United Group: We will prove complaints before BiH Competition Council unfounded

Certain web portals in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia published the news about the proceedings initiated against the United Group before the Council of Competition of Bosnia and Herzegovina over alleged “media cartels”, based on complaints by the competitor Telekom Srbija. United Group issued a statement regarding this issue, stating that it will fully comply with the law and cooperate with the competent authorities in BiH.

“Although unpleasantly surprised by the fact that the Council of Competition has decided not to completely reject apparently unfounded complaints and refuse to contribute to attempts to harass independent media, United Group reminds the public that it operates in full compliance with the legal framework in all countries where it is present and will cooperate with competent state authorities in order to fully establish the facts. The Council of Competition of Bosnia and Herzegovina regularly acts on the reports of third parties in order to establish the factual situation and the initiation of the investigation itself is a routine procedure.

The United Group can confirm that the entities within the United Group have received two conclusions on the initiation of a competition infringement investigation procedure related to the broadcasting of certain international programme contents. The proceedings refer to an agreement between entities within the United Group and CNN which established the cooperation between CNN and N1, the most credible news medium in the region, established eight years ago, and cooperation in the production of part of the content broadcast on the Nova BH channel under the Newsmax license.

Our users can judge for themselves whether in Bosnia and Herzegovina (or in Serbia) N1 and Newsmax have a monopoly and significant market power or whether some other entities represent a more significant problem in this regard.

Agreements on cooperation, exchange of recorded materials and shows, and co-production of programs are common in the media business of TV stations throughout Europe and the world, and the fact that Telekom Srbija – which established similar cooperation with Euronews and launched a TV channel (although contrary to Serbian regulations on public information, according to which state-owned companies cannot be media publishers) and regularly highlights the number of exclusive content on its channels, including films, series, news or sports content – is the entity that initiated the procedure, speaks volumes about the unfoundedness of the initiated procedure,” the statement said.

United Group also pointed out that the public was informed about Telekom Srbija’s strategic plans to prevent financing of United Group media, the intention of Telekom Srbija to remain the only content provider with the possibility of establishing new TV channels, and the intention of complete domination of Telekom Srbija’s content in relation to United Media channels.

“This complaint by Telekom Srbija represents another proof that they are doing everything in each of the countries where they operate to try to damage the reputation of the United Group.

The public should bear in mind that appeals in these specific proceedings have been lodged by economic operators who have no legitimate interest in participating in the proceedings, nor have they been harmed by the mentioned contractual relations, without providing any material evidence for the unsubstantiated allegations, and against which the Council of Competition Bosnia and Herzegovina is conducting several proceedings in parallel to investigate actual and specific violations of competition, including regarding the illegal acquisitions of cable operators with which a de facto monopoly on telecommunications in the territory of the Republika Srpska was established; the illegal broadcasting of BiH Premier League football matches; discrimination against operators in Bosnia and Herzegovina regarding the distribution of Arena Sport and RTS channels; abuses of a dominant position in relation to excessive and discriminatory prices charged by operators within the Mtel Group to customers,” the statement said.

United Group added that readers and consumers of United Group media can best judge for themselves which entities in the region advocate freedom of the press and media pluralism, impartiality, timeliness and accuracy of information, ie commercial business practices and the right to different political opinions.

“Everyday practice shows enough whether the cartelization of the media market through CNN and Newsmax is the essence of the problem with media freedoms and European values in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region. United Group respects the Law written according to the standards of the European Union and will report on the course of the procedure conducted by the Council of Competition of BiH to the European Commission, the EBRD, as well as all EU ambassadors,” the statement said.