Political connections protect and manage communications in BiH: The law applies to everyone, except for telecom operators

Autor/ica 14.2.2023. u 13:00

Political connections protect and manage communications in BiH: The law applies to everyone, except for telecom operators

Photo: Gerila.info

The TV channel My TV, owned by BH Telecom, has been broadcasting exclusive program content for months, on which millions of KM were spent, without any control and license for broadcasting by the Regulatory Agency for Communications of BiH (RAK). More precisely, My TV broadcast its program illegally for almost the entire year of 2022!

At the beginning of December last year, the RAK ordered BH Telecom to temporarily suspend the broadcasting of matches of the FIFA World Cup – Qatar 2022, as well as other program content through the My TV service within 24 hours, which My TV complied with and suspended its program on the 8th of December.

However, from then until today, information has been hidden that it is possible that one TV channel/service, owned by the largest telecom operator in the country, has been broadcasting its program for almost a whole year, and 18 million KM is being invested or has already been invested in programming content produced by external production companies for the needs of My TV. RAK BiH as well as BH Telekom have been silent on queries from the Gerila.info portal for weeks, although we have received promises that we will receive answers to our questions as soon as possible.

The RAK did not impose any penalty on BH Telecom for this obvious violation, nor on the TV channel/service My TV, nor did it later advertise about this case. BH Telecom, on the other hand, unquestioningly shut down the channel in which millions were spent, temporarily or not, we will see since the said channel is still not available on the website mojawebtv.bhtelecom.ba.

What is known about My TV, and very little is known at least on the official website of BH Telekom, is that it is a service that will broadcast content created in the BH Content Lab of the BH Telekom company, as well as, as we later had the opportunity to see, broadcasts the WC football match in Qatar.

At the press conference in February 2022, which was held on the occasion of the promotion of the sitcom „Na rubu pameti“, which premiered and was shown in the middle of last year on My TV, the general director of BH Telecom Sedin Kahriman said that he was happy about the production within the platform BH Content Lab.

“We enter the year 2022 with the new MY TV service, which we promoted during the New Year holidays, but also with great expectations, especially in terms of the development and production of the highest quality content for our end users, which is what is expected of us as a leading telecom operator. It should certainly be emphasized that one of the long-term strategic goals of BH Telecom, in the field of market expansion and diversification, is to invest in and build the largest domestic platform for the production of audio-visual content, BH Content Lab”, said Kahriman.

The director of “BH Telecom” Sedin Kahriman is also the president of the Cantonal Board of SDA Sarajevo, which also includes Sebija Izetbegović.

He then stated that BH Telecom provided another 18 million KM for a continuous public call for productions that will be broadcast on My TV.

“Na rubu pameti” is the second series whose content and actors we present to the public, aware that the importance of the content itself in the telecom industry is gaining primacy, and I am sure that we will provide Moja TV users with high-quality and exclusive content. The decision to cooperate with the BiH film industry is primarily a commercial one, but we do not neglect the elements of social responsibility because we invest in our own resources, the domestic film industry and produce content that users will be satisfied with”, said Sedin Kahriman.

Muamer Hadžović, executive director for business development of BH Telecom, pointed out that “BH Content Lab is the largest domestic platform for the production of audio-visual content, the primary goal of which is to support BH cinematography and create quality content that will increase user satisfaction through the attractiveness of the offer on Moja TV service and other platforms of BH Telecom”.

Hadžović added that, by directly influencing the production of high-quality audio-visual content, BH Telekom has taken a leading market position in TV production and provides a fantastic opportunity for the development of film and TV production.

Faruk Selmanović, director of the Sarajevo Directorate of BH Telekom, said in an interview with Oslobođenje in August last year that the platform Moja TV is one of the most successful platforms for content reproduction in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“We currently have more than 215,000 active users with over 300,000 individual devices. In the past period, we also upgraded the platform so that we now offer the best user experience on the Android platform. In terms of functionality and design, our new platform follows all the latest trends in the industry and offers end users all the benefits, both live and on the on-demand platform. Appreciating that we have made a technological leap, our next focus is exactly content, that is content. On our MYTV service, we offer a range of cultural, collage, informative and sports content, and in addition to continuous investment in infrastructure for the development of the My TV service, we are also working in parallel on creating new content”, said Selmanović.

