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Media Landscapes

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Written by Tarik Jusić

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Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) has a population of 3.84 million (Agency for Statistics of Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2010), and is located in the so-called Western Balkan region, surrounded by Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro – all of which gained their independence after the bloody dissolution of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia during the 1990s. The population of the country consists of three constituent peoples, Bosniaks (Muslims), Serbs (Orthodox) and Croats (Catholic), and several other minority groups.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a heavily divided society which, even in late 2009, still lives the trauma of the recent war that lasted from 1992 until 1995. The war ended with a complex peace agreement, negotiated in the US military base of Dayton, Ohio, USA (Dayton Peace Agreement - DPA), which introduced territorial divisions and complex power-sharing arrangements to tame the conflict and keep the country together. The country now consists of two entities: The Republic of Srpska, which is administered by the Serbs and covers some 49% of the territory and the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina (FB&H), administered by the Croats and Bosniaks, covering 51% of the territory. The Federation B&H entity consists of 10 cantons,  of which have a Croat majority, four a Bosniak majority, and two are evenly mixed. Additionally, there is also the District of Brcko, which is an independent unit that does not belong to either of the two entities. The Dayton Peace Agreement granted a broad set of powers to the Office of the High Representative for BiH (OHR), which has a mandate to impose laws and intervene in any sphere of the country's political or economic life (including media), in order to ensure the implementation of the peace agreement.

Such a complex political structure, and the slow post-war recovery, has determined the structure and the nature of the media landscape of the country. Between 1995 and the early 2000s, the media development was primarily guided by large international development and cooperation agencies and donors, who have invested significant amounts of money to help reconstruct, diversify, democratize and professionalize media outlets in BiH (Hozić, 2008; Thompson & De Luce, 2002; Kurspahić, 2003; Jusić, 2006).

Consequently, with the international intervention, some important developments have taken place, such as the creation of the independent Communication regulatory Agency, the adoption of a Press Code, the establishment of the Press Council, the decriminalization of label and defamation, the introduction of a rather advanced Freedom of Access to Information Law, and, last but not least, the transformation of the formerly state-owned broadcasters into the Public Service Broadcasting System. Nevertheless, as international intervention weakens, the pressures of local elites are mounting in an effort to scale back, when not completely undermine, these positive developments. Additionally, media and journalists have failed to professionalize, and there is still a high level of partisanship and political parallelism in the media, while the adherence to professional codes of conduct remains at rather low levels (see IREX, 2009).

According to the Press Council of BiH, there are 11 daily newspapers, 100 different types of magazines, 71 specialized magazines, and eight religious magazines in the country (BH Press Council, 2010a). All daily newspapers are privately owned.

 In general, the print media market is highly underdeveloped. As a consequence, it is difficult to get any reliable data on the circulation of the country's main newspapers and magazines, since these outlets don’t publish any circulation data, and there is no independent circulation bureau that collects such information (IREX, 2009). In general, circulation data are considered a business secret and are hard to get. The only available information is provided by independent market research agencies that collect readership data through surveys.

According to the data for 2006, provided by the GfK BiH market research agency, the daily paper Dnevni avaz is read by 36% of adults (older than 15 years of age), followed by Blic (10%), Glas Srpske, Večernje novosti and Večernji list (each with 4%). Daily newspapers are read by 74% of males and 63% of females. Approximately one third of population does not read newspaper at all (GfK BiH, 2006a).

Figure 1: Major daily newspapers in BiH and their advertising revenues in the month of January 2007

Daily

TOTAL (KM)

SHARE %

Dnevni avaz

418 318.38

34.00

Dnevni list

296 914.00

24.13

Oslobodjenje

206 090.00

16.75

Nezavisne novine

156 583.00

12.72

Glas Srpske

109 780.00

8.92

Vecernji list

42 832.00

3.48

TOTAL

1 230 517.30

100.00

Source: Mareco Index Bosnia, 2006; published in Hozić, 2008:157.

