Paltry setting for local media in Bosnia and Herzegovina: scarce sources of revenues and lack of editorial independence. 
Local media are burdened with the most extreme version of problems in the media environment of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the major ones being scarce advertising sources and interference of political and economic elites in editorial policies1. The multitude of media - overall 44 TV stations, 140 radio stations, three PSBs, nine newspapers, seven news agencies and more than 100 different kinds of magazines – struggle to survive in the impoverished media market. 
Due to the economic crisis and outflow of advertising into foreign markets, advertising revenues have declined significantly in recent years, amounting to an estimated 45 million euro in 2013. In this advertising market, annual advertising revenues in broadcasting are still around 10 times the figure for print media (BBC 2014)2.
In spite of diminishing advertising revenues, the number of broadcasters is practically unchanged, suggesting that competition has become more severe and integrity of media expectedly more compromised. Financial and political dependence is considered the greatest obstacle to freedom of media3.
Revenues available to local media are especially scarce and one of the rare major sources is local government. For example, all 34 local TV stations had a share of around 7.7 percent of overall revenues in TV broadcasting in 2012 (overall 80 million Euro in the TV market) (CRA 2013). Commercial revenues are extremely limited and both national and international advertisers have little or no interest in local media since they generally already reach their target audiences through larger outlets. Advertisers are additionally discouraged to invest in local media advertising because audience reach data are non-existent or poor in quality. 
There is a huge number of broadcasters still owned and financed directly by municipal and cantonal governments - 12 out of 44 TV stations and 62 out of 140 radio stations (2014, Media Integrity Matters). These media are placed in a position of direct dependence, given that they receive funds directly from public budgets (some sources suggest these funds amount to around 7.87 million Euro per year), with no guarantees of editorial autonomy. Among these broadcasters, Television of Sarajevo Canton (TVSA) receives the largest portion of revenues (around 2 million Euro per year). 
Other public media receive significantly smaller funding, have limited technical and human capacities, and cannot afford to produce quality content. More alarmingly, editorial independence and performance of public service role by these media are questionable, while they are mostly considered loyal to the local governments. Governments that finance media are in a position to appoint and dismiss managerial structures in these media on the basis of their political loyalty. In this situation: “(...) One can feel the atmosphere that, given that it is a public company depending on the cantonal budget, you have to be submissive in a way” (respondent in Media Integrity Matters research, p. 159). The status of these media should be reconsidered in order to assure coverage of local news, but also to strengthen their independence. Adis Šušnjar of BH Novinari, interviewed on December 19, 2014, suggests that privatization should be part of the solution, but also that it “… has to be done carefully to prevent radio stations from becoming only jukebox services and to prevent journalists losing their jobs”. 
Indeed, far from guaranteeing media pluralism and independent accounts of reality, commercial local media are believed to be utterly commercialized and/or in the service of their owners and affiliated centers of power. Given that journalists are usually not consulted in the process of appointing editors at commercial television stations, there are no mechanisms of protection of professional criteria against the particular interests of owners. Local authorities provide some funding for commercial media too, under advertising contracts, paid coverage of government activities or only coverage of special events, or for promotion of local development supported by local authorities. And while such incentives might be commendable as the only insurance that locally relevant content will be produced, they also expectedly restrain editorial independence (see Jusić and Hodžić, 2010, 67-69).
When it comes to commercial income, only a few bigger commercial media are believed to be truly sustainable businesses, while most smaller media, especially local media, practically do not stand a chance for achieving such status. When it comes to advertising revenues in the TV sector, two cantonal broadcasters belong to the top 10 income group (CRA 2013), but all local TV broadcasters together take around 12.7 percent of TV advertising (out of overall 28.4 million Euro, CRA 2013).
What do local media offer to citizens?
The answer to this question is: we do not really know. 
