Serbia’s Regulatory Authority for Electronic Media (REM) has in controversial circumstances re-awarded national terrestrial TV licences to TV Prva, TV Pink, National Happy TV and TV B92.
Alongside this, it has awarded four national analogue radio licences (Hit Music FM, Radio S, Radio S2 and Play the radio), decided to hold a tender for a fifth national TV licence “due to great interest”, as well as a tender for three local terrestrial TV and 12 analogue radio stations for Belgrade.
Its decision to re-award the four national TV licences has been widely criticised, and in anticipation of this REM said: “The REM Council made decisions in a professional and responsible manner, in accordance with the democratic procedure, appreciating all the circumstances stated in the tender documentation, respecting the opinions of the profession, the public and each member of the REM Council. That is why the REM Council appeals to the broadest public and indicates the need to avoid any kind of manipulation and politicisation in connection with the decisions made”.
United Media, which is part of United Group, said the decision “shows that there is no will to regulate the situation in the media and is yet another proof of the dictatorship in Serbia and of the collapse of institutions that should protect professionalism and objectivity.
“REM’s decision is not unexpected because it was clearly said at the beginning of the competition that every television station will be pardoned for failing to honour regulations and laws in the past.
“REM only seemingly showed that it honours the democratic procedures, but it is completely clear that the competition was essentially a farce and a deception of the public. With their licences being extended, the four national television stations were actually rewarded for violating the law and actively supporting the governing establishment and the politics of the Serbian Progressive Party”.
Commenting on United Media’s channels failing to be awarded a licence, Aleksandra Subotic, CEO of United Media, said: “In their planned program schemes televisions N1 and Nova S offered a quality and attractive program and proved, through their work, that they are guided by the rules of the profession and that their reporting is unbiased and objective.
“They contribute to the truth being heard rather than just the narrative promoted by the governing structures”.
United Media was also critical of the decision to hold a tender for a fifth national licence, referring to it as “an attempted manipulation” and “proof that this is just another authorities’ scenario aimed at shifting the focus to the award of the fifth frequency is also the fact that there wasn’t a single reason why this competition was not called together with the one that ended today”.
Broadband TV News notes that a total of 14 channels – TV Prva, TV Pink, National Happy TV, TV B92 N1, Nova S, TV Tanjug, Kurir TV, Kopernikus, TV K1, TV2, Vesti, BK and Una – bid for national licences. The four winners are all supportive of the current government.