Radio Television of Serbia (RTS)

The public broadcaster Radio Television Serbia (RTS) runs four television channels and five radio stations. It also runs a music records house, a symphony orchestra, a jazz band and a children’s choir. The history of RTS goes back to 1924 when Radio Belgrade was founded. Radio Television Belgrade (RTB), the first television station in Serbia, launched broadcasting in 1958.

Media assets

Television: RTS1, RTS2, RTS3, RTS Svet, RTS Nauka, RTS Drama, RTS Life, RTS Classic, RTS Kolo, RTS Trezor, RTS Music, RTS Poletarac

Radio: Radio Belgrade 1, Radio Belgrade 2, Radio Belgrade 3, Radio Belgrade 202, Radio Pletenica, Radio Rock and Roller, Radio Jukebox, Radio Vrteshka

State Media Matrix Typology: Captured Public/State-Managed (CaPu)

Ownership and governance

RTS is a government-owned broadcaster whose highest governing body is a management board. Its nine members are appointed by the Regulatory Body for Electronic Media (REM), a regulator whose members are appointed solely on political grounds. The board elects the Director General of the RTS and the station’s main editors.

Source of funding and budget

RTS receives a significant part of its annual budget from the government. Legal provisions state that the license fee (a fee for public media, included in the monthly electricity bill, paid by all households in Serbia, which was introduced in 2016) should be the main source of funding the RTS. The Law on the Public Broadcasting Services, the main legal act regulating RTS, adopted in 2014, states that the fee, set at RSD 500 (US$ 5) a month, should cover most of the expenditures of the station. Yet, a much lower fee was charged in the first years after the law was introduced, leaving the government to spend much more than expected. 

In 2020, RTS operated with a total budget of RSD 13.3bn (US$ 118m). The license fee accounted for more than 64% of it, the second largest source of financing being advertising, which generated over 22% of the total. The state subsidy represented some 12% of the total annual budget, according to a broadcaster annual report.

In 2021, RTS’ budget remained more or less the same, RSD 13.2bn (US$ 129m). It slightly increased in local currency to RSD 13.8bn (US$ 110m) in 2022, according to a company business report. The license fee accounted for almost three quarters of the total RTS budget in 2022.

Editorial independence

There are no legal provisions requiring RTS to serve propagandistic content about the Serbian government. Yet, through the management board, staffed with government loyalists, the government exerts significant influence in the editorial decision-making process at RTS. Journalists working for the broadcaster said that editors are continuously subjected to pressures from government and party officials who have an important say in how the station’s news content is presented. The news content is blatantly biased in favor of the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), which has been in power since 2012, according to content analysis carried out by the Novi Sad School of Journalism.

During a series of street protests in May 2023, considered by observers to be the biggest revolt against president Aleksandar Vucic, in power for more than a decade, huge crowds of protesters encircled the building of the RTS, criticizing the station for being pro-government.

No domestic statute that establishes RTS’ editorial independence has been identified.

RTS has a Programming Council composed of 15 members. Its role is to advise the station’s management on editorial matters. However, the council is not independent and hence fails to fulfill its role as many of the members on this body are appointed along political lines, having ties with the government.

October 2023