By Bojana Barlovac
Serbia’s Avala TV has deployed security guards to prevent employees from entering the building and taking the station off air.
Five security men stopped employees of TV Avala from entering the building at the weekend and halting programmes, as they announced they would do. The programme is aired by unknown persons.
The idea to shut down broadcasting comes after 40 days of strikes over unpaid wages, which are now more than five months late.
Since December 22, the halls of Avala have been largely empty and the broadcaster has been operating at a minimum level.
Live programmes stopped that day while a box in the corner of the screen counts the days since the strike began.
The Ministry for Culture and Media has announced it will not intervene as it maintains that Avala’s financial problems do not come under its jurisdiction.
Earlier in January, the company’s owners told the state broadcasting agency, RRA, that they would to pay staffers one-and-a-half owed salaries by the end of the month and another month’s salary by the end of February.
Nikola Vukomanovic, TV Avala’s anchor, said shutting down broadcasts completely was the only remaining option.
“They promise us something new every day, so we get to hear something nice every day, but the nice stories do not result in any changes to our bank accounts,” he said.
“We don’t see how we can legally reach our goal unless we radicalize the strike,” he added.
If the employees do manage to get into the production room and stop progamming, the RRA may revoke the station’s national broadcasting licence immediately.
TV Avala began broadcasting in 2006, after obtaining a national frequency, but it has faced financial problems for years.
The broadcaster’s financial records for 2010, which Balkan Insight has obtained, show that the station that year owed €25.7 million in short-term loans, services and credits while its income for that year was only €2.6 million.
The current ownership structure consists of businessman Danko Djunic, who owns 45.65 per cent, Austrian company Greenberg Invest, which owns 48.41 per cent, media mogul Zeljko Mitrovic, who owns 4.95 per cent and the Economic Institute, which has 0.99 per cent.