Between financial stability and political dependence: Rethinking the funding model for the PSB in Montenegro

Nataša Ružić

Following the adoption of the necessary legislation in 2002,[i] the former state broadcaster RTCG was transformed into a public service broadcaster. Despite the newly adopted legislation that embraced the principles, standards and recommendations of European actors,[ii] the practice and editorial policy has remained the same[iii] as in the period when RTCG was the state media company. Since its transformation RTCG has continued to represent and promote the interests of the ruling party in its news programs, thus attracting criticism from both opposition parties and civil society. Opposition politicians have openly called RTCG a party service,[iv] disapproving of its editorial policy. A 2016 study on a sample of some 1000 respondents indicated the political bias of the RTCG’s news programming, which is perceived as being under strong political influence, with 20.9% of respondents having the least trust in RTCG among the TV stations in the country.[v]

Political pressures and influence on the operations and editorial policy of PSB can take different forms, but one of the most prominent mechanisms at play in Montenegro is related to the financial dependence of RTCG on the state budget.

Funding model and the independence of RTCG

Financing is the most effective method of controlling the public broadcaster. Financial dependence affects not only its editorial policy, but also the process of digitalization and the production of programs in accordance with its public service obligations. This is why the Council of Europe supports a mixed model of funding[vi] that should be adapted to fit the characteristics of the media markets in individual countries[vii]. According to the Council of Europe, income sources should be diverse, such as from fixed operating licenses, taxes, state subsidies, subscription, advertising and sales of audio-visual archives, with the aim of eliminating the possibility of dependence on one source of income, which would jeopardize a PSB’s financial sustainability and editorial independence. In that context, many authors and international organizations, such as, for example, UNESCO,[viii] argue that subscription is an ideal model for the financing of public broadcasters. 

Initial legislation of 2002[ix] established the license fee as the primary source of PSB funding in Montenegro. The Law of PSB in 2002 imposed an obligation on every household and legal person that owns a radio to pay a broadcasting subscription fee in the monthly amount of 3.5 euro. Following the Law, 75 percent of the funds from the subscription were allocated to RTCG, 5 percent to the Broadcasting Agency (ARD), 10 percent to municipal public service broadcasters and 10 percent to commercial broadcasters.[x] From 2004 until 2007 the subscription fee was collected through the telecom operator Montenegro Telekom, with a collection rate of 90.6 percent.[xi] It brought RTCG between 5.5 and 7 million Euros annually, which was a certain guarantee of the RTCG’s financial independence. However, the subscription system collapsed after the Montenegro Telekom company was privatized, as the public broadcasting service had to find a new way to collect the subscription fee. One of the options considered was to collect the public service subscription through electricity bills, but since less than 50% of households pay electricity bills regularly in comparison to telecom bills, this option was abandoned.[xii] Hence, the Agency for Electronic Media collected broadcasting subscription fees for several months, but the revenues dropped significantly, which led to the abolishment of the subscription fee with the 2008 amendments to the Law on PSB.

According to article 16, the Law on PSB in 2008 set aside 1.2% of the state budget for RTCG on a yearly basis. However, due to the economic crisis, the budget gradually decreased, resulting in a drop in revenues for RTCG. According to former EBU Vice-President Boris Bergant, experts warned the Montenegrin authorities about this situation  a few  years ago, indicating that, due to the economic crisis, budget-linked financing is not a good way to finance the public service broadcaster.[xiii] Hence, in 2014, a new set of amendments to the Law on PSB stipulated that “funds shall be allocated from the Budget of Montenegro for the realization of the basic activities of RTCG at the annual level of 0.3 percent of GDP (Gross Domestic Product), the estimate of which shall be determined by the Government through adoption of macroeconomic and fiscal policy guidelines”.[xiv] Financing from the budget in relation to the country’s GDP represents a significant improvement compared to the previous model of financing the public service broadcaster.

Although the new model of funding which is linked to a percentage of GDP does provide much needed financial stability, it has also made RTCG almost completely dependent on state funding, since the level of diversification of sources of funding is minimal (see Table 1, below).

Table 1. Income of the PSB in Montenegro (in EUR)


Funding from the State Budget

Funding from the Ministry of Culture

Income from Marketing

Other income[xv]

Equipment donations
































Source: Financial reports of RTCG for 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and financial plan for 2016


The government has undertaken to bear all the costs of financing the process of public service broadcaster digitalization and has so far invested 3.1 million EUR. According to the 2017 financial plan, the State has allocated EUR 6,350,000 for these purposes to the public broadcaster.[xviii] The state also financially supports the production of cultural programs and content intended for minorities and persons with disabilities, through the budget of the Ministry of Culture.

