Media Outlets - Balkanmedia
The media market in B&H is fragmented and oversaturated. The media picture of B&H consists of a relatively large amount of media compared to the about 3.5 million citizens and a small market space to match. The advertising market has dropped dramatically in recent years – from 2014 to 2019 by around 40 percent – currently being at about 18 million EUR annually, according to the IREX media Sustainability Index 2019. This situation forces private media outlets, especially in the print sector, to turn to public budgets and international donors for funding, which can lead to self-censorship. In addition, one of the characteristics of B&H media landscape is strong presence (and popularity amongst B&H citizens) of imported press and TV channels from neighbouring countries, as the language is similar. This media overspill jeopardizes the already small advertising market, making the survival of B&H media highly questionable. There is no law to regulate the concentration and saturation of media.
The paramount need of fact-based information has become more crucial due to the Covid-19 virus. B&H’s media newsrooms don’t have the professional and financial capacities to fact-check and regulate content, states the IREX Vibrant Information Barometer 2021. Although there are norms for fact-based and impartial information, the professional ramification for non-adherence to such norms are minimal.
As of yet, in B&H there are 8 daily newspapers, and about 180 of various periodicals including magazines and tabloids, according to the country’s Press Council. All print media are within private sector, often as a part of large business corporations. The print media are in crisis – the number of editions is drastically declining compared to previous years. As a result, most print media outlets mainly rely on their online portals or other business ventures like engaging in the travel industry to survive financially. Currently, the print sector holds an estimated share of only 7 percent of the advertising market, according to the IREX report 2019. The reasons for the declining editorial numbers are economical, dictated by a high value-added tax (VAT) (17 percent - very high for B&H conditions), unfavorable customs regulations when it comes to import of printing repro-material, followed by high distributions taxes.
Media experts and journalists have suggested for several years now to improve the economic conditions of print media by providing state support. For instance, in its 2019 assessment of media development in B&H, the UNESCO recommends to “account VAT on every sold copy of daily newspapers or weekly magazine, instead of on every printed copy.” Alternatively, the government should consider a lower VAT for print media. In a 2018 panel discussion with B&H journalists held by IREX, a tax break for media was also suggested, in light of “print media struggling with sustainability.” However, these specific proposals have not resulted in an adjustment of tax laws yet. In addition to this, there is the overspill of daily papers and magazines from neighboring countries being distributed through same channels. Behind some of the leading print media houses, there are also strong political lobbies, helping in their financing.
Radio and Television
B&H has a very complex public broadcasting system - comprising of 3 RTV broadcasting services, and it was created under strong pressure of the international community after the war in B&H. Its structure is specific and complex since it stems from the territorial and ethnic divisions that prevail in B&H, the principles of equal representation, political correctness and the so-called "ethnic key". It consists of three public broadcasters: BHRT, and two entity broadcasters – FTV and RTRS. Additionally, broadcasting licences were issued to 46 TV stations, and 144 radio stations as well. Nearly half of these radio stations are public - regional, cantonal, and municipal media, funded by local budgets, and so facing the pressure from authorities who interfere with editorial policies, base editorial and management appointments on political and ethnic, rather than professional bases, and stack supervisory boards with allies who limit freedom of the press. These media houses face widespread political pressure. Thus, it is still one of the most popular media outlets, especially among older people. According to the IREX report 2019, television and radio outlets hold an estimated share of 67 percent of the advertising market.
There are no accurate numbers for online media in B&H. This situation is a result of absence of legal or any other kind of obligation for registration of online media. It is estimated that there are around 100 online portals in B&H currently. There is also significant difference in their quality. It is clear that many portals are moving towards professionalism, accepting self-regulations as their own model of work. On the other hand, there is a significant number of portals that have no identification, not even a contact telephone number. Thus, it is unknown who is behind these portals and who writes for them. Such portals often break the Press Code with unverified and manipulative information. Yet, the popularity of web portals is enormous, especially among young people. Currently, research is being conducted on how to administer the registration of online portals, so that the editorial and ownership is transparent, while still retaining freedom of speech and not restricting it by legislative forces. There are no official numbers for online media in B&H. This situation is a result of absence of legal or any other kind of obligation for registration of online media. On its website, the B&H Press Council lists around 100 online news portals, although some sources estimate a total of around 2.000 of them. The internet penetration numbers for B&H have strongly increased in the past decade. In 2010, only 43 percent of the population had internet access, whereas in 2019, around 80 percent of B&H residents were internet users, according to World Bank data, leading to rising popularity of online media sites. However, there is significant difference in their quality. It is clear that many portals are moving towards professionalism, accepting self-regulations, for example the Press Council’s Press and Online Media Code, as their own model of work. On the other hand, there is a significant number of portals that have no identification, not even a contact telephone number. Thus, it is unknown who is behind these portals and who writes for them. Such portals often break the Press Code with unverified and manipulative information.
According to the EC Bosnia and Herzegovina 2020 report there are still only limited regulations for online media and the spread of disinformation and hate speech on online platforms is increasing.
- IREX Media Sustainability Index Bosnia and Herzegovina 2019
- “Print media in BiH”, Press Council Bosnia and Herzegovina
- “Internet portals in BiH”, Press Council Bosnia and Herzegovina
- 2019 Assessment of Media Development in Bosnia and Herzegovina, UNESCO
- “Bosnia and Herzegovina: Internet users”, The Global Economy
- “Self-regulation of online media in BiH: Disinformation, anonymous portals and hate speech”, media.ba
- EC Bosnia and Herzegovina 2020 Report
- IREX Vibrant Information Barometer 2021
Ljiljana Zurovac, Head of the Press Council in Bosnia and Herzegovina
2020 adjusted by Luise Mosig, KAS Media Programme South East Europe
2021 adjusted by Stanislava Madoleva, KAS Media Programme South East Europe