Serbian parliament discusses media legislation
The Serbian parliament is on Wednesday starting a debate on three media bills, previously adopted by the government and sent to MPs.Source: Tanjug
The drafts propose the state to withdraw from ownership in media companies by July 2015 and the ownership structure to become transparent, with the public interest defined and media pluralism protected.
Parliament will consider the bills on public information, electronic media and public media services under urgent procedure.
Once the privatization of media companies is complete, they will be able to apply for state funds for content representing public interest in the information sector.
Over a period of three to five years after the privatization, the programming structures and content must be retained, which will help the media to transition towards market-based operation and retain their programming concepts, which is particularly significant with respect to minority-language media.
The public media services bill envisions two public services - the Radio Television of Serbia and the Radio Television of Vojvodina - and guarantees their institutional and programming independence, defining the public interest and ways of funding the public services.
The bill would scrap the television subscription fee, while both media companies would rely on budget funds, which should ensure their stable operation until January 2016, after which viewers would pay a tax.
The proposed electronic media bill specifies the authority of the state over providers of audio-visual media services and the transition to digital broadcasting.
New technological advances will see all EU members make the transition from analogue to digital broadcasting by 2015, with content providers in the sector to be viewed as providers of audio-visual services, rather than as broadcasters.
On late Tuesday, the parliament concluded the debate on three economic bills - the bankruptcy bill and the bills of amendments to the privatization law and the law on the procedure of registering with the Serbian Business Registers Agency.
Presenting the bills on Wednesday, Serbian Minister of Culture and Information Ivan Tasovac said "the first adoption of a set of media bills in 11 years will provide for a timely, truthful, complete and unbiased information and withdrawal of the state from the media by the middle of 2015."
The Law on Public Information and the Media is the umbrella law here, Tasovac said.
He pointed out that these laws were guaranteeing media freedom in line with European standards and stated the goals behind their adoption.
“The goals are to create the conditions for professional media, establishing a framework that guarantees free flow of ideas and opinions, without interference by the government that would be inhibiting, clearly defined public interest, funding, protection of the rights of editors and journalists and encouraging journalists' association, protection of minors, and prohibition of hate speech,” he said.
Tasovac said the bill provided for the state's withdrawal from ownership in the media, the deadline for privatization of July 1, 2015 and a five-year commitment on the part of a privatized media outlet to maintain the same line of work as before privatization.
“If the capital is not sold by July 1, 2015, the sale procedure will be suspended and shares offered to employees, and if the employees reject the offer, the capital ceases to exist and will be deleted from the registry of the media,” said Tasovac.