Note: Advertising revenues are given in local currency Convertible Mark (KM). Exchange rate for EUR 1 = KM 1.95

Ethnicity plays an important role in reading patterns, so that newspapers based in one region of the country where an ethnic group is predominant, are not read in other parts of the country or by other ethnic groups. For example, while Dnevni avaz is published in Sarajevo, FBiH, and is primarily read by Bosniak population, Nezavisne novine from the city of Banja Luka, Republika Srpska, is read primarily by the Serb population. The same applies for all daily papers that target primarily the Croat population in BiH, such as Večernji list and Jutarnji list (GfK BiH, 2006a).

The rapid commercialization of media is particularly visible in magazines, where women’s magazines from Croatia and Bosnia – Azra and Gloria – have taken lead, in front of serious political magazines, such as Dani and Slobodna Bosna.

Table 5: Reading rates of magazines 

Magazines

Reading rates (%)

Azra (women’s magazine)

14.7

Gloria (Croatian women’s magazine)

12.5

Dani (political magazine)

9.4

Slobodna Bosna (political magazine)

7.2

Express (weekly tabloid)

5.3

 Source: IREX, Media Sustainability Index 2005; published in Hozić, 2008:158.

There are currently four radio channels operating within the Public Service Broadcasting System: BHRadio 1at a state level (part of the Public Broadcasting Service of BiH – BHRT), Radio FBiH and Radio 202 at a Federation of BiH entity level (part of Radio-Television of the Federation of BiH – RTVFBiH), and Radio Republika Srpska at a Republika Srpska entity level (part of Radio-Television of Republika Srpska – RTRS) (Communications Regulatory Agency, 2009).

Additionally, there are 144 radio stations active in the market. Out of the 144 stations, 65 are public and 79 are privately financed (ibid.). The total revenues within radio market reached EUR 15,000,000 in 2006. Around 60 percent of revenues comes from advertising, followed by public funding and programs sales. All indicators show that the radio market is highly fragmented: 60 percent of the market's revenues is distributed amongst more than 130 stations, while 40 percent is shared by the 10 leading radio stations. Not a single radio station makes more than 15 percent of the revenues (AGCOM & CRA, 2008). The following Figure 1 shows the distribution of the total market revenues among the three types of radio stations: Public Service Broadcasters, private and public stations.

Figure 1: Distribution of total revenues of the radio market in 2006

 

Source: CRA Survey, 2007, quoted in AGCOM & CRA, 2008: 141

According to the CRA report, the radio market often has cases with strong vertical integration with TV stations, cable operators, internet providers, and even marketing agencies. A number of radio stations are directly owned by municipal or cantonal governments, without much connection to other communications industry sectors (AGCOM & CRA, 2008: 145). Hence, public financing remains the primary source of income for a significant number of public radio stations owned by municipal and cantonal governments (see Table 2).

Table 2:  Public financing as percentage of income of public radio stations 

Quota for public financing

No. of radio stations

> 50%

20

30% - 50%

12

< 30%

8

Source: CRA Survey, July 2006; quoted in AGCOM & CRA, 2008: 143

According to the data provided by GfK BH national survey for 2006 (GfK BiH, 2006b), some 22% respondents never listen to radio. Since the largest number of radio stations is of local character, some 48% of the national survey respondents primarily listen to different small local radio stations, which have less than 2% ratings each. According to this survey, 15% of respondents listen to Radio BN which has the best ratings in the country, followed by BH Radio 1 with 13%, and Radio Big 1 with 10%.

There are three TV stations/channels operating within the Public Service Broadcasting system in BiH: BHT1at a state level (part of Public Broadcasting Service of BiH – BHRT), FTV at the level of the Federation BiH entity (part of Radio-Television of Federation of BiH – RTVFBiH), and RTRS at the level of the Republika Srpska entity (part of Radio-Television of Republika Srpska – RTRS) (Communications Regulatory Agency, 2009a). Additionally, there are 45 registered TV stations at local, regional, entity and state levels.

