Transparent, effective and accountable spending of public finances in media sector

Posted on
Serbia
Jun 2014 - Februar 2015

BIRN Serbia – past programme

Most of public funds that reach Serbia’s media are distributed arbitrarily and in a nontransparent manner, without clear and measurable criteria, public procedures, or controls. The most prominent forms of state intervention in the media sector are instrumental in translating financial power of state bodies and organizations into political influence on media content. They effectively function as indirect, soft censorship. Due to a poorly regulated media system, full knowledge of the manner and extent of state funding to various media outlets is unknown to the public. There are no reliable data on either the total amount of public money spent in the media industry, the sources and forms of funding, the purpose of such public spending, or its impact.

Summary

In 2012, BIRN made a pioneer attempt to shed some light and put under public eye practices f budgetary spending in media sector. BIRNs research, conducted on the sample of 33 cities and municipalities in Serbia, demonstrated that almost 80% of all public funds at the local level are allocated to the state owned media outlets. The same research also demonstrated that key condition to receive the funds is to report about activities of local self-governments and local public enterprises.

Being in line with the latest developments in the Serbian media sector and recognizing the importance of implementation of Media Strategy and consequent action plans, BIRN is proposing this project particularly focusing on the aspect of state funding of the media.

The proposed project will provide in-depth look into the current practice of the media project financing and propose ways for its improvement, as the sustainable financing is important precondition for media freedoms and media development.

NUNS (Independent Association of Journalists of Serbia) and CUPS (Centre for Advancement of Legal Studies).

Information Sheet

Main Objective:
 
  • Overall goal of this project is to contribute to more transparent, accountable and uniform spending of budgetary money for media and public informing.

Specific Objectives:

 
With Serbia lacking consolidated and open data on budgetary spending in media sector, specific goal of this project is to gather (using the FOI law), analyse and publish relevant data mapping mechanisms of budgetary spending directed toward media outlets in 2012 and 2013.
Based on research, set of recommendations how to improve budgetary financing of media will be composed and advocated toward national and local governments.

Main Activities:

 
  • Conduct research on current practice of media financing through: 1) documentary research od administrative practices, rules, legal regulations and procedures, 2) tracking budgetary spending toward media in local self-governments, Ministries and public enterprises, using competencies of Law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance
  • Production of the Analysis on budgetary financing practice and recommendations for the future reference.
  • Promotion and dissemination of the Analysis: electronic version of the Analysis will be disseminated among relevant public national and local institutions, media outlets, CSOs and international institutions. Besides, the Analysis will be presented on series of meetings BIRN will organize with relevant stakeholders.
  • In cooperation with NUNS and CUPS, BIRN will present Analysis on three round tables, which NUNS will organize in Belgrade, Sombor and Vranje

Target Groups:

 
  • Public administration / Ministries, local self-governments, public enterprises;
  • media, journalists, media organizations;
  • broader public.