Croatia’s cable operators shut down Serbia’s state TV RTS signal after it put up the fee for its satellite programmes abroad, leaving the local Serbs unhappy, N1 Zagreb reported on Wednesday.
The RTS raised its fees for the distribution of its programmes outside the country to a level much higher than what the United Group, which distributes RTS programmes in the Western Balkans, is charged to broadcast the BBC.
The shutting down of the RTS signal left the Serbs in Croatia with the only alternative - to watch the RTS programmes via the internet, but not many of them have it.
The fee per viewer for all distributors went up from €0.01 to €0.5.
“Our understanding is that the fees for public media services are based on the principle of widest possible access so that the largest number of members of the specific national community can get information about the most important events in the country of their origin," the United Group Vice-President, Dragica Pilipovic Chaffey, said after the news of higher fees came out.
”We also feel that the fees charged by the RTS should be based on the same principle,” she added.
The BBC charges the United Group €0.0052 per viewer which is 96 times less than the RTS new fee.
The RTS management refused to comment.
The Serbs in Croatia mostly complained about not being able to watch films and some part of the RTS news programme. "People are complaining, they are linked to Serbia in that way, through daily politics, educational and sports programmes… It is bad to lose that link with the country of origin,” Nikola Ivanovic, deputy major of the town of Pakrac, told N1 Zagreb.
The same problem may happen to the Serb population in Bosnia, where the RTS demands a new fee of €0.09 per viewer, while in other countries it is more expensive, up to 27 times higher than an average fee which public services, such as RTS, charge for the distribution of their programmes abroad.