Montenegrin Media needs State Help to provide pluralism

Source: PR Centar

While Montenegrin authorities provide funds for state and local public broadcasters, but also commercial media, country’s commercial and local media warned that state help should be increased to ensure media pluralism.


Montenegrin commercial and local media warned that authorities should increase their media funding to ensure media pluralism in the country. According to media legislation, the Montenegrin government provides at least 17 million € funding to the National Public Broadcaster RTCG and almost one million € for commercial media, through the Media Diversity and Pluralism Fund. At the same time, municipalities provide funding for the local public broadcasters, but the practice shows that spending on media is unevenly distributed since media are at the mercy of local authorities’ determination of how much is necessary for local media. Furthermore, most of the media claim that current state help is insufficient for their financial sustainability.

Media in Montenegro are mainly funded by advertising revenues, the sale of own productions, and other sources, while the state is also providing financial help to produce educational, cultural, human rights, or minority-related content. According to the media legislation, the Montenegrin government finances media through the newly established Media Diversity and Pluralism Fund or through direct budget support to the public broadcasters.

The Montenegrin media market is small and very exposed to the largest regional markets, characterized by the shared languages spoken in Montenegro, Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia Herzegovina. According to the Media Sustainability Index 2019 the estimated total marketing budget in Montenegro is around 11 million €, while the country has more than 150 media. Data on the media market, after the COVID-19 pandemic, which severely impacted media landscape, are not available.

Commercial media claim they cannot earn sufficient funds on the market to ensure pluralism without significant support from the state.

Commercial television, daily, and portal Vijesti CEO Marijana Kadic Bojanic said Montenegro is a particular media market, challenging even for media with the most public trust.

“In Montenegro, advertisers spend only five million € annually on TV commercials. Montenegro has five TVs that share a large part of the marketing intended for TV stations. Can a serious TV station live on a million € of annual income and have professional news and quality entertainment programs? We all know that is impossible”, Kadic Bojanic said.

“Due to the fact that the state has been collapsing the media market for decades and favoring pro-government media, commercial media can hardly survive on the market independently. Therefore, the state must find a way to significantly help credible commercial media”, she added.

In the 2023 progress report, the European Commission warned that the advertising market size is limited because of the relatively small size of Montenegro’s economy.

“This affects the economic sustainability of media outlets, leaving them particularly exposed to political and corporate interests, both from within the country and from abroad… The authorities continued to provide state funding for content of public interest in broadcast, print, and online media”, it was said in the report.

Montenegrin Law on State Aid envisages that the state aid can determine a maximum of 200 thousand euros of support within three years. To help print media, in July 2023 Government decided to pay 1,100 euros monthly to each school in the country, obliging them to buy daily newspapers every day. However, it was not reported as state aid, but as a promotion of media freedom.

In March 2019, Montenegro established the Media Diversity and Pluralism Fund, envisaging 0,09 percent of the current budget for distribution to various media formats. According to the law, the Media Diversity and Pluralism Fund distributes approximately 900 thousand euros annually, giving it to two sub-fonds.

The law envisages that 90 percent is dedicated to media, 5 percent is for financing the self-regulation of media, and the remaining 5 percent is envisaged to cover operational costs for the distribution of funds.

According to the Law, the Agency for Electronic Media and the Ministry of Culture are responsible authorities for distribution of funds: 60 percent of the total amount goes to TVs and radios distributed by the Agency for Electronic Media, while 40 percent goes for print and portals distributed by the Ministry of Culture and Media. The Fund can finance media projects related to issues such as EU integration, cultural diversity, economy, science, education, environment protection, sport, human and national minority rights, the fight against corruption, civil organizations, agriculture, and tourism.

If the media uses Fund donations for a project different than the one it was awarded to, the Fund can order the return of illegally spent funds. According to last year’s report (2022), the Fund distributed a total of 346.853 € to television and radio broadcasters, while the Ministry of Culture and Media funded printed media and news portals with a total of 400 thousand €.

“Fund should be significantly larger but also have clearer rules for financing to reduce the possibility that money is allocated to those who do not work in the public interest or whose reach is not significant. It is important to determine the rules so that taxpayers' money is returned to citizens through verified and relevant information”, Kadic Bojanic said.

In its media strategy adopted on October 19, the Government said that the state has a significant role in developing media pluralism.

“That role is particularly important in an underdeveloped and limited media market such as Montenegrin, where private media are often focused on producing entertainment programs and formats that attract the audience. Prerequisites for media pluralism are transparent media ownership and sources of economic influence on the media, with positive state actions through direct or indirect subsidies”, reads the government strategy.

Uneven state help to public broadcasters

Public service media in Montenegro is considered a large media organization with substantial budgets, particularly compared to other media in the country. According to annual financial reports state funds represent the principal and by far the largest source of income for Montenegrin public broadcaster Radio Television Montenegro, RTCG. According to the Law on National Public Broadcaster, RTCG gets a flat rate from the state budget, which is 0,3 percent of the GDP based on the calculations from the previous year.

In 2023 the government paid 17,2 million € to the public broadcaster from the state budget, while RTCG also earned 1,2 million € in additional revenues from commercials and technical services. According to RTCG’s financial plan for 2023, around 60 percent of total revenues is spent on staff salaries, while 40 percent is earmarked for production.

“At the moment, RTCG receives almost 20 times more funds from the budget than all commercial media put together through the Fund for Media Pluralism. This enables the public broadcaster to take over the program and employees from commercial media without any control even though they themselves have a lot of redundant people on the payroll. This creates huge unfair competition”, Kadic Bojanic said.

The Law on Electronic Media also provides state budget help to local public broadcasters which are financed by municipalities. However, practices show that the distribution is uneven as the Law doesn’t determine the minimum amount of the general budget that should be provided to local broadcasters.

There are 16 local public broadcasters registered in Montenegro, of which 11 are radio broadcasters and five are radio and television broadcasters. Only a few of them are financially viable, such as television Niksic and Gradska television in the capital, Podgorica.

Executive director of television Niksic, Nikola Markovic, said that financial stability should be secured to local public broadcasters.

"It’s very important that Montenegro have financially stable and professional public broadcasters. It is important to empower local broadcasters, as their audience trust is continuously increasing. Montenegrin authorities should understand their importance and provide them financial support, such as in the case of RTCG”, Markovic said.

The draft Law on Audiovisual Media Services, which should be proposed to the state Parliament in 2023, envisages that the funds of public broadcasters are provided on an annual basis in the amount determined depending on the annual budget of the local self-government. That amount, as envisaged, cannot be less than three percent of the total municipal budget if it is up to three million € to 1,5 percent of the total municipal budget if it is above 20 million €.