Although until a few days ago there was no information about the license for the My TV channel/service on the website of the Communications Regulatory Agency, it recently appeared in the table containing all users of the License for television broadcasting via other electronic communication networks.

It is also interesting that the license number is 241 TEKM, while, for example, from Face television, which has existed for more than 10 years, it is 299 TEKM, and Face television is also on the Excel table that is available on the page of the Regulatory Agency for Communications placed under the My TV channel although My TV undoubtedly received a license recently, while the actual dates since which each television has a license is not listed in the table.

The director of My TV is Amra Cerić, and the editor-in-chief is Emir Kapetanović, while the address of this TV channel/service is actually located at the location BH Telecom Centar Dolac Malta, Zmaja od Bosne 88.

And now the question arises, how is it possible for someone to invest 18 million KM in external production for their TV channel/service without the regulator, in this case, the Communications Regulatory Agency, not noticing it?

In addition, the directors of BH Telecom talked about the My TV channel on most of the influential media in BiH, as well as the exclusive content that is broadcast or will be broadcast on it.

However, it was only after Dodik’s involvement in the whole story that the Regulatory Agency for Communications reacted, which until then had remained steadfastly silent on the dissatisfaction of the citizens, as well as the media reports about this scandal. This is not so strange when it is known that Dodik’s trusted staff member Draško Milinović, a long-time director of RTRS who has been punished several times by RAK BiH, is headed by RAK BiH, of which Milinović is now director.

Milorad Dodik i Draško Milinović/FOTO: GERILA

As director of RTRS, he managed to collect 67,000 KM in fines precisely from the Media Regulatory Agency, of which he is now director, for inappropriate reporting by the public service.

Plamenko Čustović, then a member of the RAK Council, resigned precisely because of the appointment of Milinović as the first person of RAK BiH, and Predrag Kovač, the then director of this institution, sent a letter to the BiH Council of Ministers about the irregularities in the appointment of Draško Milinović. After that, Kovač filed a criminal complaint with the BiH Prosecutor’s Office regarding Milinović’s appointment.

Despite everything, Milinović received the support of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in which SNSD and SDA, along with HDZ, were the main speakers.

Milinović became the head of the Communications Regulatory Agency of Bosnia and Herzegovina in July 2020 from the position of General Director of RTRS. By a majority decision (4:2) of the members of the RAK Council, Milinović was proposed as the new director of this regulatory body in April 2020, after which the decision was confirmed by the BiH Council of Ministers.

Until March 2014, when he was appointed to the position of general director of RTRS, Milinović came from the position of chief of staff of the then president of the Government of the Republic of Srpska Željka Cvijanović.

The questions to which we have not yet received an answer from RAK BiH are whether advertisements were broadcast on the mentioned channel before the broadcasting ban, if so, how was the broadcasting of advertisements regulated, how much My TV owes for license fees for RAK, AMUS, Phonogram…

A well-informed source from the Gerila portal claims for our portal that the largest part of the money spent so far for production for BH Content Lab, that is, for broadcasting on My TV, went to Hayat television, owned by Elvir Švrakić, who is otherwise close to Bakir Izetbegović, the president of the SDA. According to our source, the amounts involved are in the millions.

A few years ago, Hayat faced similar accusations, namely that he received money as part of the SDA party’s pre-election campaign, to which they replied that “Hayat d.o.o. is engaged in media activity, that in its work it respects positive legal provisions and that it did not publish any political party or alliance”, stressing that they reject “unfounded and ill-intentioned attacks” on their TV station.

“For the development of business, the development of new media and the creation of jobs, we took out loans. Our operations, as well as the ownership structure, are completely transparent. Our financial reports are in the possession of international organizations that monitor the work of the media in our country. We gave them up voluntarily and on our own initiative. So, we have loans and we applied for interest subsidization at the invitation of the Government of KS. We met the set criteria and received the help of an institution whose competence includes, among other things, the care of the economy and businessmen. We are grateful for their commitment and help to local companies. So, it’s not about any non-purposeful means that someone gives to someone, as they want to present themselves. We still owe the banks, but only the banks, and only the money that we pay back properly. We have not and would never build on “laundered” money, as well as money acquired through blackmail,” Hayat stated on that occasion.

