news 24 May 12

Staff at Serbia's TV Avala on Strike Again

As the management of Serbian broadcaster TV Avala again refuse to pay wage arrears, the company's employees call on authorities to intervene.

Bojana Barlovac
BIRN
Belgrade

Employees at Serbian broadcaster TV Avala say they will not broadcast live programmes until they receive unpaid wages. The last salary they were paid was for November 2011.

"We urge the authorities and relevant institutions to investigate the background of the [Avala's] business and how it is possible that workers have not been paid wages for such a long period of time," a statement on behalf of employees said.

The statement also raised the issue of Serbia's broadcasting agency, RRA, which has not reacted to the fact that a broadcaster with a national frequency is not broadcasting live programmes in the manner envisaged by its statute.

Live programming was suspended on April 5, two months after an earlier strike had been brought to an end.

Staff at the station had been on strike since December 22. Since that time, the Avala premises have been largely deserted and the broadcaster has been operating at a minimum level.

Since live programmes were suspended, a box in one corner of the screen has counted the days since the strike began.

The Ministry for Culture and Media has not intervened in the case, it says, because Avala's financial problems do not fall within its jurisdiction. The state broadcasting agency, RRA, has held a small number of meetings with the station's owners.

Normal production resumed on February 23, after a 65-day strike and after management finally paid three months' wage arrears and pledged to repay remaining unpaid wages by April 1.

TV Avala began broadcasting in 2006, after obtaining a national frequency, but it has faced financial problems for years.

The broadcaster's financial records for 2010, which Balkan Insight has obtained, show that the station that year owed 25.7 million Euros in short-term loans, services and credits while its income for that year was just 2.6 million Euros.

The current ownership structure consists of businessman Danko Djunic, who owns 45.65 percent, Austrian company Greenberg Invest, which owns 48.41 percent, media mogul Zeljko Mitrovic, who owns 4.95 percent, and the Economic Institute, which has a 0.99 percent stake.

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