Out of that number, 30 are private and 15 are public TV stations (Communications Regulatory Agency, 2009b). Apart from the three stations operating within the Public Service Broadcasting system, two more can be seen in most of the country: OBN and PINK are the stations received by more than 2 million viewers in approximately 100 municipalities across the country. These two are followed by seven “medium size” TV stations that cover up to 50 municipalities and reach between 500.000 and 1.000.000 viewers. Most of the rest have a coverage area of less than 500,000 inhabitants in less than 16 municipalities, while a dozen TV stations have very limited coverage, between 1.500 and 80.000 viewers (AGCOM & CRA, 2008: 110-111).

According to the latest available data for 2006, overall TV revenues were around 60.000.000 EUR, compared to 40.000.000 EUR in 2003. Advertising, with 45 percent, is the most important source of income, followed by RTV tax (monthly public service subscription), which amounts to 33 percent of the total market revenues, and is the exclusive income of Public Service Broadcasting system. Additionally, public financing is a significant and rather stable source of revenues for the broadcasting system, with approximately 4% (AGCOM & CRA, 2008: 111-113). Certainly, the most important characteristic of the TV market is a steady and rather significant growth of total revenues across the years, especially from advertising and public service subscription (see Figure 2).  

Figure 2: Total revenues of the terrestrial TV market in BiH by source

Source: RAK survey 2007; published in AGCOM & CRA, 2008: 113.

NOTE: All amounts in this graph are provided in the local currency “Convertible Mark” (KM). Standard exchange rate is EUR 1 = KM 1.95.

Overall, Public Service Broadcasting stations received more than 65 percent of the market revenue in 2006, while 20 percent was earned by three largest private broadcasters (NTV Hayat, Pink BH, and OBN). The rest of the smaller local and regional stations have to be satisfied with the remaining 15 percent of revenues (see Figure 3) (AGCOM & CRA, 2008: 119).

 Figure 3: TV market shares in 2006

Source: RAK survey 2007; quoted in AGCOM & CRA, 2008: 120

Although Public Service Broadcasters are still attracting the largest portion of market revenues, their audience shares are steadily decreasing. With the strengthening of the several larger commercial stations, and a significant penetration of the BiH market by neighbouring states’ broadcasters (from Croatia and Serbia), Public Service Broadcasters are slowly but steadily loosing their audience to competition (see Table 3).

Table 3: TV audience share (2002-2004)

TV stations

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

Public broadcasters

(BHT, FTV, RTRS)

37.9

33.5

31.8

24.8

23.7

Commercial TV networks

42.6

45.0

48.9

40.6

40.3

Foreign TV networks (Serbia, Croatia)

14.3

16.3

14.6

30.8

33.3

Other satellite TV

5.2

5.2

4.7

3.8

2.7

Source: Mareco Index Bosnia, 2006, published in Hozić, 2008: 154

The development of commercial market is visible clearly in Table 4, where one can follow the rapid decline of public broadcasters and the rise of commercial TV networks since 2002.

Table 4: Top TV Stations in BiH – Audience Shares 2002-2006

 

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

1

FTV

30.1

FTV

26.9

FTV

23.8

FTV

13.7

PINKBIH

12.5

2

RTRS

7.3

OBN

6.9

PINKBIH

10.4

PINKBIH

11.6

FTV

11.8

3

OBN

5.8

RTRS

6.5

OBN

7.7

TVBN

6.1

BHT

7

4

HAYAT

5.5

HAYAT

6.2

HAYAT

6.6

BHT

6

OBN

6.4

5

TVTK

3.9

TVBN

4.2

RTRS

5.2

OBN

5.3

TVBN

5.6

Source: Mareco Index Bosnia, 2006, published in Hozić, 2008: 155

In 2008, there were 51 companies licensed for cable TV programming distribution in BiH. CRA regulates the distribution of television programmes over cable network and issues licences to cable operators.  In 2006, there were 210.000 TV households with access to cable networks, of which some 150.000 – around 15% of the total number of TV households - actually subscribed to cable TV services (AGCOM & CRA, 2008, 147). The cable TV market in the country is rapidly growing, from 3.3 million EUR in 2003 up to 10 million EUR by the end of 2006 (AGCOM & CRA, 2008: 155).

