A former head of the Independent Journalists Association of Serbia (NUNS) told N1 on Thursday that the state-owned Telekom Serbia’s purchase of TV rights to the English Premier League was just part of the authorities’ policies towards independent media.
Vukasin Obradovic, a journalist with Vreme weekly, said that the authorities were continuing the same policies against N1 and Nova TV which they consider to be their political opponent. “Following the campaign against United Group, they are introducing economic measures to chase investors away, clear the field leaving just one distributor and the TV stations with national coverage which are on their side,” he said.
Telekom Serbia paid 600 million Euro for the TV rights to the next six seasons of the English Premier League. Experts said that the state-owned telecommunications company greatly overpaid the rights to make sure that it gets them despite the fact that Telekom Serbia already has debts of some 1.4 billion Euro. Telekom Serbia has been waging a campaign against United Group’s SBB cable provider which is the only provider with N1 and Nova S in its offer, trying to push SBB off the market in Serbia. Telekom’s Supernova does not offer those independent media outlets. United Group’s Sport Kanal also made a bid for the rights to the Premier League, having held them in previous years, but the Telekom bid was much higher.
Obradovic said this is a mixture of politics and economics with a desire to influence the media landscape in Serbia and show anyone who has invested in media outlet not controlled by the authorities that they should leave, flattening out the media landscape. “This is the will of (Serbian President Aleksandar) Vucic who wants to chase away United Group media outlets and is exerting economic pressure on investors,” he said.
“This is about Telekom, about our money, about violations of the law which states that the authorities cannot own the media but the state owns 58 percent of Telekom just as it co-owns Euronews and has an indirect stake in many other media. The goal is weaken the investors standing behind United Group and force it out of the market, that is why they paid 600 million Euro which is completely crazy,” Obradovic said, adding that media propaganda is very important to the Serbian regime. “Take a look at the whole thing and you’ll see that there is no question about price when they want to dominate the media market. That is still the only goal,” he said.
“I am certain that a majority of the Serbian public don’t know that they are co-owners of Telekom and should be getting dividends if it operates successfully. The Telekom is an extension of the authorities and is used to deal with electronic media in a very non-transparent way using public funds which is a cause for concern. The public will pay for the 600 million and all other Telekom investments one day but I’m afraid that will be too late,” he said.