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Incomplete information on media financing

On the occasion of Draft Law on Media and Public Informing

Transparency Serbia (official chapter of Transparency International) emphasizes that Draft Law on Media and Public Informing[1], although represents progress compared to existing status, doesn’t completely resolve problem of insufficient transparency of data on media financing, which should be resolved with amendments in Parliamentary procedure. Furthermore, we emphasize that public debate on this Draft was held by the beginning of 2013, and that reasons for refusing to accept prepositions from that debate were not published.

We pointed out to problematic nature of certain provisions in public debate on draft law, held sixteen months ago[2]. In the meantime draft was sent to analysis to Brussels, which is obviously very important due to Serbian euro-integrations, but in any case must not represent substitute for duty of the Government towards its citizens that took part in the public debate and remained uninformed of reasons for refusing to accept their prepositions. Ministry of Culture and Information that way abandoned its already established good practice.[3]

Provisions of draft law can secure easier access to certain information that are of significance for creating impression of influences to editorial policy of media that are result of media ownership or media financing by the state. Those are primarily provisions of article 39. para. 1. point 9. and 10. of the Draft, that will allow more clear insight into data on scope of incomes media receive from authority organs on various accounts (subsidies, project financing, advertising etc.). These provisions should be amended in parliamentary procedure, to comprehend indubitably financing by enterprises in which state has minority of share.

Draft was improved compared to initial draft in regards to transparency of ownership, because it envisages obligatory publishing of data on  „legal entities and physical persons that directly or indirectly  possess more than 5% of initial capital“ in media[4]. However, obligation from the Draft, to deny registration of media whose ownership structure composes of enterprise with vague ownership structure – physical persons (e.g. in the case of off shore companies), is not being stated specifically, and it remains unclear whether existing provisions can secure accomplishing of that goal.

Greatest problem, by our opinion, is that Draft Law does not provide transparency of other data that can be of significance to the citizens for estimation of possible influences to editorial policy, which was envisaged by state media Strategy from 2011, and is stated that one of the problems from the report of Governments Anti-corruption Council from 2011[5]. Namely, enterprise that established media, can be established with very modest initial investment of one physical person or one legal entity (e.g. 60.000 RSD), but indubitably large advertisers, sponsors and loaners can influence work of media. Draft Law doesn’t say anything  on possibilities of influencing editorial policy on those base grounds, that can be far more significant than ownership itself, which is according to Transparency Serbia unacceptable[6]. We remind that resolving of this issue was part of Governments political program from 2012, but, in spite of constant mentioning of „Verica Barać report“ by government representatives, it was clearly given up[7].

Following prepositions of TS during public debate were not accepted:

  • Preposition to determine following when determining programs of public interest in the area of public informing to be financed: „Citizens’ interest in public affairs, transparency of authority organs’ activities, disposing with public assets, quality of services citizens receive from public sector and  purposefulness of expenses at the expense of current or future tax payers.“ (article 13. of the Draft, or article 15. of the Draft Law);
  • Preposition to narrow arbitrary determining of priorities to be financed from the budget by authority organs (article 13. of Draft, or article 15. of Draft Law), by introducing obligation to at least once in three years  envisage co-financing of programs for each of determined priorities;
  • Preposition to publish elaborated proposition of selection panel besides final decisions on awarding the assets (article 23. para. 3. of the Draft, or article 25. para 2. of the Draft). Furthermore, related to this provision we indicated to a problem that wasn’t resolved – legal solution for situation when conditions of tender were set up opposite to the law or rights of tender participants were violated in any other way.

For all above mentioned, TS feels necessary to amend and change provisions on transparency of media ownership in parliamentary procedure, when public debate wasn’t used properly to do so.

Transparency – Serbia

Belgrade, 28 July 2014


Publishing of data on prepositions from public debate on the occasion of draft Law on Electronic Media.

[4] Draft hasn’t envisaged transparency of data on ownership shares with less than 10% of direct managerial rights or less than 50% of indirect managerial rights.

[6] We remind that in previous attempt of organizing this matter (un-adopted Draft Law on Transparency of Public Media from 2008) publishing of following information was envisaged: data on persons who gave capital to owner of media share on conditions more favourable than the market conditions for obtaining share in ownership, data on persons who placed money or assets at disposal without compensation (e.g. donations), advertisers and purchasers of other media services that participate in annual media financing with more than 30% and incomes from advertizing of political subjects.

[7] Prepositions of TS and media representatives to change National Anti-corruption Strategy in 2013 were not accepted and without explanation for such decision.