BIRN Launches Media Ownership Monitor in Montenegro

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Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Montenegro on Friday presented a register of media owners in Montenegro compiled through a regional project of monitoring media ownership done in collaboration with the Global Media Registry, GMR.

Photo: BIRN Montenegro

It is available here.

Montenegro is one of the few countries that lacks publicly available basic information about its media market. This information is crucial for objectively assessing the size of the media market and determining who holds a key share in it.

Currently, no state authority, independent regulator or independent institution has data on the size of the media market, especially the advertising market, which is essential for planning the further development of the media community in Montenegro.

There is no independent and objective institution or organization measuring the audience, readership or listenership of media in any format. While some telecommunications operators measure the viewership of certain television programs, these data are not publicly available, are owned by companies, are based on samples exclusive to those companies, are not publicly validated and cannot be considered entirely independent and objective.

There is no publicly available unified metric for online media, forcing citizens to use various internet tools that do not guarantee the accuracy or credibility of the obtained data. Radio stations and newspapers lack any measurement of listenership and readership.

On the other hand, Montenegro is a country with significant foreign ownership of domestic media. Most key media in the country are majority or entirely owned by foreign owners. Simultaneously, the media market in Montenegro is highly exposed to media from neighbouring countries, due to a shared or similar linguistic area. This situation raises significant concerns.

However, media in Montenegro in audio-visual formats (television and radio stations) are under the jurisdiction of the regulator, the Agency for Electronic Media, and so must adhere to all laws and rules applicable in Montenegro, regardless of the owner’s origin.

In this unregulated media market, Montenegro has many media outlets in various formats, with internet portals dominating in terms of quantity. Although there are over 180 registered media outlets in the country, the media themselves often emphasize that survival in the market is impossible without significant state support, even for the largest media. All of this raises concerns that the number of media outlets in Montenegro is disproportionate to what the market can sustain. On the other hand, it is unquestionable that citizens of Montenegro must have access to diverse and pluralistic media content.

Research data indicate that, concerning several media owners in Montenegro, because basic public data is unavailable, it is difficult to assess whether they are the actual owners, or if someone is using them to conceal their real ownership.

The risk indicators compiled through the research on media ownership and the market show that the overall media scene in Montenegro requires serious reforms. The collected data and conclusions from the research can serve as a foundation for changes in media legislation and policies that the European Union, in its latest progress report on Montenegro, has called for.