According to the AGCOM & CRA 2008 report, “consumption of satellite television in Bosnia Herzegovina is remarkable” since nearly half of the 1.110.000 TV households are equipped to receive satellite programs (AGCOM & CRA, 2008: 158).

As stated in the AGCOM & CRA report from 2008, “the concentration indicators confirm a fragmented scenario“ without any single company dominating the TV market (AGCOM & CRA, 2008: 121). This is also clearly visible from Table 3 and Table 4, which demonstrate a high level of market sharing dynamics, with new TV stations entering the market, and with the rapid erosion of the market position held so far by PBS and other consolidated TV networks (AGCOM & CRA, 2008: 121). In terms of ownership, no single owner, except the government, owns directly more than one TV network (AGCOM & CRA, 2008: 124).

First film screening in BiH was organized on July 27, 1897, but a real institutional development of the film industry started only after World War II. Until today 120 feature films and hundreds of documentaries and short films were produced in the country (Udruzenje filmskih radnika Bosne i Hercegovine, 2008a). Some 20 feature films have been produced during the last decade, most of which were co-productions (Udruzenje filmskih radnika Bosne i Hercegovine, 2008b).

There are 50 cinema theatres with 7.409 film screenings in 2008 in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Out of that number, 503 were screenings of locally produced or co-produced films, while 6.906 were foreign movies. The total number of visitors dropped significantly, from 643.009 in 2003 to 236.517 in 2008 (Agency of Statistics of Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2009: 18).

Figure 4: Domestic vs. Foreign Film screening in cinema in BiH 2003-2008

NOTE: Until 2008, the data on projections of domestic films in Republika Srpska entity refers to the films produced in any of the countries of former Yugoslavia. As of 2008, the data on domestic films only refers to films produced in BiH or co-produced by BiH and other countries.

 Source: Agency of Statistics of Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2009: 18.

During the 1990s, the film industry in BiH went through a deep crisis, due to the war that devastated the country. It is only in late 2002 that the “Fund for Cinematography” was established in Sarajevo, and has by now become the most important source of funding for film productions, and the only fund of that kind active in BiH today. The Fund for Cinematography provides funding for documentaries, short films, feature films, and distribution, and it also supports other institutions, such as the Association of Film Workers of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Fund for Cinematography is established and financed by the Ministry of Culture and Sport of the Government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina entity.

A very important role is played by the annual Sarajevo Film Festival, established in 1995, which has become one of the main regional film festivals, and an important engine for the promotion of BiH’s film industry, putting special emphases on co-productions through its CineLink project.  

According to the AGCOM & CRA 2008 report, ”the Decision on the telecommunication sector policy of Bosnia and Herzegovina, issued by the Council of Ministers on 28 March 2002, provides a time schedule for the gradual liberalisation of telecom services.” (AGCOM & CRA, 2008: 179)

Up until 2006, there ware three licenced fixed telecommunication operators:

  • BH Telecom, Sarajevo, covering 51percent of the population of BiH and most of the territory of the Federation of BiH;
  • Telekom Srpske, Banja Luka, covering 34 percent of the population of BiH, mainly in the territory of Republica Srpska;
  • HT Mostar, covering 16 percent of the population of BiH, mainly in the Federation of BiH

Although the three operators have a licence for national voice services for the whole territory of BiH, they still maintain and ”enjoy de facto monopolies of fixed network operations in their respective operating areas.”(AGCOM & CRA, 2008: 180) In accordance with the planned liberalization of telecommunications market, since 2006 “the licence for fixed public telephony services...also includes provisions for offering the international services. (...)

