To what extent are independent regulatory agencies in the media sector really independent?

August 1, 2018

Impartial implantation and enforcement of laws applying to radio and audiovisual media is essential for the creation and respect of media freedoms in line with European standards, notably with those set by the Council of Europe but also increasingly with the European Union legal framework.

Sara Svensson, CPS Research Fellow, took part in a study team using the INDIREG methodology  to assess the independence and the effective functioning of the Regulatory Authority for Electronic Media (REM) in Serbia, which is now available to the public in Serbian and English.

The study was carried out for the Council of Europe by a research team led by Kristina Irion (Institute for Information Law at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands), and to which Michele Ledger (University of Namur, Belgium) and Nevena Rsumovic (Media developer and independent researcher, Belgrade, Republic of Serbia) also contributed.

The study concludes that REM, seated in Belgrade, is caught and operates in a challenging context: media markets in Serbia are highly saturated and government grants are awarded to selective private media. There is low upfront compliance with programme and advertisements rules as well as an overall squeeze on quality content and the accountability function of the media. Lacking the optimal support of the government, REM in this situation appears to retreat to overly formalistic (law-abiding) activities without necessarily being effective in regulating the Serbian electronic and audiovisual media. Many stakeholders from the media sector do not perceive of REM as an authority pointing to a lack of enforcement or the deflection of responsibility which has undermined its public credibility. The study concludes with a set of recommendation how to address these challenges.

The study applied the INDIREG methodology from an earlier study (, which developed a new technique for assessing independence through incorporation of both formal and de facto dimensions.

Photo: The assessment team consisting of Kristina Irion, Michele Ledger and Sara Svensson (missing: Nevena Rsumovic). The picture was taken in connection with a previous study, which used the same methodology to assess the Audiovisual Media Authority of Albania (AMA).