Absence of Regulation on Media Ownership Concentration

Kosovo lacks mechanisms and a legal foundation to prevent the concentration of media ownership within a single business or individual. 

In contrast, developed countries, including those in the EU, have established legal regulations to prohibit individuals from owning a large number of media outlets. This norm has been reinforced to safeguard against the dominance of the media by a single owner.

An investigation by BIRN reveals that Kosovo has yet to establish a legal framework to curb the concentration of media ownership. 

While the country enforces licensing for radios and televisions, the independent media commission, as per BIRN's findings, lacks the legal authority to prevent an owner from acquiring a significant number of televisions and radios.

The legal foundation emphasizes that media freedom and pluralism are rights protected by the Constitution of the Republic of Kosovo. 

Media pluralism is specifically governed by the principle that media ownership in Kosovo should not be consolidated under a single owner. 

Although the Constitution of Kosovo came into effect on June 15, 2008, the implementation of this constitutional principle has not been realized in secondary legislation.

The assessment of the legal framework indicates that the oversight of media ownership concentration in Kosovo remains unregulated, posing a vulnerability that endangers the freedom of the media as a whole. 

Despite efforts over the past six years to address the concentration of media ownership, Kosovo lacks legislation to regulate this crucial aspect of media governance. This deficiency poses a risk to overall media pluralism. 

The country has consistently faced criticism for this stagnation in the European Commission's Kosovo’s Progress Report. The annual report highlights Kosovo's failure to tackle issues such as the regulation of media ownership, transparency in ownership, and, notably, the overall regulation of media ownership.

The absence of such regulation makes it challenging to set standards concerning media pluralism, diversity, transparency in media ownership, and the concentration of media ownership. 

These standards would serve to prevent monopolies in the media market, prohibit dominance and undue pressure on the media, protect freedom of expression, and, consequently, become a crucial tool in maintaining editorial independence and the right to objective information.

Media ownership concentration refers to a scenario in which a limited number of individuals, legal entities, or companies hold shares in multiple media service providers and exercise (effective) control. This situation can result in a detrimental impact on the diversity of voices and opinions, thereby compromising pluralism and media diversity.

What is the current regulatory framework for media ownership in Kosovo?

The Independent Media Commission, functioning as an independent and accountable entity, advocates for and upholds an equitable and transparent system for licensing and overseeing audiovisual media services. It also manages the broadcast frequency spectrum in alignment with the highest international standards.

However, the law governing the operations of the Independent Media Commission entirely ignores the regulation of media ownership concentration. While this law outlines provisions concerning the disclosure of documents related to licenses and mandates the Independent Media Commission to operate transparently, it fails to address the matter of media ownership, let alone the concentration of media ownership.

Apart from this law, the document addressing the matter of media ownership is the "Regulation of the IMC for Granting a License." In addition to stipulating all the obligations that licensees must fulfil, it also acknowledges the "concentration of ownership of the media." This recognition suggests that such a document would promote media diversity and competition, explicitly stating that "the concentration of media ownership will be regulated by the IMC with a separate bylaw."

This IMC regulation has been in existence for almost a decade. Since at least 2018, the Independent Media Commission has included the drafting of the regulation for the concentration of ownership in its annual work plan for the following year. However, this initiative has yet to materialize, persisting as an ongoing obligation year after year, despite being considered one of the primary objectives of the Independent Media Commission.

Another IMC document outlining responsibilities for licensees is the document titled 'General License Terms and Conditions.' This document delineates the obligations of licensees to inform the IMC and seek prior approval for any change in ownership of 10% of shares or interests. It also specifies that licensees are required to furnish the IMC with information regarding the identity of owners holding less than 10% of the shares in a company registered as a joint-stock entity.

While this document outlines requirements for providing information to owners of a medium, it does not impose any prohibition on individuals or legal entities owning certain media entities, potentially posing a threat to media pluralism.

The Independent Media Commission has released registers for licensees of distribution (cable) operators, as well as registers for televisions through distribution operators and terrestrial radio and television registers. However, these registries offer limited information about owners and lack any form of specification, let alone restrictions, regarding the concentration of media ownership.

Additionally, the Independent Media Commission releases all licensing and pertinent ownership decisions on its website. Currently, the only mechanism that could indirectly apply to safeguard media pluralization and prevent concentration of ownership is the Law on Protection of Competition. This law is applicable to all forms of preventing, restricting, or distorting competition by enterprises within the Republic of Kosovo or outside its territory if their actions impact the market of the Republic of Kosovo. However, without specific regulations addressing the concentration of ownership in the media sector, this mechanism is nearly ineffective.

The prospect of concentrated ownership in the future

The recent incident involving Klan Kosova, whose business certificate was suspended in June of this year by the Ministry of Industry, Entrepreneurship, and Trade (MINT), citing a discrepancy in the listed place of residence during changes in ownership, as opposed to the principles outlined in the Constitution of the Republic of Kosovo, has brought the issue of media ownership back into focus.

This decision was upheld in the second instance by MINT, but the Commercial Court later overturned the suspension. The court granted Klan Kosova the right to appeal the license suspension until a final decision is reached.

The dilemmas raised by this case and the regulation of media ownership in Kosovo appear to have fueled considerations about the concentration of media ownership. In October of this year, the Independent Media Commission introduced the draft Regulation on the Concentration of Ownership.

Released for public comments on October 10, 2023, the draft IMC Regulation seeks to establish standards pertaining to media pluralism, diversity, and transparency in media ownership. It aims to foster the development and promotion of freedom of expression, preserve editorial independence, and safeguard the right to objective information.

This draft outlines that "an individual or legal entity holding a general audiovisual broadcasting license is only eligible to acquire an audio broadcasting license, and vice versa." 

Additionally, the draft regulation specifies that "an OSHMA (or an affiliated individual) is permitted to hold shares in a news agency or its owning company, up to a maximum of 10%."

Furthermore, this document addresses the matter of foreign ownership by restricting it, stating that "foreign ownership in a licensee is permissible only with the approval of the IMC and cannot exceed 49% of the shares."

In addition to this regulation, the draft law for the Independent Media Commission includes a specific article addressing the regulation of ownership concentration. This provision establishes the legal foundation for addressing the issue of ownership concentration.

  • Project by
    Global Media Registry
    Funded by European Union