Insufficient transparency of media ownership, weak rules on media concentration, non-existing control of state advertising and poor conditions in the media market were some of the problems identified in Media integrity report: Media ownership and financing in Montenegro, which were discussed in Podgorica, on 14 December 2015, at the conference organized by Montenegro Media Institute. The report was presented by Daniela Brkić, a researcher at the Montenegro Media Institute, and introduced by Ljiljana Žugić, the institute’s director. The report and the conference have been a part of the SEE Media Observatory’s actions in Montenegro.
The conference was attended by representatives of media sector, a regulatory agency and civil society in Montenegro. The participants have agreed that media concentration rules have to be introduced in Montenegro to restrict the ongoing media concentration. The current developments have been illustrated with an example of a foreign company recently acquiring two daily newspapers and two online news portals.
Special concerns have been raised regarding the media integrity report’s findings on the implementation of the 2013 Law on Prevention of Illegal Business since it failed to provide efficient monitoring of the advertising practices. Despite legal obligations, majority of the media did not file the reports to the tax authority. Sunčica Bakić, an advisor at the Agency for Electronic Media, pointed out that the current regulation assigns the power of monitoring the media advertising market to the tax authority, although they do not have the capacities to process the data. At the same time, the regulatory agency in charge of electronic media does have the capacities, but has no legal power to perform such analyses. A conclusion was made, that the two authorities should establish efficient cooperation in this area.
New efforts from civic sector have been made to identify the amount and structure of state subsidies and other forms of state financing in the media. Ana Vujošević from Center for Civic Education explained their findings according to which, in Montenegro, the state takes a major role in the media market. She emphasized that the only proper way of combating the current dysfunctional media market and deeply polarized media scene is to put the state financial interventions in the media sector under the legal control.
A journalist and media analyst, Dragoljub Vuković, concluded that the corrupt media system in Montenegro is a consequence of deficient media policy where the protection of public interest has never been the goal of legislative, regulatory or institutional actions taken by the state. The media market is therefore left poorly regulated living the open door for concentration, clientelism and disrespect for public interest in the media.