The well-known 2011 report by the Anti-Corruption Council, signed by the then Council president Verica Barać, focused on the investigation of corruption in the media. One could say that the mayor of Belgrade at the time, Dragan Đilas, was the star of the report. Among other things, the report analyses the money flow in the media and the mechanisms of media influence peddling, concluding that there was corruption and clientelism in the media, as well as that the actual media owners were hidden.
The report states which companies conducted business as part of Đilas’s Multikom Group then, noting that the costliest television shows at the time, such as The Big Brother, The 48-hour Wedding, All For Love, I’m Swapping My Wife, Operation Triumph, and Take It Or Leave It, were produced by Emotion, a production company also owned by Đilas.
‘Đilas has a one-fourth share in the Multikom Group, which is in the business of media advertising, leasing media space, funding productions, selling and purchasing television rights, etc. He has shares in other agencies, namely, a 93-percent share in Direct Media, which is also in the business of selling advertising space. Multikom and Direct Media have been recording a rise in net profits for years, e.g. in 2008, Direct Media had a net profit of 558,628,000 dinars, while in the previous year it was nearly 200 million less. In 2009, its net profits stood at 619,679,000 dinars, and in 2010 at 758,994,000 dinars. Similarly, the Multikom Group and its associated companies had a net profit of 498,432,000 dinars in 2008, 563,130,000 dinars in 2009, and 790,216,000 dinars in 2010,’ the report specifies.
The report also notes that the then mayor of Belgrade controlled via his agencies the leasing of the bulk of the advertising space on national and regional televisions in Serbia. As Verica Barać used to say in statements at the time, the media received no less than a quarter of the advertising money from the state budget, ‘and Mayor of Belgrade Dragan Đilas has two media companies operating as the channels for moving money, purchasing ads, and other forms of media influence.
‘When we attempted to talk about this, we ended up being ignored, as in – “It doesn’t’ matter, does it?”. In this country, nothing matters,’ Verica Barać said at the time. The reports states further that the state institutions most often collaborate with marketing agencies and production companies which have the most lucrative deals with televisions, and which are in a position to influence not just advertising but also editorial policies.
On the other hand, although the 2011 report also looks into the business activities of the most powerful figures at the time alleged to have ties with the media, e.g. Miroslav Mišković and Milan Beko, what is interesting is that, as far as is known at the moment, the current Anti-Corruption Council has never tackled the dubious business operations of Dragan Šolak’s United Group, which purchased Đilas’s Direct Media in a dubious move, as it did the Multikom Group building, which Kurir has reported on in the past few days.
This is why it makes sense to ask if different rules apply to the United Group. Is it possible that the numerous dubious transactions that this company has participated in, in business operations which have often been less than perfectly legal and involved public officials - thus pointing to possible mechanisms of corruption - are not enough to be put on the agenda of the Anti-Corruption Council?
Experts point out that there is ample reason to do that. The President of the Coalition for Oversight of Public Finances Dragan Dobrašinović said for Kurir that the Anti-Corruption Council is a government agency, and that it is obligated to investigate instances of corruption if suspected.
’Before, when it was headed by Verica Barać, as much as now. If there is something from the previous period that was not fully explored, one ought to revisit it. For example, what the report says about Đilas and his companies should be investigated now. Although the Council should not concern itself with privately-owned companies, it should be concerned with public figures who have ties or have collaborated with private companies suspected of corruption,’ Dobrašinović said.
The mega-profit-making schemes: The ’wizard’ of trading seconds
An entire chapter of the report is dedicated to trading seconds on the part of Đilas’s companies and the RTS, specifying that the RTS management at the time refused to make the documentation on this activity available to the Anti-Corruption Council. Among other things, the report notes that a part of the RTS‘ contract with private production companies envisages payment not in money but in advertising slot seconds.
‘The representatives of a production company say that they had to re-sell their advertising seconds on the RTS to a big marketing agency at a price ten times lower than the one specified in the relevant RTS price list. On the other hand, the contract with the production company Emotion stipulates that the RTS pay to this company app. 13,000 euros per episode for the broadcasting rights for the 104 episodes of the serial 48-Hour Wedding. In other words, the same people who were behind the marketing agencies buying advertising seconds off of small production companies at unrealistically low prices are paid in money for their own TV production, not in advertising seconds,’ the report states.
Foto/Source:Ana Paunković/ Kurir