Skip to main content
March 18, 2000
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 430
Crack Down on Electronic Media

Hello Pozega!

by Uros Komlenovic

After the robbing of Radio-TV Studio B's equipment and two smacked heads, the assaults on the electronic media have continued, but in a somewhat different way.  Within only a few days four radio and TV stations were closed.  The inspectors of the Federal Ministry for Telecommunications closed the Pozarevac-based radio station "BUM 93" first, and then Belgrade's "Golf Radio," "Nemanja Television," "Tir Radio" from Cuprija, and the latest victim was Radio-Television of Pozega.  The formal reason for closing each of these stations was program broadcasting without permit and their alleged debt to the state for usage of frequencies.  In all these actions, the inspectors were more or less assisted by the police, and in each case (except maybe in the case of "Golf Radio") they took away at least a part of these station's broadcasting equipment.

It goes without saying that the cracked down stations are the ones that are not to the taste of the Telecommunications Minister, Ivan Markovic, and his assistant, a poet from the village of Brekovo, Aca Stevanovic.  BUM 93 Radio is the member of the Association of the Independent Electronic Media (ANEM), the founder of Radio Pozega is the city assembly of Pozega where Zajedno coalition is in power, while TV Nemanja from Cuprija started broadcasting its program during the unsuccessful series of rallies organized by the AFC (Association for Changes).  Tir Radio, which had not had an information program at all, came as a collateral damage, due to the fact that is was owned by Radisa Milosavljevic, who also owns TV Nemanja.  

The only exception is Golf Radio, which had broadcast only music and results of all football matches from various European Leagues  In that way, Golf attracted an army of listeners who wanted to bet, and along with them a host of ads by solvent firms.  Now the rumor is that a folk singer (and according to some information, even three of them) has an aspiration to get hold of this radio.  What is also interesting is the fact that since last weekend TV Palma has started showing football results not only during football matches but also during the "Waves of the Radicals.", a TV show owned by Vojislav Seselj's Radical party.  This is a very good game plan: not only that you plant "duke" Seselj's messages into the brains and subconsciousness of the "betting lovers" without their will, but you also get some dough from the ads.  Since the people from the shut Golf radio are not willing to make any statements about their situation, one can guess that the problem will be solved within the Family (or perhaps they already have an agreement between themselves).

The biggest fuss was made in Pozega!  Two Markovic's and Stevanovic's inspectors tried on Saturday, March 11, to cut down the program.  While the inspectors were looking for the key of the room where the technical equipment for broadcasting was situated, several hundreds of citizens gathered in the street and drove the inspectors away from the city, having also damaged their official car.  According to Minister Markovic, the car was "completely demolished," while a "group of hooligans, led by the local leaders of DS and SPO armed with cudgels and metal bats, injured one of the inspectors, who was just doing his job."  The Pozega Mayor, Tihomir Marjanovic, denied this allegation of Markovic witnessing that he was with the mentioned inspector at the time and that "no harm was done to him," while the car's rearview mirror was the only thing damaged during the protest.  

The chief of the local police told Mayor Marjanovic that his forces would not shut the station that day, and the Mayor passed this message to the protesters.  Some of them decided, however, to stay and be on guard during the night.  The rain made them go into the nearby café, where later on they were found by a group of ten to fifteen policemen.  While one group of policemen blocked the café, the other broke into the station and took the equipment away.

On the same evening a new protest rally occurred with three thousand protesters present.  On Monday, the Pozega City assembly MPs had a special session, at which they decided to continue broadcasting the program via the existing cable television, until a smaller transmitter has been installed.  Since Tuesday, Pozega has been watching the radio and TV program broadcast by turns.  The estimates are that approximately two thousand households can watch the cable TV program.  The Independent Association of Serbia's Journalists (NUNS) issued a statement saying that the "regime has obviously concluded that it is time to open the drawer and take out the arms prepared for fighting the independent media, the arms being the ministry's vague procedure for getting frequencies without a set deadline."  NUNS contended that the procedure was irregular, and that "anybody politically unsuitable (for the regime) can be closed, because of not fulfilling the conditions of the frequencies competition."  NUNS also stated that many local stations "with information program criticizing the regime" might soon be closed.   

In its statement regarding the above incidents, ANEM also referred to the famous frequencies competition, or better to say the public advertisement for getting frequencies, which the Federal Ministry for Telecommunication announced in March 1998, and the Decision on Taxes, i.e. the compensation for the usage of frequencies, brought by the Ministry two months later.  At that time, member of SPS Dojcilo M. Radojevic was the minister of information and telecommunications, but in the meantime two younger and more energetic YUL activists, Goran Matic and Ivan Markovic, have replaced him.

