Your Right to Know Everything
According to the Serbian Law on Public Service Broadcasting adopted in 2014, the public interest is to be equally served by two public service broadcasters, Radio Television of Serbia (RTS) with two nation wide channels (RTS 1 and RTS 2) and Radio Television of Vojvodina (RTV) covering the northern province of Vojvodina with two channels as well (RTV1 and RTV2).
Their revenues are generated from subscription fees, state budget, as well as commercials. Previously the channels were funded by subscription fees paid by Serbian citizens through their electricity bills. As increasing numbers of citizens refused to pay them, the public broadcasters were faced with declining revenues. After the Serbian Progressive Party came to power in 2012, revenues declined further when the Deputy Prime Minister at the time, Aleksandar Vucic, who is now the Serbian president, vowed that the state would step in and fund the channels instead. However, this caused fears in many quarters (including the EU) that the channels might then become vulnerable to political pressure. Consequently, after having been fully subsidised from the state budget in 2014 and 2015, a new subscription tax (150 RSD or around 1.1 euro per month) was re-introduced in January 2016 in addition to state funding. People who refuse to pay now risk to becoming subject to legal prosecution.
The public service broadcasters are also entitled to have commercial breaks lasting six minutes per hour combined, which is half the time permitted to commercial channels. All of this has helped to stabilize the public broadcasting services financially, but it is considered far from being enough to enable them to produce good quality documentary and investigative news programs.
The still young public broadcasting services in Serbia, having only been transformed from state television services in 2006, are obliged to serve the public interest. However, research from 2017 by the Novi Sad School of Journalism suggests that they primarily reflect the interests of the political elite in their selection of topics, while controversial views are avoided and critical voices are not adequately presented.
RTS1 is appreciated for its production of domestic drama and TV series, which is the most popular program genre among Serbian audiences, but has also been competing with commercial Pink TV for better ratings for years by producing reality shows and low quality entertainment programs. According to the latest data by IPSOS, RTS1 remains the most popular TV channel in the country with 19.47 per cent of viewership, while Pink TV comes second. In addition, RTS 2 is much more devoted to fulfilling the role of a public service broadcaster by hosting children's, educational, cultural and religion programs.