Serbia's public broadcaster to be financed from budget

BELGRADE -- Serbia’s public broadcaster, Radio Television of Serbia (RTS), will not be financed from subscription fees anymore but from the state budget instead.

This is according to Assistant Culture Minister Dragan Kolarević.

“We are just finishing the Law on Electronic Media, so it is too early to come out with some details now. The law will go to the public debate, it is a regular procedure and the public will be informed on time,” he said.

The assistant minister announced that details regarding the RTS funding would be known in about ten days.

OSCE and the European Commission (EC) are opposed to the budget funding of the RTS as a permanent solution. However, they say they will wait for the draft law to be released before they present their stance.

Faculty of Political Sciences professor and member of a working group for media laws Rade Veljanovski has assessed that the public broadcaster’s budget funding will diminish its independence and that the announcements that the RTS subscription would be abolished were “populist”.

“This type of political statements are populist in character and are aimed at increasing some politician’s political popularity,” Veljanovski told Novi Sad-based Hungarian language daily Magyar Szo.

He believes that in case the TV subscription is abolished, the social irresponsibility will deepen even more.

After media reports that the RTS subscription fees could be abolished, the Independent Association of Journalists of Serbia (NUNS) released it was against the decision to finance the RTS and Radio Television of Vojvodina (RTV) from the state budget because “it carries a risk of the state’s influence on the public broadcasters’ editorial policies”.

Currently, Serbia's public broadcaster earns its money through broadcasting commercials, and collecting subscription fees. These fees are included in the citizens' electricity bills.

RTS Director Aleksandar Tijanić has requested numerous times in the last several months that the broadcaster be financed from the state budget due to problems with collection of the subscription fees. Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) leader Aleksandar Vučić has recently stated that he is in favor of the abolition of the RTS subscription fees.