Cost effective technology based on the Internet protocol (IP) can be used for voiced services, by usage of lieased, owned or combined infrastructure.“(AGCOM & CRA, 2008: 181). Thanks to the liberalization process, since 2007 there is a number of new players entering the fixed telephony market and undermining the monopoly position of the three dominant telecom operators (Communications Regulatory Agency, 2009c). There were 1.022.475 subscribers to fixed telephony services in 2007, in comparison to 849.027 subsribers in 2001 (AGCOM & CRA, 2008: 189).

Figure 5: Penetration of fixed telephony in BiH

Source: AGCOM & CRA, 2008: 190.

The mobile telephony sector features high competition among the three existing operators, since they operate GSM digital networks across the country. The three operators are:

  • BH Telecom, Sarajevo (brand name BHMOBILE)
  • Telekom Srpske, Banja Luka (brand name MTEL)
  • HT Mostar (brand name HT ERONET) (AGCOM & CRA, 2008: 182)

Mobile networks cover 99% of the population (Communications Regulatory Agency, 2008). There were in total 2.450.425 subscribes to mobile phone services in BiH in 2007, which was almost double the number of subscribers in 2004 (see Figure 6, below), which means that the level of penetration (number of subscribers per 100 inhabitants) of mobile telephony was 63.29 percent (see Figure 7, below) (AGCOM & CRA, 2008: 192).

Figure 6: Number of mobile subscribers in BiH 2004-2007

Source: AGCOM & CRA, 2008: 192

Figure 7: Mobile penetration (Number of subscribers in mobile telephony in BH per 100 inhabitants) 2004-2007

Source: AGCOM & CRA, 2008: 193

There still is a strong resistance to the privatization of state-owned telecom operators, so that two out of three operators are still owned mainly by the state: 90% of BH Telekom and 50.103 percent of HT Mostar is owned by the Federation of BiH. It is only in the case of Telekom Srpska, that the privatization process was undertaken, and 65 percent of the stake was sold to Telekom Srbija (AGCOM & CRA, 2008: 186).

In 2008 the total revenue of all telecommunication services in BiH was KM 1.356.821.589,00 (EUR 693.742.503,00). Out of that amount, mobile telephony revenue was KM 649.206.368,00 (EUR 331.939.036,00), while fixed telephone services generated KM 503.880.688,00 (EUR 257.634.056,00) (Communications Regulatory Agency, 2008).

The telecommunications market is regulated by the Communications Regulatory Agency, which also regulates broadcasting and Internet sectors.

There is a rapid increase in the number of Internet users in BiH, from 585.000 in 2004 up to 1.055.000 in 2007 (AGCOM & CRA, 2008: 193). The Internet penetration data show rapid expansion in Internet use in BiH since 2002, when it was only 4 percent, up to 35 percent in 2009 (AGCOM & CRA, 2008: 194; GfK, 2009b) (see Figure 8) .

Figure 8: Penetration of Internet users in BiH, 2002-2009

Source: AGCOM & CRA, 2008: 194; GfK BiH, 2009b.

Highest percentage of Internet users is among the younger population, especially those between 15 and 24 years of age, out of which three quarters, or 85 percent, use the Internet, followed by employed people, out of whom some 50 percent use the Internet. Approximately half of the total number of users accesses the Internet every day, while more than 20 percent user accesses Internet through Internet cafés (GfK BiH, 2009b). The majority of users still use the dial-up connection via analogue modem or ISDN, while leading broadband access is by ADSL and cable. The number of broadband subscribers is rapidly increasing, reaching 31 percent of the total number of Internet users in 2007 (AGCOM & CRA, 2008: 194).

All major daily newspapers, weekly magazines and radio and TV stations have developed their web sites. Nevertheless, only a handful has made any substantial effort towards Web 2.0 type of portals and websites, while the majority of media outlets have rather modest web operations.

