With legal benchmark set high, alarming the media concentration at the level of 35% of audience share, numerous concentrations of local media, influencing the media pluralism and fair market competition, remained under the radar and public eye.
Local and regional media hardly reach 1% of audience share and several of them combined under one ownership structure don’t fall under concentration in legal terms, but are de facto changing landscape of local informing, particularly through traditional media.
This case especially became visible after the privatization process back in 2015. Bottom line of the media privatization process is that it resulted in a specific form of local ownership concentration in the media market.
Radoica Milosavljević, publicly known as close friend of Bratislav Gasic, high-ranking member of the ruling Progressive party (SNS), and Kopernikus Cable Network, also close to the same party, bought a total of 11 media. Bratislav Gasic connections also lead to Sladjana Ostojic and a consortium of Narodne novine from Nis who bought Niska TV. This consortium is also closely connected to the RTV Bella Amie, making citizens of Nis, the second largest city in the country, largely dependent of informations coming from one center.
Maksim media Group is the new owner of Belgrade-based Radio and TV Studio B, spreading its media network alongside TDI Radio, Radio Karolina, Radio Jat and Hit FM radio. Although there is no clear political affiliation, program orientation of Studio B shows the support to SNS.
In Vojvodina, northern Serbian province, Srbija danas, company owning internet portal close to SNS, bought Novi Sad based TV station, Apolo, in the media privatization process. Srbijadanas.net, with tabloid style of reporting, continually praises government moves.
Apart from privatization, large media groups were created around specific economic and political interests. This includes Sremska TV from Sid, also including RTV Indjija and various media productions leading to same owner, Aleksandard Vincic. Similar is the case with Radio Srem, Radio and television Fruska gora being owned by Slavko Stijakovic, former member of the Serbian army. Stijakovic is known for its testimonial at the Hague tribunal as witness in war crime case. Both media groups are linked to ruling party, as visible through editorial policies and reporting.
Ownership affiliation of these groups enables easier access to the public funds, particularly evident in the process of public calls for support of media projects. Public calls are specific mechanism of allocation of budgetary funds, in theory based on unbiased and fair competition among media projects aimed at support of quality media production.
In reality, this mechanism is abused and it serves to reward “friendly” media. For example, two media groups around Vincic and Stijakovic won majority of funds in six municipalities based in Srem region, while media outlets bought by Radoica Milosavljevic were awarded in open calls procedure in 2015 in the amount of money approximately worth the same amount money he spent for purchasing the same outlets.