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Lost mandate hastens RTS fadeout

Service to be dismantled due to b'casting act, lack of money

BUDAPEST — Serbia’s state-run TV station in Kosovo, at one time the premier network in the NATO-occupied and U.N.-controlled province, is to shutter.

Radio Television Serbia (RTS) general manager Aleksandar Crkvenjakov says the service is being dismantled due to provisions in the Serbian Broadcasting Act and a lack of cash.

“A TV station broadcasting 24 hours a day in Serbian would need a staff of about 120 to 150,” says Crkvenjakov, which RTS can’t afford.

The Act, which was passed in 2002 but is only now being implemented, defined its jurisdiction as Serbia and its northern province of Vojvodina.

For the first time since the 1999 war between NATO and Yugoslavia, which brought alliance troops to Serbia’s southern province, Kosovo is now a separate broadcast territory.

But the Act is not solely to blame. The removal of transmitters makes it impossible to broadcast the Serbian-based RTS signal, and Serbian-language broadcasting over TV Pristina has been reduced to 15 minutes a day.

Analysts say in shutting down RTS’s Pristina service the Act is being practical. Before 1999, ethnic Serbs made up 15% of Kosovo’s 1.9 million population, in which ethnic-Albanians are the overwhelming majority. But four years later flight and ethnic cleansing have eliminated Serbs from most of Kosovo, except for small ghettos and enclaves north of the Ibar River.

TV Pristina quickly became a signal without an audience.

Private TV is filling the programming vacuum. Serbian language programming is provided on three Kosovo networks: Most, Mir and the kid’s channel Silovo.