Radio Television of Serbia FS

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RTS Official Page
Wikipedia Page

RTS Headquarters in Belgrade, Serbia
RTS TV Program Screenshot


"Good day, dear viewers. Television studio Belgrade is starting its experimental program.”  That’s how everything started back in August 1958. Television Belgrade, as it was called back in the time, spoke to its audience for the first time.
The price of a television back in that time was almost as high as 20 average monthly salaries, so only the privileged were lucky enough to have the devices in their homes, while the rest of the nation had to watch the program on televisions set on most crowded places in cities across Serbia. That day, around 150 employees were on a “task", accompanied by an OB track with 7 cameras.

As Serbia was part of Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, under the communist regime, Radio Television of Serbia was established as a result of country’s decision to invest in a television network. Among the regular employees, they hired a large group of notable people from the cultural life of Serbia, including journalists, philosophers, writers, painters and other artists, to promote as well as to contribute to RTS’s program.

RTS used to be one of the leading European TV stations with its television production managing to compete with the latest broadcasting standards and demands. That was the case up until 1999, when its main headquarter building and a group of production facilities were completely devastated during the NATO bombing, causing the broadcaster’s development stagnation in the middle of the most innovative period of technological industry. It took the country almost 6 years to reestablish the whole business and operation structure of RTS.

Throughout the biggest part of its history, the station was owned by the Government of Serbia, until the year of 2005, 6 years after the final breakdown of Yugoslavia, when it became a public-owned company. It is primarily financed through advertising revenue, as well as through monthly subscription fees bundled with utility bills.

Today, the company is part of European Broadcast Union, and is consisted of 10 channels (5 radio and 5 television), including a satellite program, a network of local and world-wide reporter centers, a live web programming platform, a music production label, a research and a documentation center, employing more than 3000 people.


Screenshot of RTS program listing, showing one part of its redesigned suite
In 2008, RTS was responsible for production of Europe's biggest music festival in association with EBU

It’s always hard to perceive a local (Serbian) company’s business model because although it is well established and regulated, it is constantly facing numerous obstacles that affect its management, as a result of the country’s misfortunate recent history.

Taking into consideration all the negative factors that often occur, I would say that RTS is operating pretty well. It is the most popular TV station in Serbia, as well as the largest broadcaster in the former Yugoslavia and the Balkans. It’s main competitors are private TV stations that have a larger offer of entertainment and mass-market content. As RTS is a national broadcaster, it is required by law to broadcast a certain number of hours of educational, historical, cultural and informative program per day, as well as to use the official cyrillic script and promote the country’s cultural heritage. I find that to be an important regulative, although it definitely brings a number of disadvantages, especially in process of modernization. For example, required usage of cyrillic font (although I completely support it) deducts design-wise possibilities, ignores national minorities in Serbia, differentiates the online content from the one seen on TV (cyrillic script is rarely used on popular web platforms), etc.

In my opinion, one of RTS’s biggest problems is not keeping up with world-wide trends that are crucial factors for successfully running a media company nowadays. Although I noticed numerous improvements in this field, (including re-branding, social network coverage, new content), it is still far from perfect. The lack of young employees, caused by financial situation, is extremely noticeable. The absence of fresh ideas and appropriate familiarity with new technologies, prevents RTS from further development.

Incorporating world-wide trends would improve RTS’s business in terms of revenue, popularity, credibility and customer relationship. For example, putting emphasize on its online content, like YouTube videos could bring them extra money from advertisement; producing shows on a higher level would attract youth, hence enlarge the company’s popularity.

Being the biggest TV station in a region should definitely be used as an opportunity and a great platform for further development. There are so many different possibilities to easily work on that, without extra costs, as well as those which require extra costs, like hiring young employees.
As I come from Serbia, I know a lot about the situation there, and as I worked for RTS during my FWT, I am familiar with the problems they are facing. I am aware of the weight of improvement, but I definitely think it’s possible and manageable. First step should probably be reorganization and designing new business models that among the others, includes the problems that I previously stated.