Daily: Digitalization brought into question

BELGRADE -- By announcing a tender for a new television, on the frequencies formerly belonging to TV Avala, digitalization process in Serbia will be additionally delayed.

At the same time, the future budget will be short for, under some assessment, an amazing EUR 100 million.

Vincent Degert, Head of Delegation of European Commission in Belgrade had criticized delay in digitalization process which should be finalized until June 2015, in a letter of protest addressed to Minister Rasim Ljajić.

The frequencies occupied by TV Avala should have been used for expanding the initial network for testing digital signal. This is being envisaged by the Draft Rule of Procedure on the frequency reallocation that was done by RATEL that only needed to be signed by Minister Ljajić in order to be implemented.

However, RRA had prior to this announced public tender for granting frequencies for national coverage to some broadcaster, which practically disabled it being used for the digitalization process.

RRA representatives claim that they worked in accordance with the law, under which they are obliged to put to tender all available frequencies. Goran Karadžić from the RRA Council says that they had done so as soon as Telecommunications Ministry informed them that those frequencies are available, while RATEL provided documentation for tender announcement.

“Why had they submitted necessary documentation if they were against tender announcement?”, Karadzic asked.

Ljajić admits that legal procedure was observed, but he underlined that he personally is not satisfied with the announcement of tender as he believes that it would be better to use this frequency for fastening digitalization process, and upon its finalization, we would generate income for the budget.

“Macedonians had done so, they have launched digital signal and generated income amounting to EUR 30 million, while we could have generated even more. I think that this public tender is causing big damage. I have warned those responsible about this”, Ljajić said.

Lawyer and expert for media law Slobodan Kremenjak claims that Ljajić can still sign this Rule of Procedure, which would make the whole tender for frequency allocation null and void. This Rule of Procedure had passed public debate, while only RRA opposed it.

Mobile operators are also interested in digitalization, as this process would enable them to expand their services. They would buy off “digital dividend”, part of specter that would be released with digitalization, which would allow the state to generate significant profit as well. Namely, Germany had generated profit amounting to EUR 3.57 billion, while France generated EUR 2.6 billion. Digitalization would also increase the value of Telekom, which sale has been announced.