City Mayor and Local Governing Official Authorities media tailoring

SARAJEVO, 05.03.2018.-Tailoring of media by City Mayor and Local Governing Official Authorities, despite their legal duty to serve the public that, by the way, have been financing media houses throughout BiH, has altogether become some kind of a tendency also considered recently as very popular on a local level. Moreover, this kind of tendency has never been identified as unknown (incognito); instead, it was rather the “privatization” process of local media services that has become a common practice with a worrying scope and so far, there have been no conventional mechanisms in order to prevent the spreading of such occurrences.

Local media services have neither tools nor techniques to protect themselves from this. Reasons supporting this particular thesis include the following; firstly, most local media houses mainly depend on financing means deriving from municipal (town, city or cantonal) budget money dispersing; secondly, directors and editors are usually appointed by local (city, town or cantonal) governing official authorities; thirdly, media staff are not considered as universally unique and fourthly, there have been no public critic released (appropriately) regarding this issue. This actually represents the image of local media services that have been unable to protect their independent work and operations. Unfortunately, more and more popular plurality of local and city councils made no contribution, as far as the creation of the environment for independent work and operation of media is concerned, allowing thus free work for media staff. Taking into consideration that most local media houses mainly depend on financing from municipal/town/city budget money being dispersed and distributed accordingly, biased broadcasted programs aimed to “serve”’ the ruling governing majority are often identified and recognized. Looking at the internet headlines and programs broadcasted and uploaded on local radio and TV stations in Zenica – Doboj Canton, we, as an independent audience, can easily discover and recognize which political party represents the official majority ruling group(,

Bearing in mind that managers and directors have directly been appointed by city and/or municipal mayors, they supervise (through their editors), and ensure that no conflict with the city and the municipal mayor would eventually emerge. The cases and samples in ZDK and USK, when the future of media and staff salaries/wages was in jeopardy, only confirmed and proved the scope of impact and the influence by local governing official authorities imposed against these local media houses. It also outlined that independent or rather dependent work by local media services had been (dis)allowed. In the case of RTV Zenica, the election female manager “obstructed” the financing of this local media service. At the same time, when the payments were three months late (delayed), journalists and media staff, continued to follow the work with local governing official authorities and report from City Council meeting assembly and regular sessions. In this particular case, the Association of BiH Journalists reacted and encouraged the local city governing officials that financing of this media service must not be conditioned by appointing the female manager to the position of general directors. Also, in this case, a complete lack of reaction by syndicate/work union officials in this media house as they have been expected to raise their voice ”loud” in order to protect the rights of media staff, has been noted and outlined.

Cantonal Assembly Members like television

There is another example, in the territory of Zenica – Doboj Canton, which clearly outlines the will and determination of elected representatives/citizens (in the Assembly of Zenica – Doboj Canton) to have full control over media houses. Zenica television made full coverage of the Zenica – Doboj Canton assembly session meet- ing, however, these reports were prepared and released with short and reduced discussions. The “purchasers” did not like this because these reports were broadcasted on local television stations covering the area of all 12 municipalities in Zenica – Doboj Canton. Bearing in mind that this was considered an excellent opportunity to send a message to potential future voters, particularly in pre-election period, which was used by their representatives so they could hold a discussion, raise questions and reply to comments, another television commercial channel which made full recording at the assembly meeting sessions, without any reactions and intervention, which additionally distributed these video recorded reports to local TV stations, which again had signed contracts for media reporting with Zenica – Doboj Canton.

Assembly meeting sessions often last for nearly 8 hours (and sometimes even longer than 8 hours) and even before the daily agenda is established, defined and set up, representatives usually waste several hours discussing mutual affairs, issues, questions, replies and they also often respond to replies addressed to them. This is why assembly representatives were convinced that their public addressing would be crucial, so they could represent themselves in the best possible form in front of their potential voters, making thus political points and making political benefit out of this situation. There is no official television station in Zenica – Doboj Canton; instead, there are several local TV channels. According to several assembly representatives in Zenica – Doboj Canton Assembly, cantonal TV houses should indeed be established on the cantonal level as soon as possible. “RTV Zenica should become a regional leader, as far as public informing is concerned, and should even receive financial support from cantonal budget sources”, stated Ismet Sarajlic (SBB). “I shall intercede that this TV house should receive cantonal status. Media financing shall be transparent, but the political impact on media is rather invisible, meager and tenuous.

There have been accusations that certain media houses had even been blackmailed. As far as the media blackmailing is concerned, the last case occurred in Zenica City Council, where RTV Zenica should have been deprived of financial support or financial support should have been reduced imposing thus this media with pressure, indeed confirmed that this media house could become a subject to manipulation, claimed Sarajlic. ”According to my information sources, I reckon that people in Zepce municipality are pretty well informed. We have no local TV and this represents a serious problem for this area as I believe that media financing in Zepce is transparent, said Ivo Tadic (HDZ). “All modern media houses provide public with news and information, but I don’t know how many information and news get to the public, because people receive more than enough news and information; namely they read headlines, titles, articles, texts, posts and seem to be more interested in comments posted rather than the article/text content. What media can do in this case is to formulate headlines that may attract and intrigue the viewers to read them. How can anyone talk about transparency if we receive no information about the number of citizens in our country that regularly pay RTV tax fees”, said Samir Lemes (DF).

He is surprised with the scope of enthusiasm regarding the work that media houses conduct and implement because, according to him, “the marketing share in such small market is insufficient for financing, consider- ing the great number of media houses existing and operating in our country. Too many political parties had been governing here so it has been hard to detect which political party is actually ruling at present and who or which political group represents the opposition, so it is generally difficult to estimate and evaluate the scope of impact and pressure that certain media houses have been imposed with (by political parties)”. Political influence, regardless of how invisible it may appear, has become evident and apparent as it has made an impact on media financing processes, particularly on local levels. Unfortunately, the public influence still remains insufficient. Former program scheme councils, contact shows, letters by listeners and viewers have been changed with comments and likes in online media that prevailed in the media field and that are used, especially by the younger generation, more often and are in fact easier to handle and use.

Electronic and online media that are followed through mobile smartphone are easier to handle and use and the possibility of having an impact on the public is more efficient; media programs are being censured by local or cantonal governing official authorities and media houses may accordingly consequently become subject to outer impact and dependence. On the other hand, there are private/commercial media houses whose work is based on service principle; the amount of money provided would normally determine the amount of information provided in return. Ownership structure in this segment, as well as in online media, has not been transparent which would again open room for further manipulations, enabling thus different violation of codes and laws regulation in the media field.

Passing laws and regulation of transparency of ownership in media is necessary and required because it would not just formally define an array this particular segment of media space, instead it would open the possibility for different models of financing, providing thus the public with an opportunity to, along with getting familiar with ownership structure, become aware of creators and information sources, including media messages. Naturally, media ownership should accordingly define the users (consumers) and the impact imposed on them. Media ownership regulating is also significant for research and survey, regarding the role and media impact n our country.

This text is a part of E-Bulletin– fourth edition of special serial of BHN online bulletin implemented through the “Media and Public Reputation” (origin. “Mediji i javni ugled”) project, also representing a contribution to public debate regarding the transparency of media ownership and upholding and encouraging the passing of set of laws aimed to advance media field and information market in BiH.

Velida Kulenović, BHN Bulletin E-journalist, Sarajevo, 05/03/2018