A research team, led by IViR’s Kristina Irion, has been tasked with an assessment of the independence of the Serbian media regulatory authority REM. Media regulator’s independence shall ensure impartial implementation and enforcement of the laws applying to radio and audiovisual media that respects media freedoms in line with European standards. An independent and effective supervisory authority should withstand political and economic influence as well as deliver good regulation to the benefit of media organisations, citizens and democracy in the country. Funded by the Council of Europe’s media division the study applied and interpreted the INDIREG methodology in relation to REM.
The study concludes that REM, seated in Belgrade, is caught and operates in a challenging context: media markets in Serbia are highly saturated and government grants are awarded to selective private media. There is low upfront compliance with programme and advertisements rules as well as an overall squeeze on quality content and the accountability function of the media. Lacking the optimal support of the government, REM in this situation appears to retreat to overly formalistic (law-abiding) activities without necessarily being effective in regulating the Serbian electronic and audiovisual media. Many stakeholders from the media sector do not perceive of REM as an authority pointing to a lack of enforcement or the deflection of responsibility which has undermined its public credibility. The study concludes with a set of recommendation how to address these challenges.