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ANEM concerned about proposed Cinematography Act

(ANEM/IFEX) - Belgrade, December 14, 2011 - The Association of Independent Electronic Media has recommended that the Parliament of Serbia not pass the Draft Cinematography Act that the government has asked it to adopt. The act allows for the reallocation of funds collected by the Republic Broadcasting Agency (RBA) and the Republic Agency for Electronic Communications (RATEL) from broadcasters and telecommunications operators to the film industry.

The government explains that the draft law, if passed, will provide for significant additional resources that will boost the national film industry. It calls for redirecting a portion of the funds that broadcasters pay to the RBA for broadcasting rights under the Broadcasting Law and the fees charged by RATEL to public telecommunication operators. More specifically, the new law stipulates that up to 20 per cent of the fees collected by the RBA and up to 10 per cent of the fees collected by RATEL will be allocated to the film industry.

ANEM believes that passing the draft law without analyzing the effects it could have on the financing of independent regulatory bodies, as well as on the broadcasting and electronic communications sectors in Serbia, would be utterly irresponsible and harmful. ANEM has been insisting for years that the amount of fees paid by broadcasters to the regulatory agencies must be reduced so as to cover the reasonable regulation costs. Any other fee charged to the broadcasters, in excess of that would lead to the collapse of the already impoverished media sector, which would, in turn, lead to a media blackout in Serbia.

While it understands the rationale of helping the development of the film industry, ANEM believes it is completely unacceptable to do it by reducing the funds that are the guarantee of the media sector regulator's financial independence. By providing that up to 20 per cent of the aforementioned fees be allocated for the development of the film industry, the value of fees charged for broadcasting will inevitably go up; the same will happen with the prices of telecommunication services if RATEL-collected fees are reallocated. This is completely in contravention of the recently adopted Media Strategy, a document committing the state to work on the institutional strengthening of the broadcasting regulatory body and by regulating the financing of this body to enable its smooth and independent operation. The state has also committed to encouraging technological innovation in the media sector, as well as the development of new media platforms. All this is undoubtedly incompatible with the introduction of additional charges on the fees collected by telecommunication operators.

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