Delegates attending national debates in Pristina have agreed that independent funding is indispensable to public service media (PSM) in Kosovo.
The two days event was organised by the EU-funded programme 'Technical Assistance to Public Service Media in the Western Balkans' which is being implemented by a consortium of partners comprising of the EBU, IFJ, EFJ, ORF, BIRN and ERNO.
During the round-table, representatives from parliament, civil society, RTK and the wider media sector discussed funding models for PSM in Kosovo and the new draft law which makes provision for funding through a licence fee.
The representative from the European Union Office in Kosovo, Riccardo Serri, said that free and pluralistic media were crucial for democracy and underlined the special role played by RTK in providing high quality and balanced information to citizens. The development of PSM is monitored and assessed in the annual progress report for Kosovo which is part of the negotiation process for joining the EU.
EBU Senior Expert Boris Bergant said that finding a sustainable solution for funding RTK is essential for the development of public service broadcasting in Kosovo. Payment for PSM should not be seen as a cost, he said, but as an investment in the public good.
Participants engaged in a pluralistic debate which focused on finding a long-term funding model. They discussed the accountability and transparency of RTK; the necessity for proper public debate; the correct amount for the licence fee; the rules for advertising time; and the operating costs of RTK in the context of its remit in local society.
Despite differences of opinion, there was a high degree of consensus about the need for an effective and sustainable model for funding public service media in Kosovo.
The second day of the national debate focused on public service media governance and regulation.
More than 30 representatives from parliament, civil sector, regulatory authority and media experts discussed ways to ensure autonomous, professional and efficient governance for RTK. The discussions covered different opinions and challenging questions ranging from elections and the dismissal of Board members to finding the right balance between representation of society in the Board and its professionalism, remuneration of Board members, accountability, transparency, reporting, roles and responsibilities and funding for PSM.
The debate was highly appreciated in the context of the current work on a draft Law and the recent adoption by the Parliamentary Committee on media.
The OSCE Head of Democratization Christopher Tuetsch underlined the importance of PSM as the only media outlet genuinely aimed at and obliged to provide for internal pluralism. PSM is a public good, financed by the public and serving the public.
EBU Head of Member Relations Central and Eastern Europe Radka Betcheva welcomed many of the proposals in the draft Law on RTK such as provisions for the introduction of a licence fee; the obligation of the state to support digitization of RTK's archive; strengthening the professional criteria for the election of Council members and the DG; increasing the period of break between holding public and political positions; and increasing the mandate of RTK’s DG and Directors.
However, she encouraged the respective authorities to consider some open questions and dilemmas, which would benefit from further attention: "The authorities need to look further at issues such as the election of Board members by a qualified majority in the Parliament; adequate funding via the licence fee; the clear definition of initiation of dismissal procedures; clear formulation of reporting to the Parliament; access to RTK programmes on different devises and the separation of supervisory and managerial powers."
Law makers will be able to use the presentation of EBU experts in further deliberations on the draft Law.
The next national debates will be organized in Albania, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.