4.2.6 Media pluralism and content diversity
According to the new Law on the Ministries (June 2002), the Ministry of Culture became the Ministry of Culture and Public Information. In spring 2003, it was renamed as the Ministry of Culture and Media, which started to develop a legal framework and policy instruments in the field. In February 2004, the Ministry again changed its name back to the Ministry of Culture, even though it is still responsible for the media.
The Law on Broadcasting was adopted in July 2002. It was amended two times (the first time in August 2004 and the second time in August 2005). This Law recognises two public national and two regional TV channels, which are obliged to produce and broadcast programmes regarding cultural history and identity, as well as art productions. It was mandatory that the network of public / local radio and TV stations be privatised over the period of the next three years to comply and harmonise with European standards. To prevent the direct commercialisation of programmes, the Law stipulated a public obligation for each TV and radio station to produce its own programmes in order to protect national culture and to foster employment of local artists and media professionals. There were a lot of controversies during the competitions for frequencies. The head of the Republic broadcasting agency, Nenad Cekic, resigned and according to the procedures, his successor was one of the members of the agency council, a representative of the church, Bishop Porfirije (http://www.rra.org.rs/english).
There are specific public radio channels for art and culture (Stereorama, etc.), and one private TV station – the Art Channel, but with a low level of production and with extremely low ratings.
Public broadcasting was and still is a major producer of cultural programmes, such as drama and TV films, educational programmes, documentaries, etc., both independently and in co-operation with film production companies.
The implementation of the new law, and especially the creation of the Broadcasting Council, provoked a lot of public debate and conflict.
The provision proposed by law, to transform state radio and television into a Public Broadcasting Company, has been realised. In August 2005, Parliament passed amendments to the Law on Broadcasting, which allowed RTS to collect licence fees, before its transformation into a public service broadcaster.
The deadline to privatise local public media has been postponed two times: initially it was postponed to the end of 2007, and again to the end of 2008. At the end of 2009, privatisation was still not completely finished. According to data from 2008, 100 are publicly-owned out of 313 broadcasting companies. In Belgrade, a decision was made to leave TV and radio station "Studio B" as a media company of the City of Belgrade. This decision was contrary to the core of the Law on Broadcasting. This precedent was used by the city of Subotica, which kept local radio public because of its multilingualism and its importance to the Hungarian minority.
In 2006, competitions for the broadcast licences in the private sector were launched. The Broadcasting agency announced a few competitions: one for national broadcast licences and two for regional broadcast licences (Belgrade and Vojvodina). 20 candidates applied for national licences, out of which 5 were granted for broadcasting TV programmes and 5 were granted for broadcasting radio programmes.
The privatisation of local public media is still an on-going process. From 2005-2008, 24 local media (owned by local authorities) were sold and 38 other local media organisations were in the process of privatisation. This process enhanced further the "tabloidisation" of the media, chasing ratings and commercial success.
Anti-trust measures to prevent media concentration are issued by the Law on Broadcasting. The Law limits foreign media ownership up to a maximum of 49% in the overall founding capital of a media company. It also regulates cross-ownership and media concentration depending on broadcasting coverage. Media concentration is prohibited for a broadcaster with national coverage which:
- has more than 5% of the ownership in another broadcasting company with a national license;
- broadcasts more than one television and more than one radio programme in the same area;
- has more than 5% of the ownership in a daily newspaper company which publishes newspapers with a circulation of more than 30 000 copies, and vice versa;
- has more than 5% of the ownership in a news agency, and vice versa; and
- simultaneously publishes a daily newspaper with a circulation of more than 30 000 copies.
Media concentration is prohibited for a broadcaster with local and regional coverage which:
- has more than 30% of the ownership in another local and regional broadcasting company in the same area; and
- simultaneously publishes a local daily newspaper in the same or neighbouring area.
The Law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance was approved in November 2004(later improved in 2009 and 2010). Its aim is to enable both journalists and citizens to have easy access to relevant information. The outcome of the first phase of the law's implementation was far from satisfactory. There were a lot of problems with supervision of compliance with the law. Since then, the situation has changed, and although a lot of requests for information are not always welcome by public institutions, government bodies, or public organisations, improvement is visible. During 2008, there were 55 850 requests for information from public bodies, which is six times more than in 2007. Out of that number, 71% of requests were from citizens and NGO's, 22% were from the representatives of the media and 7% were from public institutions and political parties.
The majority of print media companies have been privatised over the past three or four years. The available statistical data on the number of newspapers shows nearly the same level today as in 1989. However, the data on circulation / copies shows a huge decrease of more than 50% in comparison to figures for 1989.
A certain number of radio stations, TV stations and newspapers are being broadcast and published in all languages of the ethnic communities in Serbia, which represents a solid base for further development and improvement of their activities.
In 2009, the Ministry of Culture recognised the need to support the media in the current period of global economic crisis. A call for applications for projects in the media sector was made, and the Ministry allocated around 800 000 EUR to support media organisations.
Chapter published: 17-08-2015