ECONOMY

ANT1 has an eye on Yugoslav TV station

BELGRADE (Reuters) – Yugoslavia’s YU-info TV station yesterday announced that Europe’s RTL Group and other leading media companies had expressed an interest in the government-owned channel, which is expected to be sold this year. «Quite a few foreign media have inquired about the station including RTL, Bloomberg, Greece’s Antenna TV, and some of Berlusconi’s people visited me and asked for data,» YU-info’s director Zoran Predic told Reuters. He was referring to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, whose family controls Italy’s largest commercial broadcaster Mediaset. «All prospective buyers are at the level of inquiries, they visited, looked around and are now on stand-by to see when the government will decide to give the go-ahead,» Predic said. He added that the sale of the station was inevitable and would certainly happen this year. Yugoslavia’s new leaders have been seeking to reform the country’s media sector following the downfall in 2000 of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, who frequently used state media for propaganda purposes. If YU-info was sold to a Western company, it would be one of the first foreign investments in the Yugoslav media sector. YU-info is the station with the widest Yugoslav coverage but it ranks only fourth in terms of viewer numbers, Predic said. The first step toward YU-info’s privatization was taken when the federal government this month decided to separate the channel from other state media, which had formed a single company. Yugoslav Information Secretary Slobodan Orlic told Reuters a new broadcasting law would also need to be passed first before the sale goes ahead. «The adoption of the law can be expected in the next three months and then an ownership transformation of YU-Info could be launched very shortly after that,» Orlic said. Orlic cautioned however, that the privatization could be delayed until it becomes clear what will happen with the federation, referring to plans of the coastal republic of Montenegro to hold a referendum on independence. «This (the privatization) could be completed relatively quickly, but it is as much a legal as a political decision,» Orlic said. Charles Bremer, director of international trade for the American Textile Manufacturers Institute, confirmed that his group opposed the idea.