The Intersectoral Group on Freedom of Expression and Media of the National Convention on the European Union calls for the postponement of the public tender for the allocation of national television and radio frequencies, announced by the Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (REM) on 15 April, until amendments to the Law on Electronic Media are adopted and new REM composition is selected.
We emphasize the fact that the Action Plan for the Implementation of the Strategy for the Development of the Public Information System in the Republic of Serbia 2020-2022 envisages that the Law on Electronic Media be amended by the end of June this year regarding the election of REM Council members, and then, after a new competition, the future convocation to be elected. We believe that it is necessary for the competition for the allocation of frequencies to be announced by that new convocation, based on the previously conducted analysis of the media market, which is also the obligation of the Regulator under the Law on Electronic Media. This is a necessary precondition to ensure that national frequencies are allocated in a fair and transparent manner.
Namely, Article 92 of the Law on Electronic Media prescribes that before announcing a public competition , the Regulator obtains data: 1) on the availability of radio frequencies for terrestrial analogue transmission from the Regulatory authority in charge of electronic communications – in relation to radio frequencies where there is no multiplex; and 2) on the availability of places in the multiplex for the needs of terrestrial digital transmission from the multiplex operator – in connection with TV stations where data can be obtained from PE ETV. Furthermore, Article 23 prescribes what the Development Strategy Proposal for radio and audiovisual media services should contain, and mentions not only technical conditions and availability, but also market analysis.
Concerns about the way the procedure is currently being conducted were also expressed by Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) and the Independent Association of Journalists of Serbia (IJAS), which also pointed out the politicization of the current composition of the Regulator. This is supported by the lack of reaction of REM to the disturbing scenes of violence in reality programs broadcast on Happy and Pink televisions, which will certainly compete for the renewal of the national frequency, which the expert public also recently pointed out. This once again shows that REM does not act within its powers and does not sanction the most serious violations of regulations by private televisions close to the authorities, which the NCEU Intersectoral Working Group has been pointing out in its reports for years.
In accordance with above, we urge the competition to be suspended before its expiration on June 20, in order to allocate frequencies in an objectively procedure, which would ensure that the work of existing electronic media is objectively reviewed, and new licenses awarded to media that prove that will do their job professionally and conscientiously, in accordance with the interest of the entire public.