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news 23 May 14

Serbia Cable Channels Resume After Flood Mix-up

The Serbian cable distributor has resumed broadcasts of foreign channels following a muddle over the broadcasting agency's instructions about what programmes to show during the period of mourning.

BIRN
Belgrade

Serbia's cable distributor, SBB, on Friday, apologized to viewers for cutting shows during three days of official mourning for flood victims.

"We apologize to those who were not able to follow the entire package of our channels until now," it added.

The SBB resumed broadcasting of foreign channels after the Broadcasting Agency, RRA, denied having limited such broadcasts.

The RRS said it did not advise cable TV operators in Serbia to shut down broadcasts of foreign programmes during the three days.

"The RRA has informed cable TV operators that broadcasting foreign channels on days of mourning does not break the law," an agency website statement on Friday said.

Selfcensorhip in Blic daily paper

Website of the Serbian daily paper Blic removed on Friday a blog post under the headline "I, AV [Aleksandar Vucic], resign." The blog is written by professor Novica Milic who is citing in a satirical way numerous reasons why Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic should resign.

"I resign as I had enough sleep now and in this few lucid moments I realized my irreplaceable responsibility for the situation in the country I am heading," the blog post said.

Following the blog removal, people on social network started sharing it on other websites as they had found the original blog version in webcache.

The RRA advised radio and TV broadcasters to "align programmes with the Law on National Mourning", meaning tailoring broadcasts appropriately, using music instead of comedy and cutting popular entertaining shows.

But Serbia's cable distributors mistakenly understood that the directive applied to them as well.

Rodoljub Sabic, commissioner for information of public importance and protection of personal data, on Thursday asked the RRA to clear up dilemmas about broadcasting during a period of national mourning.

The Serbian journalists association, UNS, said the cable distributors might well owe viewers compensation for missed programmes.

"UNS requires cable distributors to respect their contractual obligations to citizens and restore broadcasting channels," it said.

It said the channels should "calculate the money they unlawfully gained by breaching their contracts and either return it, or, if users accept, use it for humanitarian assistance to the victims of the floods."

Another cable distributor, IKOM, has yet to resume broadacsting of foreign channels.

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