Media Regulation

In 2020, Serbia adopted a new legislative Media Strategy (Strategy for Improvement of Public Informing 2020-2025), seeking to offset new wave reforms in the media sector. However, implementation of these measures thus far has been slow and inconsistent.

The 2022 EC Country report on Serbia states that “Implementation of the media strategy experienced increasing delays, affecting even the most important measures such as amending the Law on public information and media and the Law on electronic media”.
Existing media legislation was introduced in 2014 and 2015. This set of media policy comprises three major laws – the Law on Public Information and Media, the Law on Electronic Media, and the Law on Public Broadcasters.

The latter two, Lex Specialis, deal with specific segments of the media sector (electronic media and public broadcasters) while the Law on Public Information is overarching, setting base principles of the media system. These include definitions of the public interest in public broadcasting, editorial independence and prevention of censorship, specific rights and obligations of journalists (Chapter XI of the Law) such as presumption of innocence, prohibition of discrimination, libels, protection of minors, reporting on court cases, etc. 

The same Law also dictates the protection of media pluralism and the ban of monopoly or unlawful concentrations. Articles 45-47 prescribe thresholds for concentration, setting a high bar – horizontal concentration restricts managerial and ownership rights for papers with informative content passing the limit of 50% of annual circulation, while for electronic media ownership and managerial mergers reaching more than 35% of audience shares. The law also combats vertical concentration (Article 46) along the production and distribution chain, forbidding the same legal person to engage in both media publishing and media distribution, while  obligating the second activity to be carried out through an affiliated legal person.

Current media laws have been introduced by the Serbian Progressive Party led Government. After general elections in 2022, a new ministry, The Ministry of Information and Telecommunications, was formed to administer media policy, effectively taking over the media portfolio previously run by the Ministry of Culture and Information. 

This new ministry should, among other responsibilities, monitor levels of concentration in the printed press, while the independent Regulatory Authority (REM) is responsible for measuring concentration levels in the electronic media space (i.e. Radio and Television).
In July 2022, REM awarded the licensing rights to all four national TV frequencies, for a period of eight years, to the same television channels that held these rights in the previous period. This was one of the most controversial decisions made by this body as, during the previous period, all four channels received warnings from REM due to violations of their legal obligations. A call for a fifth license was published in August 2022, but a decision is still pending.

Increased transparency of ownership structures and their affiliated businesses contributes to the prevention of concentration. For that purpose, the Law on Public Information and Media prescribes the establishment of the Media Register, run by the Serbian Business Registers Agency. Although initially foreseen as a positive transparency mechanism, the Register is only partially fulfilling its role as information is often scarce and outdated. Currently, there are more than 2600 media outlets registered within Media Registry, which testifies to the presence of an oversaturated media market.

  • Project by
    Global Media Registry
    Funded by European Union