The agreement – reached at a meeting on 28 May in Sarajevo and convened under the auspices of an IFJ-led programme - sets the best practice guidelines for regulating funding in line with European standards.
The principles aim to establish an independent, sustainable, adequate and predictable funding framework for the quality and future-driven functioning of public service media in the Western Balkans and of supporting countries' endeavours to align their PSM with European standards and best practices and help support applications to join the EU.
The participants of the regional meeting also expressed their will to follow up the implementation of the principles with the aim of accession to the EU by 2025. The progress in the implementation of these principles will be measured and evaluated annually.
According to the expert analyses produced by the European Broadcasting Union, public service media in the Western Balkans, have had several attempts to develop an appropriate funding model, yet still a number of them face financial challenges, a crisis of public trust and vulnerabilities to political pressures.
The initiative on setting the common funding principles is part of an EU funded programme of technical assistance to public service media in the Western Balkans which aims to contribute to media reform and professional development of PSM in the region and strengthen their ability to produce increasingly pluralistic, independent and accountable content. The project is implemented by the consortium led by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) together with the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the Austrian Public Broadcaster (ORF), the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) and the Eurovision News Exchange for South-East Europe (ERNO).
COMMON FUNDING PRINCIPLES FOR PUBLIC SERVICE MEDIA IN THE WESTERN BALKANS
Acknowledging the importance of Public Service Media for the democratization processes in
the EU accession countries in the Western Balkans;
Reiterating CoE standards on PSM funding, the EBU Public Funding Principles for PSM and
best practices in Europe;
Acknowledging the importance of PSM to develop in line with social economic and
technological developments and the need to adjust to them and provide PSM a crucial role
in society on all platforms;
Underlining the importance of the production of high-quality content as a credible tool in
the fight against disinformation and the respective necessary investment in PSM and in
particular in news production;
Underpinning the important role which PSM plays as a major contributor in the production
of local national and European high-quality content and the role of PSM in consolidating
society and supporting social cohesion, including in its coverage of major sporting and
cultural events of national importance;
Underlining the importance of stable, independent, adequate and sustainable funding of
PSM which allows it to fulfil its public service remit;
Understanding the importance of PSM for the development of national creative industries
Underlining the importance of investment in innovation in all aspects of the work of Public
Service Media as a driving force of the media industry;
Acknowledging that the importance of PSM is regularly acknowledged by the EU as an
integral part of media developments and media freedoms in Chapters 23/24 and Chapter 10
of the EC Progress reports within the framework of the negotiations on the progress of the
countries in the accession process to the EU;
Representatives of parliaments, regulatory authorities, civil sector and PSM in Albania,
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, North Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia have agreed
on the following common principles for funding of PSM in the Western Balkans:
1. Serving public remit and democracy
3. Legally sound
4. Politically supported
5. Stable and fair
9. Publicly discussed
Serving public remit and democracy
1. Public Service Media are crucial for the democratization process in EU accession
countries and its funding should be considered as an investment in society and
2. Investment in high quality, independent and credible Public Service Media should be
seen as an investment in developing a democratic culture, discourse, knowledge,
Independent – not reliant on political favour, thereby promoting trust in PSM and its role
as a truly indispensable service
3. Only independent, stable and appropriate funding will enable PSM to realize its
important role in society for informing, dialogue, educating, entertaining and
4. Independent funding of Public Service Media is a major prerequisite for the
institutional and editorial independence of PSM.
5. Legislative frameworks regulating PSM should ensure efficient, practical, feasible
and implementable in practice mechanisms for the funding of PSM.
6. Respective PSM legal frameworks should provide sufficient safeguards for the
funding of PSM, free from political interference or pressure.
7. Where it is not yet possible to introduce licence fee and funding from the state
budget is used instead, strong safeguards should be introduced to avoid political
interference, including fixed funding for long periods (eg 5 years), a guarantee of a
fixed percentage of the GDP and automatic inflationary adjustments, avoiding any
direct reliance on the discretion of the government pursuant to a specific contract or
8. Amendments to legal provisions on PSM funding should only be carried out
following an appropriate impact assessment and analysis by an independent body
and following broad public consultation with all relevant stakeholders, including
PSM and civil society.
9. Countries' media strategies developed by governments and parliaments in a
dialogue with all major media players should emphasize the importance of public
service media and their independent, stable, adequate and predictable funding.
10. Politicians and the public in general are encouraged to regularly assess the proper
implementation of respective legal provisions regarding the funding of PSM.
11. Politicians and public figures in Western Balkan countries should abstain from
advocating for the abolition of licence fees, and from using this as a tool to gain
voters in political campaigns. Independent funding is crucial for the establishment of
independent and credible PSM as a key element in the democratization of societies.
Stable and fair
12. Licence fee funding is the preferred mechanism for funding of PSM, which ensures a
direct link with the audience and creates a direct bond with the audience.
13. Discussions on the funding of PSM should be done only in connection with the remit
of PSM in society and with an agreed mid-term Strategy of the PSM.
14. Funding of PSM should ensure investment in new technology, digitization, and
innovation and should boost the capacity of PSM to be the driving force of the
media industry in the respective countries.
15. PSM funding should ensure the highest degree of transparency and accountability
through the regular engagement of internal and external audits and the publishing
of financial plans and reports.
16. PSM should apply and demonstrate relevant efficiencies and a cost-sensitive
approach when developing their strategies and programme production plans.
17. PSM should implement good accountability mechanisms to ensure PSM top
management and the relevant governing bodies are responsible for decisions on
18. PSM should report on and organize regular discussions with society to explain the
implementation of their remit and mission and the respective necessary financial
19. The prerequisite for solid business plans and establishing of financial needs /costs of
PSM are a coherent Strategy (vision, mission, the short and midterm definition of
content and functional strategies, program and production standards and
normative) all transparently/ publicly agreed and instantly verified.
The principles have the aim of establishing an independent, sustainable, adequate and
predictable funding framework for the quality and future-driven functioning of Public
Service Media in the Western Balkans and of supporting countries' endeavours to align
their PSM with European standards and best practices and support membership in the
The progress in the implementation of these principles will be measured and evaluated
Note:The above common funding principles for PSM in the Western Balkans were
agreed upon and adopted by all key stakeholders representing the six Western Balkan
countries at the regional meeting on “PSM Funding” held in Sarajevo on 28 May 2019.
The participants also expressed their will to follow up the implementation of the above-
mentioned principles with the aim of accession to the EU by 2025.