The Croatian MEDIADEM team organised a thematic discussion group on ‘Media policy: suggestions and recommendations for the development of free and independent media in Croatia’, which took place on April 18, 2012 in Zagreb. The discussion group gathered actors involved in the formulation and implementation of media policy in Croatia, journalists, members of civil society associations and researchers. The discussion was based on a document with a set of policy recommendations prepared by the MEDIADEM team. The introduction to the project and the presentation of research results was followed by a dialogue among participants.
Overall, the document was well received and it inspired a discussion about media policy recommendations targeted at promoting media freedom and independence. Due attention was afforded to the need to amend and change the laws regulating the media. Participants expressed the view that the relevant laws should include a more precise definition of what constitutes electronic publications, broadcasting concessions and licenses, as well as new services related to the increased number of platforms enabled by new technologies.
Participants agreed that media self-regulation should be established and strengthened in all media organisations and sectors of the media market. The functioning of the independent regulator, the Agency for Electronic Media and its Council, should be improved through the Agency’s internal reorganisation, and more precise criteria should be developed for the evaluation of the programmes supported by the Fund for the Promotion of Pluralism and Diversity of Electronic Media – a form of state subsidy, intended to stimulate the production of audio and audiovisual programmes that promote pluralism and media diversity at local and regional levels. It was also suggested that the non-profit media sector should become eligible for such programmes and concessions. The public role of the newly established self-regulatory body, the Croatian Council for Media, needs to be enhanced and further developed. The Ministry of Culture was also invited to strengthen its human capacities in media policy, in order to better coordinate agents, initiatives and democratic discussions on the media policy and the announced changes of media laws.
The current situation of the public service broadcaster (PSB), the Croatian Radio Television, was discussed in the light of the announced changes of the Croatian Radio and Television Act (2010). It was stressed that the current management crisis at the Croatian Radio Television should be promptly resolved in order to enable the operator to adequately execute its role as a PSB. It was noted that discussions on media policy in Croatia frequently become discussions on public service broadcasting, while there are many problems concerning the commercial media sector that need to be highlighted (i.e. issues of transparency of media ownership, labour rights, journalistic ethics, content quotas, etc).
It was emphasised that, during the last twenty years or so, media policy actors in Croatia focused on legislative changes, while the key problem always stood in the implementation of laws. There is still a number of legal amendments that need to be made; i.e. there is a lack of systemic approach to the non-profit media sector, there are deficiencies in the definition of electronic publications, of audiovisual activities, etc. Digitalisation opened many possibilities for the development of the Croatian media sector, but the recession caused its delay and the lack of response from media policy actors. There is also a deficiency of strategies for new (digital) media literacy programmes, the participants of the discussion group concluded.