EU warns Serbia because of digitalization

BELGRADE -- The EU has criticized Serbia because of the delay in the digitalization process of television in the country, the Belgrade-based daily Danas writes.

The process has been provided by several million euros of assistance from IPA funds, a letter sent by the head of EU Delegation in Serbia Vincent Degert to the Serbian Minister of Trade and Telecommunications Rasim Ljajić specified, the newspaper has learned.

According to unofficial information, Degert states that this process is delayed, and it is additionally slowed down with announcing public tender for granting former TV Avala’s frequency. It is not impossible that eight million EUR worth equipment, granted from the pre-accession funds, will be revoked from Serbia.

Representatives of the Ministry of Foreign and Domestic Trade and Telecommunications had confirmed for Danas that they got letter from Vincent Degert last week, while representatives of the EU Delegation in Serbia didn’t want to comment on this information.

State Secretary for telecommunications Stefan Lazarević says for Danas that in the next period the Ministry of Telecommunications will respond to the letter that was addressed by EU, adding that it is true that with the free frequency that was assigned to TV Avala, the process of digitalization will be finalized faster. “Ministry of Culture had informed us that RRA is legally obliged to call tender for frequency allocation about which we have informed Ratel“, Lazarević states, adding that they cannot either call or revoke this tender.

“For the last 12 months, more has been done within digitalization process than in the last four years. We have adopted lots of rules and plans, and currently we are preparing the solution for social care for the most endangered people, as well as the plan of digitalization promotion“, Lazarević underlines.

When asked whether there is possibility that EU revokes its equipment in case digitalization process doesn’t follow certain dynamics, he said that he “doesn’t believe that something like that is possible”, as the equipment will be used at the earliest possible opportunity.

Based on the contract that Serbia had concluded with the European Commission, from the pre-accession EU funds, we got assistance in equipment of total worth amounting to eight million EUR, whose beneficiary is Public Company ETV. The equipment financed from IPA funds consisted of IP and video equipment, transmitters, measuring vehicle and equipment, microwave links and temporary antenna systems from the renowned manufacturers. EU Delegation has, namely, according to Danas’ findings, regularly checked on the pace of digitalization.

Despite the fact that it was decided that former frequency assigned to TV Avala is necessary for digitalization, without which this process in Serbia will be significantly slowed down, tender for granting this national frequency is called. The standpoint of the Broadcast Technical and Relay Unit and the Republic Agency for Electronic Communications (Ratel) was that the frequency used by TV Avala should not be assigned to broadcasters, as it is needed in the process of digitalization. The experts therefore bring into question the finalization of digitalization process which deadline is set for June 17, 2015.

Transition to digital broadcast of television is finalized in 21 countries in Europe, while the process of digitalization in Serbia has been postponed, while one of the biggest problems for this is the lack of frequencies for testing network parameters and equipment for digital airing of TV signal. Process of digitalization in Serbia should have been originally finalized until April 2012, but due to technical reasons, it was postponed for 2015, which represents the deadline for replacing analogue TV signal with digital in Europe in general.

The decision on announcing tender for granting former frequency of TV Avala was brought, as Danas finds out, after the meeting held with the representatives of RRA, Ratel, Ministry of Culture and Telecommunications, which was attended also by the former general manager of TV Prva Dejan Jocić. According to our source, Jocic lobbied on the meeting for announcing tender for national frequency so that he could “bring” to Serbia some of the German television.