In most of the cases, media outlets don’t have special web editorial teams, and their websites are just republishing what is already published in the print-versions of papers and magazines, or news bulletins for radio and TV stations. Significant advancements in this respect have been made recently by the daily newspaper Dnevni avaz, whose website rapidly developed, and now takes the 14th position on the Alexa.com’s list of The top 100 sites in Bosnia and Herzegovina, followed by Radio Sarajevo's web portal on 39th position, and Oslobodjenje daily newspaper's site on 78th position. Interestingly enough, the country’s most visited news web portal is Sarajevo-x.com – an independent web portal not linked to any media outlet, occupying the 7th position on Alexa.com’s list, and hosting a large community of users of its blogging and forum services (Alexa.com, 2010).  

Internet-based TV and IPTV services in BiH are still in their infancy – there are some new and ambitious initiatives, such as the web portal Depo.ba, while BH Telecom has started a pilot project, offering IPTV service to its ADSL subscribers.

BiH significantly lags behind the rest of Europe when it comes to introducing Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) (AGCOM & CRA, 2008, 54). A DTT Forum has been established in 2007 to draft the Strategy on the digital switch-over and steer the switch-over process. The Strategy on the digital switch-over was adopted in June 2009 by the Council of Ministers of BiH (DTT Forum, 2009).

According to the Press Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina, there are six news agencies active in BiH (BH Press Council, 2010b). There are two state-owned news agencies: the Federal News Agency (FENA) established by the Government of the Federation of BiH in 2000, and the News Agency of Republika Srpska (SRNA), owned by the Republika Srpska Government. The most important private news agency is ONASA.

There are in total six journalist associations in BiH. Nevertheless, most of these are inactive and rarely speak on behalf their members or other journalists. Most of these associations reflect the ethnic divisions of the country and rarely cooperate (IREX, 2009). An exception to this is the association BH novinari (BiH Journalists), which is rather active, and often is the only voice that publicly reacts on behalf of journalists.  

The Association of Independent Electronic Media and the Association of Private Radio and Television Stations in B&H represent broadcasters (IREX, 2009). Together, they have established an Association of Media Industry (UMI), consisting of major advertising agencies and broadcasters, whose aim is to provide the most relevant and valid data on TV ratings. As a result, an electronic measurement by people-metres has been introduced successfully several years ago – a development that would be impossible without UMI.

The Association of Graphic, Publishing, and Media Employees in BiH represent the print media and printing houses (IREX, 2009).

Rapid development of the media sector after the mid-1990s resulted in the proliferation of a number of independent production companies. Today, at least 30 independent productions are active in BiH, producing TV programs, documentaries, short films and feature films (Udruzenje filmskih radnika Bosne i Hercegovine, 2010c). Among the most important ones are Refresh, Pro.ba, Flash Production, F.I.S.T. Production, and Deblokada

Freedom of expression and freedom of the media are guaranteed by the Constitution, the European Convention on Human Rights, Law on Protection from Defamation (Official Gazette RS No. 37/01, Official Gazette FBiH No. 31/01) which decriminalizes label and defamation, and the Law on Communications (Official Gazette BiH No. 33/02, 12 November 2002), which is the general legal framework for the broadcasting and telecommunications industry, and which establishes the Communications Regulatory Agency (CRA) as the independent state agency that regulates broadcasting and telecommunication sectors.

In general, no laws limit the citizens' access to the media or prevent the establishment of new media, except when there are no available broadcasting frequencies. Additionally, there are no formal barriers that would undermine the media's capacity to present different opinions and acting as the watchdog of the government (Jusić, 2006: 290).

Media concentration and media ownership regulatory provisions are the part of the Law on Communications. Rule on Media Concentration and Cross-ownership over electronic and print media (Rule No. 21/2003), adopted by CRA in late 2003, is an integral part of the BiH Law on Communications, offering clear criteria for the prevention of concentration of ownership in the media market. Additional rules regarding the market concentration and competition are provided within the Law on Competition in BiH (Jusić, 2006: 281-281).

BiH has a rather advanced Law on Freedom of Access to Information that grants public access to all information held by public institutions and the government. Only exceptions relate to the cases when specific information may have a particularly negative effect on areas such as, for example, defence, public security, monetary policy, or privacy of third-parties (Articles 6, 7 and 8, Law on Freedom of Access to Information in BiH).

