Experts have warned that the public interest has been neglected because of business plans by the Serbian state TV (RTS) and the Telekom Serbia company which recently won the right to redistribute the public broadcaster’s programmes.
The RTS recently became “invisible” for viewers outside Serbia, that is for anyone using the NET TV Plus platform, after the RTS and Telekom Serbia asked the United Group for almost 100 times more than what it pays to broadcast the BBC.
The RTS 1, RTS 2, RTS Svet, RTS Sat are no longer available to Serbs in the diaspora using Net TV following failed negotiations between the United Group and Telekom Serbia which is demanding a price of 1.2 Euro per user for RTS channels. The United Group found that price, which is 20 times higher than before, unacceptable. The people who want to watch the RTS and have NET TV have expressed different views of the situation.
“For those of us from the Balkans this is the only way to get information from Serbia but I don’t want to pay more when we are already paying for what we have,” Vienna resident Boban Petrovic said.
Another man said he would pay the extra 5 Euros to transfer to the RTS Planeta and get its four or five channels. Igor Cobanovic tweeted: “I no longer have RTS channels here in Valencia because the Telekom Serbia which has exclusive rights to distribute the RTS has demanded an increase of 20 times from NET TV. So I no longer have the following channels Vucic 1, Vucic 2, Vucic 3, Vucic HD”.
N1 asked the government for an official comment on the issue but the Diaspora Cooperation Department pointed to the Foreign Ministry which did not respond.
The question is whether the RTS which is financed from the state budget, subscription and advertising has turned itself into a commercial station by dictating prices. Journalist Gordana Susa said that the RTS decision is not economically viable.
“The BBC has an interest in airing news programs across the world for a minimum of money and it has to be in the interest of the RTS to do the same or else the authorities want to control everything. Nothing is transparent. We don’t know how the Telekom bought Kopernikus for the money that Kopernikus could have used to buy two new TV stations and we don’t know what’s in the contract with the Telekom,” Susa said.
Retired political sciences professor Miroljub Radojkovic said the RTS decision is in line with the strategy announced by RTS board chairman Vladimir Vuletic for the RTS to be free of the money from the budget. The fight for subscribers shows that this could be a business venture. RTS Planeta costs 4,90 Euros a month and offers 10 public broadcaster channels and five more radio channels,” he said.
Radojkovic recalled that the law on public media says that the RTS gets budget funding to produce, air and distribute programs for the diaspora. “I really don’t think that the RTS took the decision on its own. It came from the top because the RTS does not take these decisions independently and as a rule that always runs counter to the interests of the population,” Susa said.