United Group, owned by Dragan Šolak, is one step away from taking over the Danas daily. This confirms Kurir's reports of the increasing power of the media machinery operated by the business and political lobby headed by Šolak and his political exponent Dragan Đilas.
The Journalists' Association of Serbia (JAS) has received a confirmation from the Commission for the Protection of Competition that United Group has submitted a market concentration notification in order to obtain approval for purchasing the company Dan Graf d.o.o., the publisher of the Danas daily. According to this information, Šolak's company submitted the concentration notification on 21 September and the review is underway.
A job for the antitrust commission
In order for United Group to become the owner of Dan Graf, the publisher of the Danas daily, the Law on the Protection of Competition stipulates that a market concentration must be notified to the antitrust commission in order for the commission to establish if it is permissible.
Those having doubts about this have now received a confirmation - United Group is expanding the media wing of the business lobby whose wires are pulled by Šolak and Đilas: the Danas daily is now officially joining Šolak's propaganda machinery, made up of SBB; United Cloud; United Media and the TV channels N1, Nova S, Sport Klub, Pikaboo, Vavoom, Cinemania, Lov i Ribolov, IDJ, Brainz; the Nova.rs portal; and the marketing agencies CAS Media and Direct Media. Not long ago, reinforcements came in the form of the news production company Newsmax Adria, whose programme is broadcast on Nova S. According to United Group's announcements, this programme is planned to transition into a television channel.
In light of such media concentration in the hands of a single person, the question arises how the information presented on all these platforms would impact on Serbia's media landscape and whether the consumers of this content would end up being misled. The fear stemming from the latter is realistic, especially given that all these media outlets' – primarily TV N1's –general approach is to increasingly violate the journalism codes of practice, and be less and less objective in their reporting.
All the media outlets under United Group, including the Danas daily, which is yet to officially join their ranks, work like communicating vessels – advertising and helping each other out while adhering closely to the common editorial policy. For instance, the editor-in-chief of Danas, Dragoljub Draža Petrović, has had a column at N1 for years, and is one of the authors of the show titled Pljiž, broadcast on Nova S. Furthermore, the Danas daily has almost invariably served as the grounds where TV N1's director of programming, Jugoslav Ćosić, was able to say whatever was of strategic importance for Šolak's empire at any given time; on top of that, Danas's editors and reporters have regular appearances on N1 and Nova S television programmes, as does Slobodan Georgiev, who had presented himself as an investigative journalist until Šolak took him on as Newsmax Adria's director.
Đilas would like to play censor
On the other hand, the political aspect of this arrangement of cogs in Šolak and Đilas's media machinery has been revealed by none other than Đilas himself. As the leader of the Party of Freedom and Justice, Đilas does not hide his taste for censorship. For instance, in a recent piece for Danas, he dared pick out the media which intellectuals and diplomats should speak with. In a similar vein, he also tried to silence the President of the Serbian Academy, Vladimir Kostić, by saying that his interview with Kurir was a disgrace. The campaign against Kurir and its associates and interviewees was further supported by the vice-president of Đilas's party, Borko Stefanović, who read the riot act to Sem Fabrizi, Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia, over an interview that he had given to our newspaper.
Given United Group's latest purchase and the abovementioned cross-links established under its roof, one gets the impression that the editorial policy of all Šolak's media is shaped at a single centre as well as operated from it. It is as if all the media outlets have one and the same editor, with news broadcasts orchestrated for the apparent purpose of bagging victory for the political and business interests of the two puppet masters – Šolak and Đilas.
The REM is not doing its job
To make things worse, their lobby has obviously also silenced the state institutions put in charge of the public interest and compliance with the laws in the media sphere. The Regulatory Authority for Electronic Media (REM) should be the first to respond, but not only is it not responding, but it is also shunning its duties and failing to defend the laws of this country. As Kurir has reported before, the REM has for years been tolerant of TV N1's misuse of its cross-border television status, allowing it in this way to maintain a position of privilege in the Serbian market. In its previous investigations, Kurir has conclusively demonstrated that N1 is a domestic TV channel and that it must be subject to the same legal mandates as the domestic media outlets – from mandatory entry into the Serbian media registry, through obtaining a broadcast licence and paying taxes and royalties, down to accountability in domestic courts of law for broadcast content.
Kurir.rs/ Foto: Screenshot, Zorana Jevtić