YUL used the post-war situation very skillfully.  Private-owners close to this political party, have created a network of transmitters of a lesser force on very skillfully chosen buildings.  In that way, they avoided giving large sums of money for the installment of big and obsolete transmitters on the hills, which (God forbid!) might once again be bombed, while at the same time this offered an opportunity to cover quite a big territory with their program by linking these transmitters through hiring the channels situated within the network of optic cables controlled by PTT.   In the meantime, a number of (Radio/TV) stations close to the regime have started (with or without permits, who knows) to broadcast their musical programs, which might in a jiffy be replaced by propagandistic programs.  

However, the regime has assessed that this was not enough, and decided to start acting severely, using force.   On the basis of internal public opinion surveys, the ruling coalition has found out that its position is now worse than ever.  The elections should be held this year.  (Nebojsa Covic contends that they have been scheduled for May 21).  By that time, the electronic media should be disciplined, simply because they have taken too much freedom, particularly in the provincial towns of Serbia.  In addition to that, with these attacks on the media the regime is testing the citizens' and the opposition parties' readiness for resistance, and turning the attention of the public away from other equally important problems.  So, these days the media have become the main topic of the opposition and the two most recent meetings of the opposition parties dealt with this issue.  The foreign factor cannot help much and should not be given too much thought.  The well-ordered and powerful countries do not have any more instruments left for threatening this regime, they did bomb the country, but the Family understood that it does not hurt much (not them at least), on the contrary.  So, one of the regime officials has recently threatened the opposition parties that this time there will be no Gonzalez to "hand over" the cities to them.   So, they should see what they can do!   
At his press conference on Tuesday, Ivan Markovic announced that he would make all the electronic media owing money to the state, pay their debts (amounting to over 120 million dinars) by the end of March, stressing that the police will render him full support.  On the same day, a news arrived that the Belgrade City authorities paid almost 11 million dinars, which Markovic's Ministry had requested, from Studio B.  Obviously, the conclusion was that it is better to pay the debt, than wonder whether the Belgraders would rise in defense of "their television."  The money is theirs anyway.

More Expensive than the United States

Mirko Mandrino, the expert for the radio communications regulations, have made the following statement to "Vreme" on the controversial frequencies competition of 1998 and the none the less problematic tax:

"By typographical error, Article 9 of the FRY Constitution was quoted as the legal basis for the Decision on Payment for Usage of Radio Frequencies and TV Channels.  Ironically enough, this Article deals with the issues of human rights and freedoms.  Later on, this Decision was altered, and you could see that its creators referred to Article 99 of the Federal Constitution, according to which the Federal Government could bring regulations, decisions and other acts which serve for the execution of the federal laws.  The problem only is that none of the federal laws ever mentions payments.  In addition to that, the amount of the tax is to be calculated on the basis of controversial interpretations of the action, which is usually quite an acceptable formula for the so-called covering zones.  The curiosity is that the first results of the research that should be finalized these days, show that the local electronic media are paying much higher taxes than the American ones, i.e. they are paying a three times higher amount.  In absolute numbers, what the Americans are paying one dollar, our media is paying two or three dollars."

As far as the Advertisement for the Right on a Temporary Usage of Frequencies and Channels, one can say that the federal regulations do not recognize this phrase.  The republican rather than the federal government could have announced this competition.  The criteria for getting work permits are also controversial.  For example, it is requested to have a building permit, but without precisely designating for what - whether it is for the building in which the transmitter is situated or for the partition wall in the premises of the station in question.  Besides that, the only published list is the one with the names of the stations that have been granted the right on temporary usage, without any explanation why some other stations have been refused.  Instead of doing this, some of the stations have been invited to sign contracts (a new term in this area), while others have been requested to submit some additional documentation.  In that way, the Ministry established bilateral relations with the electronic media, putting them in a situation to work without permits and in constant fear from closure.  Many stations did submit the requested documentation, but have never received a reply from the Ministry so far, although according to the regulations, they should have received a reply within one month or a month and a half. "

As "Vreme" has learnt from the sources close to the Ministry for Telecommunications, it is most probable that no one has ever looked at the submitted documentation.  The list of "our" and "their" people exists, and one knows what should be done.  So, why should one be bothered to read or check?

© Copyright VREME NDA (1991-2001), all rights reserved.