Ancient Languages and Cultures. Got his PhD in Law from Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski. Completed a professional radio management course at Deutsche Welle in Cologne, Germany, in 1995. Received a grant in 2000 from the European Leaders programme with the German Marshall Fund in the US. Interned at the Bulgarian editorial office with the BBC in London in 2003. Wrote for and anchored the Darik Radio news bulletins The Week (since 1994) and The Year (since 1996). An avid traveller, Kiril Valchev has visited all continents and 191 of the 193 UN member states.
A part-time assistant professor of civil law at Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski’s Faculty of Law from 2000 until 2004. A managing partner at a law firm specializing in media and intellectual property since 2005. Consulted various media outlets, theatres, opera houses, philharmonic orchestras, museums, galleries, individual creators and artists. Served since 2005 as secretary of the management board and permanent legal counsel for setting up and operating the Union of Bulgarian National Electronic Media, an association of BTA, the Bulgarian National Television, Bulgarian National Radio, bTV, Nova TV, and Darik Radio. A member of an expert group with the Parliamentary Culture and Media Committee on revisions to the Radio and Television Act between 2019 and 2020. Won numerous prizes and awards for his work in the media field.
As a lawyer specializing in intellectual property and media, Kiril Valchev worked actively for BTA as a legal adviser. In 2003 and 2011, legal advisor in the drafting of a new Bulgarian News Agency Bill, which was adopted by the legislature in 2011. Worked at BTA’s English Service Department between 1993 and 1995. Participated in and moderated the World Meeting of Bulgarian Media forums organized by BTA and the Association of Bulgarian Media Worldwide.
On January 27, 2021, he was appointed BTA Director General by Bulgaria’s 44th National Assembly.
Deputy Director General
After a competition, Evgenia Drumeva was appointed BTA Deputy Director General for Information Policy in September 2021. Prior to that, she used to head the Home News Department.
Editor-in-chief at Vesti.bg between 2008 and 2021, a part of the NetInfo digital media company.
Prior to Vesti.bg, she worked at BTA for more than 17 years, starting in 1987 as an intern reporter. In 1990 she was hired as a reporter at the English Service Department. Rose to deputy editor-in-chief there, then editor and head of the Bulgaria department.
Also worked for Radio Free Europe between 1991 and 1993.
Earned a Journalism degree from Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski. Took a Management class in Amsterdam in 1995 and another one in 2013 at the Business Institute Sofia.