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news 19 Mar 13

Serbian Media Fear Doom if State Funds Go

Serbia's draft law on public information, envisioning state withdrawal from media ownership, continues to draw opposition from state-owned media, which fear it will lead to their closure.

Bojana Barlovac

Bratislav Petkovic, the Minister for Culture and Media, said that the draft law, enabling the state to withdraw from the media ownership, would not have negative consequences.

“This will not mean any lack of state responsibility towards realization of the public interest in the area of public information,” Petkovic told a debate in Belgrade on Tuesday.

Under the terms of the draft, the state will in future finance the media only through projects staged under equal and transparent conditions. Adoption of the law is part of the Serbian government's media strategy, adopted in September 2011.

Vincent Degert, head of the EU Delegation to Serbia, welcomed the move, saying that direct budget subsidies to the state media were a hindrance to free competition and equality in the market.

However, local media across Serbia voiced disagreements with the proposal. They fear the law will lead to their closure, as many depend on state funding for income.

Aleksandar Timofejev, director of the City of Belgrade-owned broadcaster Studio B, strongly criticized the draft.

"Studio B will be killed off if the state withdraws from its ownership," he told the debate.

Representatives from other state-owned local media including those from Nis, Subotica, Jagodina, agreed, saying they faced the same fate.

Last Thursday, a public debate on the draft law in Nis ended in uproar.

The public debate on the law ends on March 22.

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