Not only does N1 television channel, owned by United Group, conduct its business in a non-transparent fashion, but also has a completely obscure editorial policy with respect to the fundamental issue of who is responsible for broadcast programming.
By far the strongest arguments in favour of the claim that the ownership and editing-related parts of this machinery are indeed hidden were provided by none other than Jugoslav Ćosić, the ‘director of programming’ at N1. Ćosić put these arguments forward in one of the public hearings at the Higher Court in Belgrade for the charges that he had brought against the managing editor of Kurir.
Unconvincing and contradictory
The minutes of the main hearing in which Ćosić made a statement, held on 4 September, exposes all the shortcomings in the operation of this television channel – its blurred ownership structure, broadcasting from Luxembourg as a cross-border television channel, and the invisible editorial team. Faced with these facts, Ćosić was so unconvincing in court that at times he resembled Bora Todorović in the famous scene from Balkan Express, when he says, ‘No, I’m not a musician. Actually, I am…’ Those were the kinds of answers that he gave when Kurir’s attorney asked him what his role is at the television channel and which company specifically he works for. This hearing also revealed the forced and embellished public image of N1 as an objective and professional television.
Ćosić gave a contradictory answer to the question of whether he is TV N1’s editor:
‘I am part of the editing process and the news director. I can simplify my answer by saying that I am the editor – my role is such that my decision is final in terms of news production – but it is the editorial staff, or rather the editorial board, based in Luxembourg, which makes editorial policy-related decisions.’ To Luxembourg and back
Ćosić then went on to describe his duties and the role of Adria News d.o.o. Belgrade, the N1 programme production centre for Serbia, owned by Adria News S.a.r.l. from Luxembourg ‘Regarding my job description, I can say two things are key. Firstly, as a director I take care of the operation of the company, the employees’ health, concluding contracts, etc. And secondly, as the news director I take care of the product itself, and make decisions regarding what the ultimate product will be. It’s true that the bulk of TV N1’s product, excluding here the other former Yugoslavia’s federal units, is made by Adria News d.o.o Belgrade in Serbia,’ Ćosić explained. Although it can be concluded from what he said that he has four different jobs, it turned out that he himself does not know what exactly he does at N1.
What followed was an astonishing reply to a perfectly simple question – what is the connection between Adria News d.o.o. Belgrade and N1 Television.
‘I don’t know the answer to the question of what the connection is between Adria News d.o.o. Belgrade and TV N1, the legal team is in charge of that. I am employed at Adria News d.o.o. Belgrade,’ said Ćosić, who is officially the ‘director of programming’ at TV N1, as well as the manager and legal representative at Adria News d.o.o. Belgrade, and therefore the sole person responsible for the legal compliance of its operation.
Furthermore, he said that he could not comment on whether Adria News Luxembourg is connected to the company SBB, which is a cable operator within United Group. The untouchable editors Ćosić feigned ignorance about the rebroadcasting of N1 programmes:
‘I’m not familiar with the technical aspect of that, so I cannot answer the question regarding how a product is first sent from Serbia to Luxembourg, and then rebroadcast in Serbia.’
Ćosić explicitly declined to answer the question of whether someone in Serbia can press charges against him as editor-in-chief for publishing information in the same way as he had brought charges against the editor of Kurir in that very court case. This is why the minutes of this hearing are a convincing proof that N1 Television does not conduct its business in a transparent fashion, and that the ownership and programme editing is clearly masked with the aim of ensuring the entire company avoid accountability in Serbia. Šolak and his United Group do this by abusing the status of a cross-border television and the Convention on Transfrontier Television: Šolak’s media operate without a permit of the Regulatory Authority for Electronic Media (REM), pay next to nothing in Serbia, broadcast undeclared Serbian ads, are not taxpayers, have not been entered into the Media Registry, have no TIN, and pay no royalties to SOKOJ and OFPS.
Unacceptable Ćosić’s pressure on the court While he was making his statement in the courthouse, Ćosić attempted to put direct pressure on the court. He did that by pointing out that in ‘my 30-year-long career, I have never once lost a court case.’ By saying this, he practically indicated to the judge that he must not lose this case either.
Hiding in Luxembourg Ćosić doesn’t know if his name is listed in the masthead
In making his statement in court, Jugoslav Ćosić attempted to rather clumsily defend the indefensible. What is especially scandalous is that he put in a lot of effort to present himself as the N1 editor, and then he did not know whether his name is listed in the masthead. ‘I am aware that there is a masthead, but I would like to point out again that all the questions regarding the editorial staff should be addressed to Adria News in Luxembourg, as TV N1 is registered under the Luxembourg laws. A masthead is not a product like the news. Rather, a masthead is a list of responsible persons at a company. Adria News d.o.o. Belgrade is not a medium, and does not have to have a masthead. However, the website does list the director, executive producer, etc. I don’t know if I am listed in the TV N1 masthead,’ Ćosić said in his statement. When the N1 masthead contents were shown to him, he said that that was a list of journalists and editors of the N1 website. Ćosić also said that he did not know who is the ultimate owner of the Luxembourg N1 television.
The Kurir Editorial Staff Photo: Photomontage