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news 11 Jun 13

New Serbian TV Station Aims to Replace Defunct Avala

A new broadcaster, Sky Info Plus, run by a senior official of the ruling Progressive Party aims to go on air in September, using the frequency of the now closed TV Avala, Balkan Insight has learned.

Bojana Barlovac

The premises of Serbia's defunct TV Avala are busy again as a new TV station called Sky Info Plus is moving into the premises.

"The station is due to apply for the national frequency of TV Avala in the coming days," a source in the new team told Balkan Insight.

The deadline to apply for the vacant frequency at the Serbian Broadcasting Agency, RRA, is July 7. If the new station obtains the licence, the station will start to broadcast in September.

According to the same source, the editor-in-chief will be Zoran Basanovic, a former director of the recently closed cable station TV Svet Plus, a member of the managing board of the football club, Red Star and a member of the main board of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party.

The director of the television will be Dejan Jocic, a former director of another national broadcaster, TV Prva. His contract at Prva expired in April but he did not prolong it, the source said.

During his leadership, TV Prva reached record ratings, beating the entertainment programmes of the long-time leader in the ratings arena, TV Pink.

Other members of the Sky Info Plus team include former employees of TV Avala. Over 90 workers at TV Avala were left jobless after Avala lost its broadcasting licence on October 26, 2012.

The RRA said the broadcaster had failed to pay fees to the agency and had failed to produce a programme scheme, as national broadcasters are obliged to do.

Avala obtained a national frequency in 2006 but faced financial problems for years. Its workforce was not paid for months before it closed and the station's debts by 2010 amounted to €25.7 million.

Vincent Degert, head of the EU delegation in Serbia, said on Monday the EU had been hoping that TV Avala's frequency would be used to test technical solutions for digitalization.

Serbia was due to begin the digitalization process in April but has delayed the changeover until June 2015, which is the deadline to implement digitalization throughout Europe.

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