 The Public Broadcasting Service System of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Official Gazette of Bosnia and Herzegovina, no. 78/05.) consists of three broadcasters, each regulated by separate laws:

Additionally, the Law on the Public Broadcasting System in BiH (Official Gazette BiH No. 78/05) regulates the overall functioning of the system and the relations between its components (AGCOM & CRA, 2008: 80).

The editorial policy and content of print media in BiH is not subject to any form of regulation, but is guided by ethical and professional principles embedded in the Press Code, a key self-regulatory instrument.

The Press Council is an independent, non-governmental, non-political self-regulatory body established by all of the associations of journalists in BiH. The key task of the Press Council is to try to resolve disputes between the press and its readers through journalistic tools, such as the right to response, correction, apology and rebuttal. The Press Council cannot impose any form of sanctions on the press.

In general, the Broadcasting Code of Conduct is one of the key rules of the Communications Regulatory Agency, and provides programming standards for broadcasting, requiring radio and TV stations to “demonstrate impartiality in their reporting, professionalism and equal representation of all social groups and different positions and opinions, with no discrimination on any grounds.“ (Jusić, 2006: 292) Similar standards are also prescribed for Public Service Broadcasters by their respective laws. 

Rules on Media Presentation of Political Subjects in the Election Period, adopted by the BiH Election Commission in 2005, in compliance with the BiH Election Law (Official Gazette BiH No. 23/2001) define principles for the coverage of electoral campaigns by broadcasters, requiring radio and TV stations to provide factual, complete, honest, fair and impartial information, and to treat political competitors equally and impartially (Jusić, 2006: 291).

The broadcasting and telecommunications sector is regulated by the Communications Regulatory Agency (CRA), which is established by the Law on Communications of BiH. The CRA operates as an independent agency. Its tasks include the regulation of radio and TV broadcasting and telecommunications networks; licensing; radio frequency spectrum allocation, and developing and enforcing rules and regulations within the communications market.

Independency of the CRA is guaranteed by the Law on Communications, which prevents Council of Ministers, individual ministers, or any other person to influence the decision making process of the CRA in individual cases (BiH Law on Communications, Article 36).

The Law on Financing of Institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Official Gazette BiH, 29 December 2004) provides for the financial independence of the Agency (Jusić, 2006: 178). Additionally, Article 40 of the Law on Communications of BiH states that state officials on all levels of government, members of political party bodies, and those linked to telecommunications operators or electronic media, cannot be nominated for the position of Director General of the CRA (Jusić, 2006: 179).

There are five journalism departments at public universities in Sarajevo, Banja Luka, Mostar, and Tuzla, and at the private College of Communication in Banja Luka. Nevertheless, it is generally considered that the level of education in journalism that these departments offer is rather poor and does not satisfy the needs of the industry (IREX, 2009).

As an alternative, there are a handful of shorter-term training programs and a number of workshops and seminars regularly being offered by independent media centres and different NGOs, such as Mediacentar Sarajevo, Media plan, and the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN).

When it comes to education of journalists, the problem is that media outlets normally do not have budgets for journalism training and staff development. Hence, the independent training sector primarily depends on foreign donors' funding. Another problem is that media outlets, due to their limited human resources, often cannot afford to send their staff to training programs (IREX, 2009). As a consequence, the overall level of journalistic skills is rather low.

General data on media sector in BiH can be obtained from official statistics bureaus: Agency for Statistics of Bosnia and Herzegovina; Federal Office of Statistics; and Republika Srpska Institute of Statistics.

Communications Regulatory Agency (CRA) is the most important source of information on broadcasting, telecommunication and Internet sectors.

Press Council provides some information on print media sector.

