A political battlefield in South East Europe – public service media

The South East European Media Observatory released its first summary of flash reports on countries including Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Hungary, Macedonia, and Serbia. The findings suggest that similar factors characterize the operation of the national or regional public service broadcasters which hinder their proper functioning, such as non-transparency, funding difficulties, and politically biased coverage. At the same time, low audience share and public trust, dismissal of journalists and editors can be witnessed in all of these countries.

In the region, the European democratic model of broadcasting was implemented in a way that caused dysfunctional public service broadcasters. The ethos that “established by the public, funded by the public, and controlled by the public” does not prevail. These institutions have became fields of permanent political battlegrounds, meanwhile they suffer from political and economic pressure, periodic dismissal of key staff, financial difficulties, and shrinking audiences.

Thus, the overall picture of public service broadcasting in South East Europe is gloomy, the scene is often chaotic, and the consequences of the political moves are hard to be predicted. Serbia is a striking example, where the government has been hesitating whether to keep the subscription fee system or to abolish it, and people simply stopped paying the fee on their own. The Radio Television of Vojvodina is threatened by shutdown after 67 years due to the lack of funds. But, even in Croatia, where the collection of licence fee is almost 100%,  public trust is also lacking in the PSB. A remedy ensuring the proper functioning of public service brodcasters is needed in the region – otherwise the sinking ships will fulfill their destinies – concluded the regional summary.

The South East European Media Observatory is a regional partnership of civil society organisations aimed at enhancing media freedom and pluralism, and influencing media reforms in the countries of South East Europe. It addresses obstacles to democratic development of media systems by providing a regional instrument for media research and monitoring, support to investigative journalism and civil society engagement. It also offers a regional framework for debates, consultations and coalitions among key stakeholders. SEE Media Observatory particularly addresses the problems with integrity of media and journalism in the region, focusing on harmful patterns of media ownership and media finances. In 2013 and 2014 the regional observatory concentrates on media integrity in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia and Serbia.

Source: Media Observatory.