Serbia has been very much in the news in recent months, with the main focus being on positive developments at Telekom Srbija and Serbia Broadband (SBB).
While the former has embarked on a major expansion plan, buying up operators in both its home and in neighbouring markets, as well as launching a DTH platform in partnership with SES, the latter has continued modernising its network and developing the new generation platform Eon.
It therefore came as something of a surprise when just over a week ago, in late June, the Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic publicly criticised SBB in parliament, arguing that the company does not respect the Law on Electronic Media and regulatory body RATEL. She also said that in a country in which SBB alleges there is “censorship and monopoly” it accounts for a 51% share of the media content distribution market and its monopoly status prevented her from switching provider to Telekom Srbija.
Soon after Broadband TV News reported Brnabic’s comments United Group provided us with its response to what it termed her “absurd claim”. Also published by United Group’s TV station N1, it categorically dismissed all her allegations and argued that the company “continues operating with full respect for all Serbian and European Union laws”.
While some may say this is no more than a local dispute, there are certainly growing concerns about the erosion of media freedoms in the Balkans as a whole and these should be addressed.
At the same time, this should not detract from the fact its TV industries are currently some of the most dynamic in the CEE region as a whole, with Serbia very much in the forefront.