RT broadcast restored in Serbia

The Balkan nation’s public broadcaster readmitted Russian channels to its cable network

Serbian public broadcaster Telekom Srbija has restored RT and RTD, the Russian news and documentaries channels, to its cable package, RT announced on Friday. However, privately-owned SBB has kept the Russian channels blocked there, “despite having the technical capability” to resume their broadcast, Sasha Savicevic, an RT officer for distribution in Europe and Africa said.

Russian channels went down in Serbia when the EU blocked its signal as part of a package of sanctions against Moscow in retaliation for its invasion of Ukraine. Serbian officials called the restrictions “hypocritical” and pledged that their country would not join them.

Nevertheless, for several days the programming was not available to Telekom Srbija subscribers because French satellite operator Eutelsat stopped relaying it. The Serbian broadcaster platformed the Russian channels again after finding technical ways to circumvent the restriction.

SBB is owned by telecoms giant United Group, which does business in Balkan states and in wider southern Europe. Pro-Serbian government media criticized the firm’s chair, billionaire Dragan Solak, for siding with EU governments on the decision to censor Russian news outlets.

Solak’s name found its way into Western media headlines in January, after he took control of Southampton FC, paying a reported 120 million euros ($132 mn) to buy the stock of the English Premier League club.

Solak also funds opposition political groups in Serbia, as critics accuse him of being a vehicle for foreign money that funds the fanning up of anti-government sentiments.

United Group and Telekom Srbija recently fought a bidding war for English Premier League broadcasting rights, which the public broadcaster ultimately won.

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