The new laws on public information and media, on electronic media and on public service media were adopted by the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia on 2 August 2014 and will enter into force eight days after their publication in the Official Gazette. Adoption of these laws was amongst the main goals set in the Media Strategy adopted by the Serbian Government back in 2011 and follows the stake-holder consultations and public debates that were held during March and October of 2013.
Superseding more than a decade old legislation, the new laws introduce some significant changes, either as a result of harmonization with European regulatory framework, or by addressing peculiarities of Serbian media market.
Some of the major changes introduced by the Law on Public Information and Media are the following:
1. Mandatory privatization of remaining publicly owned media until 1 July 2015, that will finally create a level playing field for all media. The only exceptions from the mandatory privatization shall be the public service broadcasters, an institution that will publish media providing information for the population of Kosovo and minority media publishers established by national councils of national minorities.
2. The Law, for the first time in Serbia, contains the clear definition of the public interest in media field, allowing the co-financing of media projects of public interest as a permissible form of state aid to media. Transparent and non discriminatory procedure for the award of such grants is also prescribed in detail.
3. The Law introduces the Media Register, enabling access to the relevant data on publishers and media outlets.
4. The Law liberalizes media concentration regime, thus allowing for consolidation of fragmented market and increase of investments in media industry.
Major changes introduced by the Law on electronic media, include the following:
- Republic Broadcasting Agency shall change its name into the Regulatory body for electronic media and shall have the broader competences including conduction of market analysis, regulation of on-demand services and the logical chanel numbering.
- The Regulatory body for electronic media shall be competent to, besides issuing reprimands and warnings to broadcasters and revoking the licenses, to prohibit the broadcast of certain type of content in case of some major violations.
- Rules on respect of human rights, rights of persons with disabilities and rights of minors in the electronic media content are now fully harmonized with EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive.
- Rules related to audiovisual commercial communications (advertising, sponsorship, TV shoping) are liberalized to some extent and the ‘product placement is allowed, under certain conditions.
- Must Carry obligations are regulated in more details.
- Unauthorized broadcasting is sanctioned as a commercial offence, to allow for combating media piracy.
The Law on Public Service Media introduces the clear definition of public service remit and financial control mechanisms fully in line with the state aid rules applicable in EU.
Živković Samardžić, in a consortium with Eptisa (Spain) and Media Diversity Institute (UK), within the framework of the EU funded “Strengthening Media Freedom” project, provided technical support to the Ministry of Culture and Information of the Republic of Serbia in the final stages of drafting of these three laws. Slobodan Kremenjak, Živković Samardžić Technology, Media and Telecommunications partner and Kruna Savović, Živkovic Samardžić Technology, Media and Telecommunications associate, were “Strengthening Media Freedom” project experts.