By the way, in the same answer, they openly confirmed their closeness with the SDA.

“SDA has chosen Hayat as its main media partner. We filmed pre-election rallies on a commercial basis, and broadcast two of them. We also aired commercials… This kind of cooperation with the SDA in the pre-election campaign, among other things, resulted in victory in the 2018 Elections,” states the announcement of Hayat Television in response to the daily newspaper Avaz in 2018.

The annual income of “BH Telecom” in 2021 was 471.6 million KM, and the gross profit was 70.1 million KM.

Our source says that the model implemented by BH Telekom is actually a copy of Telekom Serbia, which invests huge amounts of money in its platform, contents and channels, hiring external productions and collaborators in order to achieve influence among the cultural elite and filmmakers, gagging them with good fees, preventing public criticism, and in addition to that, it received an exclusive domestic production, which, at least in these regions, is almost always the most watched.

How the SP in football in Qatar exposed the affair

It sounds paradoxical, but to some extent, it is also true, that Milorad Dodik, then a member of the BiH Presidency, discovered this affair, no less, when he wrote on his Twitter account that “The fact that BHRT is making it impossible for all citizens, especially in Republika Srpska, to watch all the matches of the World Cup, confirmed once again that the service is only for Muslims and that it should not exist as such”.

“By deciding to transfer the broadcast of 18 matches to only one Muslim telecom operator, they directly violated the law and additionally identified themselves as the service of only one nation in Bosnia and Herzegovina”, added Dodik.

Milorad Dodik/FOTO: GERILA

Of course, Dodik’s words were used for political performance, but he probably inadvertently exposed the inaction of the regulator, on the one hand, and the arrogance of telecom operators, on the other.

We would like to remind you that at the end of November and in the first half of December 2022, BH Television (BHRT) broadcast the World Cup in Qatar, which was played in Qatar. Also, and this was publicly announced, the purchase of TV rights for the World Cup in football was helped by BH Telekom.

However, BHRT bought the media rights for the broadcast of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar 2022 TM for the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina back in 2012, while BH Telekom joined in the purchase of rights in early 2022, and in July 2022 it was announced that between BHRT and BH Telecom signed sublicensing of media rights for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022TM between Radio Television of Bosnia and Herzegovina, holder of exclusive rights for the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and BH Telecom dd Sarajevo.

At that moment, it was not explained exactly what “sublicensing” means, except that “with this sublicense, BH Telecom provided support by extending the availability of all media content to new media, that is, platforms / digital services of BH Telecom – MY TV and Moja web TV”.

It was also stated that “all citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina will be able to watch all matches of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar 2022TM for free on BHRT programs and on BH Telecom’s MY TV and Moja web TV services”, which later turned out to be untrue.

Namely, with the start of the World Cup in football, viewers in BiH are in for a negative surprise, as some matches were not even broadcast live on BHRT or started 15 minutes late, and the said matches were only available on My TV, that is, to users of BH Telecom, which does not even cover half of the viewers in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Only after fierce reactions in the public, BHRT explains what the Sublicensing Agreement they signed with Bh Telekom actually means.

“BHRT, the exclusive owner of the rights of WC Qatar 2022, has an obligation under the Agreement to broadcast only 46 matches on its program and that, in accordance with the sublicensing rules of the EBU and FIFA, it has sublicensed the rights to broadcast 18 matches to BH Telecom dd, such as many other television companies in the world have done this too”, they stated in BHRT.

It is also a fact that most of BiH does not have BH Telecom, that is, there is no way for citizens in Republika Srpska or in the Federation of BiH, where Eronet or Telemach are present, to watch the aforementioned matches.

How did this way of agreement come about and why citizens in Bosnia and Herzegovina received this information during the championship itself, even though the contract on the purchase of rights was signed in May 2022, we did not receive an answer.

BHRT Board member Slavko Rolih told us to contact us via email and ask for answers to these questions.

“For all answers, you must personally address the board of directors via email, that is, the BHRT service, and then the Board of Directors will make a statement together. None of us is making a statement, so you will have to send all questions to the PR department, and we will officially answer all your questions,” said Rolih.

UO RTVBH: Elvir Lemeš, Valentina Rupčić, Rajko Radovanović i Slavko Rolih

We received a similar answer from BHRT director Belmin Karamehmedović.

