Five years after the mass dismissal of news editors and journalists, Vojvodina’s main television station, Radio and Television of Vojvodina (RTV), once recognized by its quality programme and top-notch reporters, has been pushed to the margins of the media scene in Serbia and has been generating huge financial losses.
In the April 2016 elections, after winning a majority in the provincial parliament, the new ruling party SNS also wanted seats on the board of directors of the RTV. Within a few days, several directors and managers of the provincial public broadcaster were replaced, without explanation. The first victim of the purge was the then director Slobodan Arežina.
“I first heard about this by watching the news on TV when I came home; I knew something would happen, however, RTV’s programme and my work should not have been criticized that harshly,” Arežina said. “It is a pity because we lost a generation of great directors, cameramen, journalists and editors, who were very creative and professional,” he added.
The Support RTV movement (‘Podrži RTV’) held protests for months in front of the building housing the RTV to no avail. The new management also ignored the court ruling that the change in management went against the law and turned a blind eye to the protests.
“I will remember until the rest of my life seeing young people, who were not politically colour but believed in their profession, defending their jobs for months in the streets of Novi Sad, supported by the citizens,” says a member of the board of the Independent Association of Journalists of Vojvodina, Darko Šper.
After several dismissals and a political reshuffle, some journalists resigned. In the meantime, the provincial broadcaster has moved to a new building worth EUR 27 million but lost its share of the audience.
“Back in the day, there were programmes that had an audience of 50,000, now they have an audience of 5,000 or 6,000. Some programmes have an audience of barely 1,000 people,” Šper warned.
“Why is this so? Shouldn’t public broadcaster be important to the ruling authorities? Propaganda cannot be conducted if a media outlet doesn’t have a big following,” Arežina added.
Finally, unofficial data show that for the first time in history, the second RTV channel, broadcast in the languages of national minorities, has more viewers than the first channel.
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