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Croatia/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.6 Media pluralism and content diversity

There has been much debate about media legislation, media pluralism and diversity in Croatia during the past ten years. This reflects a radical transformation of media and media policies. As a consequence, media laws have been changed and amended several times.

Diversity and plurality of the media are particularly promoted by the Fund for the Promotion of Pluralism and Diversity of Electronic Media, established by the Law on Electronic Media provisions that have included the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMS Directive) solutions. The fund is administered by the Council for Electronic Media (VEM), and financed by 3% of Croatian Radio-Television licence fees. It supports production and broadcasting of public interest programmes in local and regional radio and television channels, who serve local communities and sometimes introduce the usage of local dialects in broadcasting (e.g., in the Istria region). A substantial interest in promoting and supporting diversity and plurality in the media also comes from the market, which has already influenced growth and diversification of the media and media programmes. With the stipulation on the enhancement of media diversity the new amendments to the Law on Electronic Media (NN 94/13) allow the non-profit media organisations to apply to the Fund as well.

Even though Croatian legislation includes regulations on quotas and responsibility of broadcasters and media owners with regard to the diversity of contents, systematic monitoring is restricted and therefore it is difficult to assess the extent to which the provisions of different laws are respected.

The number of media organisations in Croatia fluctuates constantly. According to data available on the website of the Agency for Electronic Media (AEM), in 2016 there are 27 TV channels (ten with national concessions, four of them publicly owned), 150 radio stations (six with national concessions), ten media-on-demand service providers, and 236 currently registered electronic publications (portals). According to the web data of the Croatian Post and Electronic Communications Agency (HAKOM) there were 108 Internet service providers (ISPs) operating in Croatia in 2016.

Croatia has successfully concluded the process of digital switchover which created space for the Council for Electronic Media to publish tenders for new licences. In September 2010 several national concessions were awarded for specialised television channels – music channel, sports channel, financial news channel and two specialised entertainment channels owned by Nova TV and RTL. Even though the process of digitization opened space for new national and local TV channels to be established, due to the economic crisis and sharp decrease of revenues in all media, the process of tendering for new licences has still been significantly delayed.

Media production in the arts, humanities, cultural history and identity is mostly broadcast on the PBS Croatian Television First Channel and Croatian Radio Third Programme (the latter completely devoted to culture). In September 2012, responding to the initiative led by the key cultural institutions and organisations, the PBS opened a new television channel (HT3) devoted to cultural, artistic, TV archive, documentary and movie programmes. The HT1 channel has also complemented its news broadcasting by devoting 3-5 minutes to cultural information. While daily press covers social / political events the amount of published information on cultural life has been gradually diminishing. A number of specialised bi-monthly magazines that write extensively about art and culture have been cut down, and information on cultural life has shifted to diverse cultural portals dedicated to different cultural fields. The best known specialised journals in cultural field are Kontura (visual arts), Frakcija (performing arts), ČiP, Oris (architecture), Most-The Bridge (literature), Europski glasnik-European Herald (culture and sciences), Hrvatski filmski ljetopis-Croatian Film Chronicles (film), etc. According to data from April 2016, the Ministry of Culture supported the publication of 106 programmes of local, regional or national (printed and online) cultural journals with 4 988 000 HRK (approx.665 066 EUR).

Anti-trust measures were included in the Law on Electronic Media (2003) and further elaborated in the new Law on Electronic Media that was passed in December 2009, as well as in general Anti-trust Laws. The question of anti-trust measures has been greatly discussed in the context of the process of joining the EU, prompted by requests to harmonise legislation with European standards. In 2011, debates concentrated around the amendments to the Law on Media and the Law on Electronic Media, which included changes regarding transparency of ownership. An amended version of the Law on Croatian Radio Television was passed in July 2012 (NN 76/12) that simplifies and improves the management structure even though this Law was criticised for a serious democratic deficit in terms of the independence of the PSB from the government. The amendments to the Law on Media in 2013 (NN 81/13) introduced changes to the penalties for law infringements that were a result of aligning the Law with the Directive on the services in the internal market.

Together with the discussions on the role of the Public Broadcasting Service triggered by the above-mentioned changes of the law, the debates in the last two years included discussions on the position of journalists (in print and electronic media), the quality of broadcast content in public and commercial media, and issue of financing non-profit (electronic) media. The new Programme of non-refundable support for the non-profit media was introduced on an ad hoc basis in 2013 due to freeing of funds from the Lottery Fund. Only the NGO-based non-profit media are eligible for financing from this newly established Fund, which caused a stir among other non-profit media organisations.

According to the results of the 2015 pilot implementation of the Media Pluralism Monitor (MPM) (Bilić et al, 2015) the risks to media pluralism in 2015 in Croatia were scored low risk in the basic domain (28%), which is the same for most other countries implementing the monitor. The market pluralism domain also scored low risk (29%), while medium risk was scored in the domain of political independence (40%) and the social inclusiveness domain (55%).

Chapter published: 04-05-2017

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