“Two days ago, we sent a statement in which everything was written clearly. BHRT needs to receive the RTV fee for the entire territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina, it has not received it for six years, it does not say that it is obliged but that it will do everything to ensure it, but the prerequisite for that is to collect the fee. How will we finance ourselves if we don’t get taxes. I have no official comment,” Karamehmedović told Gerila.

Although we sent inquiries on December 7 last year, we have not received answers even after two months.

What we were particularly interested in was whether this decision of BHRT violated the Law on the Public Broadcasting Service of BiH, specifically Article 10 (International exchange and exclusive rights) paragraph 1 and paragraph 2, which states that “(1) Works realization of the interests of the entire population of Bosnia and Herzegovina, BHRT is obliged to provide coverage of the most important cultural, sports, entertainment and other events held in the country and the world”, and “(2) Broadcasters whose programs are not available to the entire population of Bosnia and Herzegovina do not have the right to obtaining exclusive rights for the following sports events: b) world and European championships in football, basketball, handball and other sports”.

BHRT in its only statement about this case stated the following: “that BHRT, the exclusive owner of the rights of WC QATAR 2022, has an obligation under the Agreement to broadcast only 46 matches on its program and that, in accordance with the sublicensing rules of the EBU and FIFA, sublicensed the rights to broadcast 18 matches to BH Telecom dd, as did many other television companies in the world (ARD/ZDF, RT Serbia, RTVSLO, Czech TV, RTPortugal, ORF, BNT Bulgaria, etc.)

However, what was confirmed to the GERILA portal by Radio Television Serbia is that this is not true. RTS did cede the rights to all matches to the Arenasport channel, that is, allowed sublicensing, but RTS continued to broadcast all matches, that is, all 64 matches live, and even those that overlapped in the last round of the group stage, and then one match was broadcast on RTS 1 and the second on RTS 2.

“We sold it to Arena, so if you have Arena, you will have those matches. Only to Arena. Absolutely everything. We are the exclusive carriers, they are co-exclusive, we broadcast all the matches, we broadcast all 64 matches, and I think Arena also broadcasts all the matches. Since we have two channels, we broadcast on two. Everything works directly, the recording works at night. When there were two matches, one was shown on the first channel and the other on the second channel”, confirmed for us by the RTS Sports Department.

Although we sent the inquiry to BH Telecom 2 weeks ago, we have not received an answer until today. It is unusual that there is no contact form for the media on the website of BH Telekom, but that is why there is a Guide on access to information DD BH Telekom Sarajevo, and the Law on Freedom of Access to Information in FBiH is also mentioned, and you have to send the inquiry by mail to the protocol even though it is the largest telecom operator in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and not, as is the practice in 2023, via e-mail.

From the Consumer Protection Association DON, they say that it is not clear why the Regulatory Agency for Communications did not react to all this.

“The extent to which we as citizens are able to monitor all of this or the extent to which we are deprived of certain rights should really be defined by the regulator in these contracts or granting licenses to these operators. So, definitely, the regulator is someone who had to know about all this and the license states what he should and can do, these types of contracts are defined exactly in accordance with the law. Now it happened to us that a certain number of citizens certainly cannot watch, but have to do it this way when it is reenacted, while a certain number of citizens have the opportunity to watch,” Murisa Marić, executive director of the DON Citizens’ Association, told GERILA.

Murisa Marić points out that RAK is “someone who is responsible for the fact that this situation is related to at least these three broadcasters that are very current in Bosnia and Herzegovina” and that they should equally have such licenses so that it could be accessible to all citizens regardless because all citizens pay the RTV tax, which is partially financed by telecom operators.

And since everything is absurd in Bosnia and Herzegovina, we came to a situation where the first member of the SNSD pointed out the violation of the law by RTVBH and BH Telecom, then the regulator that he also manages when the SNSD banned the broadcasting of the TV channel for which the largest telecom operator in he never had a license for the country and until then broadcast who knows how many exclusive contents without any control, only for the regulator to suspend any further investigation of the responsibility of the telecom operator led by SDA party cadres and cover up the whole story, refusing to let the public know all the facts.


Autor/ica 14.2.2023. u 13:00