New laws and Serbia's possible entrance to the EU in five years' time are changing the Balkan media landscape. DW Akademie's centers of excellence in Belgrade and Novi Sad aim to support independent journalism there.
The Belgrade center is housed in the offices of the Serbian press council, which is made up of the country's three largest media associations. "The key to the project is getting owners, managers and top editors on board via the media associations," says DW Akademie project manager, Klaus Dahman. "These are the ones that can put in place long-term structural and program reforms."
Last year it became clear that additional training was needed. "We began at about the same time that the country's media laws were undergoing reforms to meet EU standards," says Dahmann. In order for small local media to survive, he says, they need to know how to work with the new EU-mandated changes. "Our pilot projects on media management and project development focus on practical answers to the most pressing questions - how small programs can benefit from EU subsidies, for example, or how application procedures work and what the EU's expectations are," he explains.
Last year, managers from the Serbian public broadcaster RTV, which houses the Novi Sad center of excellence, went on a fact-finding trip to Germany. They visited the studios of "1live" radio network that is part of the WDR regional public broadcaster and targets a younger demographic. The Serbian director-general was impressed by the webcams in the studios, the host chats and frequent Facebook postings - all possible ideas for a new Serbian youth channel that was launched in November 2014.
Numerous languages and ethnicities
The Belgrade and Novi Sad centers both serve as platforms for ongoing media development - initially in Serbia but ultimately beyond that country's borders. With a diverse population in terms of languages and ethnicities, Novi Sad is a prime location for promoting public broadcasting networks in other Balkan countries.
This year the centers are planning to hold up to ten advanced training seminars. Two of the topics have already been decided: management consulting and project development. Journalism workshops are also in the planning, including training on boosting broadcasters' online presence and honing social media skills. Ideally, both centers will be self-supporting within five years.
The Belgrade and Novi Sad centers of excellence are currently being funded by Germany's Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).