Regional co-operation between independent media and public broadcasters in the Western Balkans

The Western Balkans are attempting to fight their infamous track record of division, polarisation and conflict—trends that many media outlets and journalists in the region have exacerbated over the years—but recent surges of fake news, propaganda, sensationalism and simplistic nationalist rhetoric and the tabloidization of many mainstream media risks undoing what has been achieved in terms of national and regional reconciliation.

To promote reconciliation and understanding in the region, public service broadcasting should, according to its mandate, communicate the multifaceted nature of societies and the region to their audiences by avoiding simplifications and the perpetuation of stereotypes. Yet this requires a quality of journalism that is currently insufficiently sustainable given the financial and political positions of these public broadcasters.

Many independent media outlets in the Western Balkans are committed to producing quality journalism that rejects political stereotypes and populistic simplifications, but their work is often overlooked because of their weak audience outreach.

Reconciliation means co-operation, and to this end the panel will examine:

  • First and foremost, why are efforts to reform public broadcasters (a long-standing accession priority) stagnating? Why does the harmonisation with European norms of laws governing the work of public broadcasters not produce results? What is missing in terms of assistance?
  • Could concrete co-operation between public broadcasters in the Western Balkans create a level of synergy that would reinvigorate these reforms?
  • Would a collaborative project that would bring together diverse and independent media outlets working through different platforms improve their standing and outreach? And, in this regard, is there a truly regional audience across national borders for news, investigative reporting and other content?
  • Is there a place for a pan-European public broadcasting in the Western Balkans? One that would ideally build upon the capacities of national public broadcasters in the region as well as those of leading European equivalents?