19. 09. 2012
“How local self-governments allocate funds to local media?”
The Report on financing local media from the local self-governments' budget funds is available in the attachment at the end of this text!
Speakers at the conference were the host and conference moderator Sasa Mirkovic (ANEM President), Dragana Obradovic Zarkovic (BIRN representative), Vukasin Obradovic (NUNS President), Petar Jeremic (Chairman of UNS Managing Board), Dinko Gruhonjic (NDNV President) and Dejan Miladinovic (Chairman of Local Press Managing Board).
Sasa Mirkovic, ANEM President, explained the purpose of organizing the press conference, pointing out that the Media Coalition, together with BIRN, had initiated this research and that the said Report was interesting study containing data about how and in what way local governments were allocating budget funds to the media.
Dragana Zarkovic Obradovic, Director of BIRN Serbia, discussed the findings and methodology of the research, stating that this Report had, for the first time, mapped models and mechanisms through which the local self-governments distributed funds to the media. The sample encompassed 33 local self-governments, which were sent a request for access to information of public importance. The main criterion for selection of the sample was that a municipality/city has a minimum regional coverage of radio and/or TV signal. The sample excluded Belgrade municipalities, as well as municipalities in Kosovo and Metohija. Loznica municipality failed to provide requested information, while additional information is still pending from five municipalities; however, these addenda will not affect the trends presented in this Report. When it comes to municipalities included in the sample, the Report shows that the funds allocated to the media amounted to slightly less than 850 million dinars, out of which 70 percent was allocated to public companies, mostly electronic media, for monitoring of the activities of self-governments. She said that public companies were privileged in allocation of funds to media, resulting in an unfavorable position of private media and production companies, which created unfair competition in the market and affected editorial independence of the media, as it is known in advance that someone would be funded regardless of the quality of their work. The Research has shown that the largest amounts of funds for media are earmarked in Novi Sad, Kragujevac, Pancevo, Subotica and Nis, while media in Valjevo, Uzice, Petrovac on Mlava and Prijepolje are those who receive the smallest amounts. Zarkovic Obradovic underlined that, in most cases, funds were allocated through subsidies and that they were mainly used for salaries, while very small amounts of money were earmarked for media production. As for the other models of the allocation of funds, in 15.8 percent of cases, local self-governments allocated the budget money to the media through direct contracting. In 9.82 percent of cases, open competition model was used to improve public information, while local media received funds through public procurement in only 3.3 percent of cases. Even in these cases, it often happened that the reporting on the work of local self-governments was being financed.
Dejan Miladinovic, Chairman of Local Press Managing Board, said that it was known that there were funds for local media in local budgets, but that it was being allocated in a wrong way, namely mainly for functioning of public companies and opening of new positions on political and personal basis. According to him, the establishment of six regional public service broadcasters would make conditions on the media scene even more unequal. Under the proposed Law on public service broadcasting, every municipality should allocate extra money for regional public service, while the media performing the function of these services would be allowed to sell advertisements, by which the state would become a competitor to private media and would bring their survival into question.
Commenting on the situation of funding the media in Novi Sad, NDNV President Dinko Gruhonjic said that most of the budget money for the media had been allocated to the public company whose functioning was currently "adjusting" to new local authorities. He pointed out that, if the Serbian media market continued to be ruined, only state, church, and "para-state" media would survive, the latter including the media founded by the national councils of national minorities, as they were under obvious influence of the parties constituting these councils.
Chairman of UNS Managing Board Petar Jeremic said that the Serbian media had been struggling to survive for 20 years, waiting for the establishment of equal conditions for all media, but that this did not happen because the government wanted to continue to control the media. He added that the establishment of regional public services would also create the system for controlling the media, and that the only right solution for the distribution of budget funds was project financing of public interest accessible to all media.
At the end of the press conference, Vukasin Obradovic, NUNS President, said that the issue of funding the media was actually a question of freedom of the media. He announced that the Media Coalition would continue activities in this key area for the future of the media, primarily by insisting that the support to the media be done through project financing, which the government committed to in the Media Strategy.
The “Report on Media Financing from Local Self-governments’ Budget Funds” is available here.
PPT presentation of Dragana Obradovic Zarkovic may be downloaded here (only in Serbian)
NUNS Specialized "Dossier" on Media published by daily Danas available here (only in Serbian)