COVID-19 endangers survival of local media in Serbia

COVID -19  pandemic and the state of emergency introduced as the response to the epidemic are seriously threatening the survival of local media in Serbia over the next month, according to a study conducted by the Business Association of Local and Independent Media Local Press in early April. Only 10 percent of the local media surveyed said they could survive for the next three months without  help of the state or donors, while 30% said they had the means to sustain their work only for the next month.


As many as two-thirds of the respondents confirmed that the survival of their media is seriously questioned. The most shocking data is in the electronic media, where as many as 87% of respondents recognize that their survival is in jeopardy, followed by print 77% and finally online 64% who, for the time being, are least affected. The most common reasons for low liquidity are reduced sales  of advertising space, cancellation of advertisers’ contracts, and delays and non-payment of donation funds.


Trying to adapt to the new situation, the print local media is leading the way when it comes to restrictions. As a result of these restrictions, printing was discontinued or the number of pages was reduced. 47% of respondents  stopped publishing information in printed form and switched to online or pdf edition. Almost identical are the number of those / 47% / who reduced the number of pages, while only 6% of those local media did not adapt to the new conditions.


The situation is similar when it comes to local televisions and radio stations. They reduced the number of media content, canceled certain shows or continued to provide only service information / 37% /. In addition, 26% of respondents amongst the electronic media said that they now only use social networks to place their information to citizens locally.


Half of the local portals that participated in the survey stated that, for the time being, they continue to work at the same pace, while 20% reduced the number of information produced, 8% began publishing only service information, and 16% switched to information via social networks.


The local media are not only endangered by their economic survival due to lack of money, but also are having a big problem when it comes to receiving timely and truthful information. Slightly less than half (41%) of the editors and journalists surveyed stated that since the beginning of the state of emergency, information from local institutions has been harder to get. In addition, more than half (54.6%) of those polled noted that local institutions favor certain media when placing information. Local media have the most complaints regarding getting information from hospitals, clinical centers and health centers, which, they say, are failing to give information that is local to the citizens and relevant at the moment.


In the survey conducted by Business Association of Local Independent media Local Press, 46 media, members of the association have participated.