Concluding Remarks

The new funding model that was introduced in 2014 has brought much needed financial stability and has significantly improved the overall financial situation of the RTCG. However, by abolishing the subscription fee, RTCG has become completely financially dependent on the state budget, with only 10-15% of annual income now coming from marketing and other sources (see Table 1). Given the perceived political bias in its programming, and the high level of distrust among a significant part of population, it is worth considering how the financial model can be improved to ensure a more balanced editorial policy, financial stability and independence from the government.

One possibility would be to reintroduce the subscription fee, and combine it with the current model of funding from the state budget linked to GDP, in order to ensure much needed diversification of sources of income, and create a solid financial basis for organizational sustainability and editorial independence.

Given a much better financial situation with the RTCG, it is now the right time to start investing in its programming, working towards ensuring full editorial independence, and creating conditions for a truly functional model of mixed funding that best suits the local market conditions and needs of the citizens of Montenegro.


This publication is produced within the project “The prospect and development of public service media: Comparative study of PSB development in Western Balkans in light of EU integration” that investigates the position, role, functioning, and the future of public service broadcasters in seven countries in the Western Balkans – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Kosovo and Serbia, taking into account the specific context in which these services developed and the role the European Union played in such processes. The project is implemented by the Center for Social Research Analitika in partnership with the University of Fribourg.

This project is financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation, through the SCOPES (Scientific cooperation between Eastern Europe and Switzerland) programme.


[i] Law on Media (Službeni list RCG, 51/02), Law on Public Broadcasting Services "Radio of Montenegro" and "Television of Montenegro" (Službeni list RCG, 51/02), Law on Broadcasting Services (Službeni list RCG, 51/02)

[ii] Adoption of the aforementioned regulatory framework was preceded by a series of meetings of the Working Group made up of international experts led by the OSCE, as well as the Montenegrin media community.

[iii] Partial changes in the editorial policy may be observed in the last couple of months.

[iv] Vijesti. “Krivokapić: Sa DPS-om smo samo zbog NATO” [“Krivokapić: We are with DPS only for NATO”] Vijesti, February 12, 2015.

[v] Ispitivanje snage brenda televizije, radija i portala RTCG – Januar 2016 [Research into the brand power of the RTCG television, radio and portal - January 2016]  (Accessed on May 15, 2017)

[vi] Council of Europe, Recommendation 1878 (2009) of the Parliamentary Assembly

[vii]  Zbornik odabranih pravnih instrumenata Saveta Evrope u vezi sa medijima 2007-2014 [Collection of selected legal acts of the Council of Europe on media 2007-2014] (Belgrade: Council of Europe, 2015), p.  81

[viii] United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Public Broadcasting. Why? How? Paris: UNESCO, Communication Development Sector; Montreal: UNESCO, Conseil mondial de la Radiotélévision, 2001, p. 14

[ix] Zakon o javnim radio-difuznim servisima “Radio Crne Gore” i “Televizija Crne Gore” [The Law on Public Service Broadcasting Media “Radio Montenegro” and “Television of Montenegro”]  Official Gazette of Montenegro 51/02

[x] Milka Tadić Mijović, “Transformacija RTCG u javni servis (zakonski okvir i praksa)” [“Transformation of RTCG into a public service broadcaster (legal framework and practice)”], (Master thesis, Faculty of Political Science University of Montenegro, 2009), p. 54.

[xi] Member of the working group in 2002, MNE 01, interview with the author in March 2015. (interviewee requested to remain anonymous).   

[xii] Ibid, p. 55.

[xiii] Boris Bergant, interview with the author in April 20, 2015.

[xiv] Article 16 paragraph 1, “Zakon o izmjenama i dopunama Zakona o javnim radio-difuznim servisima Crne Gore” [Law Amending the Law on Public Broadcasting Services of Montenegro]. (Accessed on January 13, 2016)

[xv] Other income includes income from technical services, income from damages, restaurant.

[xvi] 100,000 euros are for the costs of digitization. Finansijski izvještaj RTCG za 2015. godinu, [Financial Report RTCG for 2015]  (Podgorica: RTCG, 2015), p.  5

[xvii] 3,000,000 euros are for the cost of digitization. Finansijski plan RTCG za 2016. godinu [Financial Report RTCG for 2016]  (Podgorica: RTCG, 2016), p. 5

[xviii]Radio and Television of Montenegro, Finansijski plan RTCG za 2017. godinu [Financial Plan RTCG for 2017] (Podgorica: Radio and Television of Montenegro, 2017), p. 5