It is difficult to even estimate how many out of around 100 magazines published in BiH can be considered local. Some magazines cover events from several municipalities (such are Tuzlanski list, Reprezent and Naša Riječ). In addition to bulletins issued by some cantonal or municipal governments, there are also a few publications financed mostly or partially through local governments which are distributed through regular channels of distribution of print media (publication Communication and Community, 2010, p. 78). There is no available information on the role and quality of these publications. Instead, anecdotal evidence suggests that they have some informational value, but that their contribution to media pluralism, investigative journalism or critical reporting on centers of power is scarce. Rašid Krupalija of Bosnia Daily e-newspaper, interviewed  on December 18, 2014, says that such publications are useful in terms of providing detailed information on major local events, but adds that "…in terms of critical reporting on local authorities or powerful figures, such outlets are very rarely a good source..."
There have been a few research projects concerning the performance of local broadcasters, which all indicate that local TV broadcasters provide a significant portion of content concerning local communities, but that the quality of this content is questionable. Based on these sources, improvements are needed in various areas of reporting, including production of news, education and documentary programs (CRA monitoring, 2002). They also indicate that “important information and viewpoints are missing in media content, which is caused primarily by a lack of information sources and by various types of political influence exerted on editorial policies, along with scarce funds in the media for the production of content important to the local public” (Jusić and Hodžić, 2010, p. 103). Some of the shortages indicated in these research reports are that there is a lack of plurality of voices in media content, shortage of programs for certain categories of citizens, lack of content that promotes citizen participation, and also lack of critique and calls for accountability of local governmental institutions for problems within the community, or reports about the implementation of their plans (see Jusić and Hodžić, 2010, p. 102). Other sources suggest radio programs are mostly focused on entertainment and have little informational value (Mediacentar Sarajevo, unpublished report, 2007). 
Inexistent policies 
Some sources suggest that public local broadcasters, having a head start due to financial infusions from public budgets, are dumping the prices of advertising and thus pushing commercial local broadcasters further towards the financial edge (see MSI Irex). The extent of the policy deficit is shown here by the fact that not only have relevant state institutions not made attempts to stop such possible illegitimate competition, but they have not considered the overall status of public local broadcasters at all for around a decade. In fact, there have been virtually no policy initiatives to protect local media. There are no tax breaks and subsidies for specific content of public significance are rare and do not guarantee the actual public-interest value of the content.  
There are no requirements on the regulatory level for local broadcasters setting a quota for production of content of local relevance, even when it comes to local public broadcasters. Some sources suggest that media that involve local content have been prioritized in the process of granting broadcasting licenses, if such content is missing in the particular area. ”In cases when there are several regional stations in a certain area, CRA prioritizes a local station because we believe ... that a local community is entitled to have access to local information,” said Emir Povlakić from CRA (cited in the publication Communication and Community, 2010, p. 93). However, even in such cases, in the absence of content monitoring, there are no guarantees that local content is actually being produced.
Rule 58/2011 foresees licensing of non-profit radio stations, but the policy largely fails to offer an incentive for the establishment of such radios since it does not allow these media to benefit from advertising revenues. The sector is thus vastly underdeveloped with only three licensed non-profit radio stations. 
Lack of transparency and limited (self) regulation
Sources of information on the operations and performance of local media in general are extremely scarce, especially when it comes to online media whose editorial and ownership structures are sometimes utterly nontransparent. Local broadcasters fall under the authority of the Communications Regulatory Agency which can issue executive measures in cases of violation of program norms, but since no regular monitoring of content is conducted, many violations can escape such regulation. When it comes to local print and online media, they fall under the competencies of the Press Council, but the reach of the self-regulation mechanism is limited given that it depends on whether complaints are filed, whether media outlet are willing to comply with the decisions of the Press Council, and finally on whether basic data on media and contact information are available (which is not always the case with online media). 
In sum, despite the large number of local media, there is a lack of content relevant for local communities and lack of media pluralism at the local level. The media environment, with scarce sources of revenues and dominant political interference, does not allow much editorial independence. At the same time, policy makers do not practically make any attempts to stimulate editorial independence or production of relevant local content.
1 See for example BiH: Najmanje slobode u lokalnim medijima. Deutsche Welle 2013. Available at: 
2  Bosnia Herzegovina Profile. BBC 2014. Available at: 
3  See for example Media and Society in BiH 2014. Friedrich Ebert Stiftung and BH Novinari 2014. Available at:
Author: Sanela Hodžić; inputs from interviews and peer-review by Lidija Pisker 
Media Policy and Reforms