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December 1, 1996
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 269
Studio B

The End of a Sad Story?

by Aleksandar Ciric

"I read the daily Novosti, I listen to Studio B radio and think that what is going on is no good. I would like to watch that fourth channel because I believe that the best thing is when one can decide on his own what to watch." In June 1990 the statement of the general manager of the Belgrade company Progres did not attract attention, but today, judging by this statement, the president of the Serbian government (and still the general manager of Progres) Mirko Marjanovic could open up a future-telling agency.

Six years ago the Serbian authorities fought for Studio B against the federal directorate for radio connections, which on March 28, 1990 has stopped the broadcast from the top of the skyscraper Beogradjankanka. What was termed as the information system of those times, the then existing political establishment, which was getting ready to split Yugoslavia, needed only one local TV station. Which is how on December 16, 1990 Studio B "received" permission to broadcast pictures; that happened, as the employees explained, following a 13 year-long struggle against TV Beograd and its management. Today, we could say it was a Pyrrhic victory, assuming the rumors on the anticipated "integration" of studio B with the Serbian Radio-Television are true - Studio B is to become the fourth channel that Marjanovic had mentioned, so that "one can decide on his own what to watch."

The stories of yet another transformation of Studio B were refreshed immediately before the November elections. According to those stories, if the opposition wins the majority in the Belgrade Assembly, and thus gains control over the city's television station, a document (by no means the legally valid one) will emerge from some drawer, stating that Studio B no longer belongs to the city but is a private or stockholding company, i.e., has the same status which was disputed to the Independent TV Studio B in February 1996, and all in the name of supporting legality and protecting its deposited foundation capital.

The overtaking of the NTV Studio B passed more than smoothly, in spite of the fact that Vojislav Seselj accused the Serbian regime that it overtook the station "because it knows perfectly well that it can not announce elections as long as independent media exist", invited democratic forces in the country and in the world to stand in defense of Studio B and threatened with the readiness of the Radicals "to organize demonstrations and hunger strikes in the premises of Studio B." The promised hunger strikes did not occur, the strike of one part of the employees was soon forgotten, as well as the standard - mostly temperate - support of the opposition parties to the losers who remained in Studio B, and even more temperate and pallid concern of the world for the freedom of media in Serbia.

The Dnevni telegraf daily and Borba daily were the only ones - though only for a short period of time - to deal with the current events surrounding the former NTV Studio B. In short, right after their defeat in the local elections became clear to the Belgrade authorities, in the night between November 19 and 20, the meeting of one part of the Board of Executives of RT Studio B, the Assembly of Belgrade and RTV Serbia was held. According to the above mentioned sources, Studio B is to become the fourth channel of the state television, "strengthened" by a team currently creating The Belgrade Program on the state TV and by an editor from RTS who gained fame under the name of Simo Gajin. The transformation should be completed until December 3, so that the Assembly of Serbia could, cleanly and at peace, adopt the decision that, in the interest of the people, everything remains the same as always.

The unintentional - although indirect - confirmation of such an outcome is given by the editor-in-chief of RTV Studio B Zoran Predic, first by the claim that these are only rumors and half-truths, after that by the argument that nobody knows what will happen: "None of us know. Believe me, not even the chairman of the Board of Executives or the general manager. These are issues that we do not decide about." He should be believed since for Studio B, as well as for the "big" state television, nothing of what is going on in the streets of Belgrade exists. For the sake of truth, Studio B is in a much better position that RTS: it is pretty difficult to throw eggs to the top of the Beogradjanka. Therefore, it is easier for the sorry remains of NTV Studio B to observe events from the top.

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