Sasa Dragojlo and Ivana JeremicBelgradeBIRNDecember 6, 202215:16Two TV channels owned by United Media, which were denied a national broadcasting frequency in Serbia, stopped broadcasting regular programmes and replaced them with the message «Darkness in Serbia without free media».

Serbian TV Stations Halt Broadcasts, Claiming Media Freedom Stifled

The message “Darkness in Serbia without free media” was displayed instead of regular programming on N1. Photo: Screenshot.

United Media-owned N1 and Nova S stopped broadcasting their regular programmes at midnight on Tuesday and since then have been displaying the message “Darkness in Serbia without free media” on a black background.

The outlets posted the same message on their social media accounts without additional information. Their websites have continued to operate normally.

The reasons why they have stopped broadcasting remain unclear. BIRN contacted United Media’s CEO Aleksandra Subotic but received no answer by the time of publication.

Earlier this year, the two television stations participated in a bid to obtain one of four national frequencies in Serbia, but without success.

In a subsequent bid for a fifth frequency, the company decided to pursue just Nova S’s application. However, ​​the November 26 deadline passed without a decision by the regulatory body for electronic media, REM has not set a new deadline yet for reasons unknown.

United Media and the TV stations’ managers have accused REM of obstructing the process and being under the influence of the political parties in power in refusing to assign Nova S a national frequency.

On July 29, the right to national coverage for the next eight years was granted to four television stations that previously held this license – Happy, Prva, B92 and Pink.

All four are believed to be under the direct influence of the parties in power and have a history of violating journalistic standards.

The decision to award them the frequencies was criticised by journalists’ unions and their competitors.

In November, the SBB cable provider, which broadcasts N1 and Nova S, accused the national telecoms company, Telekom, of orchestrating a campaign to get people to switch over to the national network.

Telekom representatives set up stalls in front of SBB offices and counters at municipal administrations and in post offices to urge people to switch from SBB.

Posters were also put up in the streets with the message “It is possible”, telling people they can terminate their contract with SBB and use Telekom’s services for free for up to 18 months.

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