“Public to prepare for complete media blackout” if government media laws are adopted

Source: Print screen N1

If changes to the media laws the government wants are adopted, the public should “prepare for a complete media blackout,” said N1 TV News Director Igor Bozic.

“In this case the intention of the government is to racketeer operators. Someone tells you – you have to carry channels, and on top of that you have to pay the price that I will set,” said Bozic.

 

The Serbian Government has introduced changes to media laws that stipulate the operators’ obligation to list the TV channels in a way that the public broadcaster’s programs and the television stations with national broadcasting licenses – Pink TV, Happy TV, B92 TV and Prva TV appear at the top. The operators will have to carry these channels, and if they fail to reach an agreement on the price with the aforementioned TV stations, it will be determined by the Regulatory body for electronic media (REM).

 

Bozic recalled that last year Kopernikus asked the SBB (Serbian Broadband – operator of digital and analogue cable television and broadband Internet) to pay 36 million euros for the right to broadcast its B92 and Prva channels.

 

The same way the REM could set “some astronomical figure” that the operators would have to pay because the state is ordering them to carry these channels.

 

No one knows how the price will be determined, because the REM is politically elected and there are no guarantees that any of that will be fair, stressed Bozic.

 

The N1 TV News Director compared this with racketeering that will drive away investors.

 

“I think that no foreign investor will agree to this kind of racketeering and blackmail,” he said.

 

The point is, he said, “that when we don’t have an operator, where are we going to broadcast our program.”

 

“We already know what Telekom did to us when it purchased the small operators, how they removed our program within a few months,” said Bozic.

 

Bureau for Social Research (BIRODI) Executive Director Zoran Gavrilovic said that “the entire process” regarding these two media laws has “one goal.”

 

“And that would be for the government to deal with the more democratic part of Serbia,” he said.

 

What is currently happening in the media sphere is the “elimination of media actors that get in the way of the authoritarian government.”

 

Gavrilovic explained that 70 percent of the MTS operator’s viewers and 44 percent of SBB’s viewers vote for the government, adding that “this difference hurts them.”

 

He presented data according to which Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic “did not have a single negative second” in the Serbian state TV (RTS) news broadcasts from September 1 to 15.

 

On Pink TV Vucic had 98.9 percent of positive air time, and on two TV stations (Prva TV and B92 TV) owned by a person with close ties with a member of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) Main Board, Vucic 95.1 and 96.7, respectively.

 

“We have sheer propaganda that the REM is not reacting to,” said the BIRODI executive Director.

 

Gavrilovic emphasized that the two media laws are not just a media issue, but that they determine Serbia’s democratic future, and assessed that the opposition should reconsider its participation in the elections if these draft laws are adopted.

 

He says this is about the right to information, which is guaranteed by the Constitution, and that, if the solutions that the government is pushing for are adopted, it’ll be – “good night.”

 

Bozic said the goal is “to have only a good image of the government in the coming years.”

 

“The public may not understand this, but they (the government) are constantly trying to present this as ‘a war of two operators.’ It’s not about that, but about stifling free speech,” he said.

 

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