Radio-Television Serbia (RTS) should be replaced by a public service broadcaster (PSB), as defined by the Council of Europe, operating for the benefit of all the citizens of Serbia and accountable to them. This paper refers to the future public broadcaster as the Public Service Broadcaster in Serbia (PSBIS).

During the process of transition, it will be vital to assist those media which, during the years of RTS's subjection to complete political control, provided citizens with objective information and analysis, free of political manipulation. These media upheld the essential values of public service broadcasting under extremely difficult and sometimes dangerous conditions. Many of these local radio and television stations are themselves public service media. Appropriate legislation should be designed to regulate the status of these media.

The future public broadcaster will bear little resemblance to today's RTS. The establishment of a genuine public service broadcasting organisation will be impossible without decisive and even courageous action by Parliament and Government. The challenges involved will only become harder to overcome with the passage of time and hesitancy in the coming weeks would prevent success, thus harming the rights of the public and obstructing the normalisation of all the broadcast media. The authorities should demonstrate both leadership and vision by urgently seizing the present opportunity.

Concretely, the conference agreed on the following points:

1. Serbia needs new media legislation in keeping with the high international standards that it is committed to respect. This legislation should establish public service broadcasting. In preparing appropriate laws, the Parliament and the Government should co-operate with experts in the non-governmental sector. As the conference confirmed, international expertise is also available.

2. The PSBIS should be established as a public corporation, accountable to the public, and enjoying both institutional autonomy and editorial independence. Various models of financing and management structure are available to ensure these principles. While the participants in the conference discussed alternative models, they agreed that PSB means in the first place a certain kind of content, namely a comprehensive range of programming comprising information, education, culture and entertainment which is accessible to all citizens. The structure of the PSBIS should be designed to provide such content.

3. The conference agreed that the PSBIS should have a supervisory council, and possibly other supervisory bodies to be established by law. The supervisory council should appoint (and may remove) the director-general. The supervisory council should be appointed for staggered terms. It should represent society as a whole, and not in any sense be delegated by political or other special interests. Active politicians, state officials and others should not be eligible for membership.

4. The PSBIS should be funded by the public. In order to ensure adequate quality and pluralism in programming, this funding may be supplemented by advertising and sponsorship revenue, within clear and strict limitations, as well as other sources of revenue such as the sale of programmes.

5. The PSBIS should be a national network. As such, it would need at least two terrestrial television and radio channels to create a viable service. The second television channel should have substantial regional and local input and output, including in minority languages.

6. The PSBIS should concentrate on its core role and service as a broadcaster. It should be divested of additional activities. Also, the transmission facilities should be divested into an independent company with a legal framework to ensure its best usage.

7. The conference also believes that the role of RTS during recent years should be subject to transparent examination. This examination might be conducted by an independent group of professionals or academics.



First sub-section:

  • Since it is impossible to bring order into the frequency spectrum without adopting new coherent distribution and assignment plans, the competent state authority should start working on it as soon as possible.

  • Regional co-ordination of frequencies with neighbouring countries is necessary in order to solve existing problems.

  • It is necessary to establish full technical and technological unity of transmission systems. A new set of basic technical transmission standards and technical production standards should be adopted.

  • The competence for adopting frequency distribution and assignment plans should be either at the level of the Federation, or at the level of the Republics. The present situation, where the Federation is accountable to the ITU although it implements its decisions only in Serbia, and where Montenegro has its own Telecommunications Act (which is about to be adopted by the Assembly of Montenegro) and Agency for Telecommunications, is not tolerable. The solution to this problem shall depend on inter-republican arrangements.

  • Full transparency of the work of the organ which shall pass frequency plans must be achieved. It shall also be made so that the largest possible number of terrestrial broadcasting frequencies is available, thus observing international standards. The plan should be published in the official gazette.

  • As for new technologies, legal regulations should be passed as soon as possible.

Second sub-section:

  • The present licensing system in Yugoslavia is inadequate and should therefore be completely abandoned. A new system based on the European experience should be created. No reform of the present system could produce desired results.

  • The new regulations and new system shall be designed in accordance with existing European standards, whereby an independent regulatory body, which would decide upon the granting of licences to broadcasters (terrestrial, cable and satellite), should be established. This regulatory body should be fully independent from public authorities, subject to scrutiny by the courts. Its members should be prominent experts as well as representatives of civil society. State officials, officials of political parties, the owners, shareholders, managers and employees of the media, either broadcast or print, should not be members of the regulatory body. The latter should have clear criteria for granting licences set forth in the law on broadcasting. The work of the regulatory authority should be completely public and transparent.

  • It is necessary to perform thorough revision of all presently allocated frequencies and immediately adopt provisional solutions which shall enable all existing stations an equal starting position in the new process of allocation, which shall be carried out according to new regulations. In particular, full revision of the contracts on co-operation between the RTS and private boadcasters, under which RTS ceded its transmitting infrastructure to private broadcasters, shall be made.

  • The basis of the new licensing system should be a transparent frequency plan, as recommended in sub-section 1.

  • The new system should differentiate the process of granting licences to broadcasters (content criteria) from the process of licensing transmitters and links (technical criteria).

  • The competence for issuing licences by the independent regulatory body shall be at the republican level, regardless of the possible federal competence for licensing transmitters and links.

  • Fees for the use of frequencies should be legally introduced in the new system, but the amount of these fees should adhere to the economic situation of the moment. The amount of the fees may depend on programme content.