Mediacentar Sarajevo regularly publishes analysis, research reports and other publications on different aspects of the development of the media sector in BiH. Similarly, information can also be found on the web site of the Media Plan Institute. The online magazine Puls demokratije (Puls of Democracy) also publishes analysis of the media and communication sector in the country. Additional reports can be found on the web site of the Association BH Journalists (BH Novinari).

Relevant information on the development of the media sector in BiH can be obtained from IREX Media Sustainability Index reports.

Several commercial market research agencies offer data on the media sector, such as GfK BiH, Prism Research, and Mareco Index Bosnia.

The media sector in Bosnia and Herzegovina has been rather dynamic in the last several years, and there are several important development trends that can be pointed out.

Firstly, the media market remains poor and fragmented, with a large number of small broadcasters. There remains a high level of political parallelism (Hallin & Mancini, 2004) in the media sphere – media coverage closely reflects distribution of power and still deep ethnic divisions cemented by the recent war. This is further exacerbated by the fact that various governments, at local, regional, cantonal and entity levels, directly own almost a third of all local and regional broadcasters, and have successfully resisted all calls to relinquish their influence over the media and finally privatize state-owned broadcasters.  

Secondly, the level of professionalism and the quality of journalism remains weak, with spread self-censorship, low reporting quality, lack of investigative journalism, and disrespect for basic standards as defined in the Press Code (IREX, 2009). A rapid commercialization of broadcasting was coupled with a de-politicization of commercial media outlets, especially large TV networks. This has resulted in an abundance of entertainment programming that targets the whole population of the country, disregarding ethnic, cultural and political differences, but has done little to change the overall political atmosphere. As Aida Hozic nicely put it, “De-politicization of commercial media in Bosnia may have succeeded, and may constitute a progress in comparison with inflammatory wartime propaganda. However, just as elsewhere in the world (…) de-politicization of media and the shift towards entertainment have also helped maintain a political status-quo (…).” (Hozic, 2008: 160). Hence, and somewhat paradoxically, de-politicization plays hand in hand with political parallelism. 

The third important process that is taking place since the last decade is the reform of the former state-controlled broadcasters into the Public Service Broadcasters, within the Public Service Broadcasting System of BiH. Nevertheless, this process has been rather slow and ineffective – in spite of a decade of intensive reforms and millions spent, the country still does not have a functional Public Service Broadcasting System. Three public broadcasters – BHRT, RTVFBiH, and RTRS – more often than not act like fierce competitors and not as a part of one functional system. This is a consequence of the irreconcilable ethno-nationalist politics which continue to struggle for the control over public broadcasters, and have different positions towards the role and the future of Public Service Broadcasting System in BiH (see for example Babić, 2009; Kontić, 2006; Kukić, 2008, Jusić & Džihana, 2008).

Fourthly, during the last two to three years, there was an increase in serious attacks on journalists and media outlets across the country. IREX Media Sustainability Index 2009 has registered a steady deterioration of media freedoms and in the conditions in which journalists operate in BiH. The pressure on journalists and media outlets is mounting, and even the Communications Regulatory Agency has not been immune to those negative trends. The agency has been increasingly exposed to pressures from the Council of Ministers and the Prime Minister, who has blocked the appointment of the Director General of the CRA (see IREX, 2009; Halilović, 2008).

Finally, thanks to the efforts of the Communications Regulatory Agency, the DTT Forum is established and the Strategy on the digital switch-over was adopted in 2009 by the Council of Ministers of BiH (DTT Forum, 2009). Nevertheless, up until now the switch-over process did not start, and the country is far behind in the introduction of Digital Terrestrial TV in comparison to its neighbours, let alone EU countries.

All in all, as foreign intervention into media system is wearing out, the reform processes are slowing down, and there seems to be little or no local capacity to push the reforms forward and to resist the mounting political pressures on the media. The media and the public sphere of the country remain as weak and fragmented as ever.

Tarik Jusic, PhD
Program Director
Mediacentar Sarajevo
Kolodvorska 3, 71000 Sarajevo
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Phone: +38733715840
Fax: +38733715850
Email:tarik@media.ba
Website