Media Situation in Serbia

Although after the democratic changes in 2000 it was expected that the Serbian media will quickly develop and gradually reach the European standards, some of the key problems have still remained unsolved even 14 years later. Non-transparent ownership, endangered independence of the media, unfinished media reform and increasingly difficult financial situation are the biggest problems that Serbian media are facing with. An additional problem is also the fact that the media market is small, poor and over-saturated, which is best evidenced by the fact that in the country with population of approximately seven million people 1196 media are officially registered in the Register of Public Media in the year 2013 (664 newspapers, 228 radio stations, 119 television stations, 20 news agencies, 159 internet publications and 9 other types of media). Financial situation in the media is aggravated by the significant decline in advertising revenues affected by the economic crisis, so according to the data provided by AGB Nielsen, total value of the Serbian advertising market in the year 2008 amounted 206 million euros, and in the next four years decreased to 172 million.

The unfinished reform of media legislation hinders attempts to finally create favorable conditions for functioning of the media in Serbia, so the state determined the completion of media reform as one of the main objectives. A crucial document in that context is the Strategy of Development of the Public Information in the Republic of Serbia until 2016 (Media strategy), which was adopted in 2011 as one of the conditions for candidate status for EU membership. However, even after three years, none of main goals have been reached. So, for example, withdrawal of the state from media ownership by September 2013 wasn’t achieved (at this moment 81 media owned by the state are awaiting privatization or are in some stage of privatization), process of digitalization is not even close to the end (the deadline for digitization in the EU is June 2015), and at this point the state has not found a solution for financing public service. The only concrete step forward is the adoption of three new media laws on public information and media, electronic media and public service media in August 2014.

Traditional media is still holding the most dominant position when it comes to informing citizens, although a growing influence of online media has been noted in recent years, especially among the younger population. This is corroborated by the data from the Republic Statistical Agency of the Republic of Serbia, which shows that more than 2.4 million citizens of Serbia use the Internet every day, while their three most frequent activities are email usage (70.4 percent), reading of online newspapers and magazines (69.5 percent) and using of social networks (68 percent). This information clearly shows that the online media has already become a well-accepted source of information, regardless of whether it is used as a primary or an additional source.

Marko Nedeljković, University of Belgrade