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Thursday, 18 May, 2000, 21:06 GMT 22:06 UK
B92: Belgrade's impartial voice
Demonstrator against media closures
The station has tried to uphold democratic principles
By BBC News Online's Martin Asser

B92, with its successor B2 92, has been the pioneer of independent Yugoslav broadcasting during the troubled years of the collapse of the republic and the wars that have followed.

It first went on air on 15 May 1989, founded by a group of student journalists with high expectations of the new political freedom with the loosening of communist control.

One of the leading lights of the early days was Veran Matic, a graduate of world literature at Belgrade University who had been active in the city's alternative and youth media since 1984.

He has remained as station manager to this day, although he has kept out of the limelight and only appears in public to defend B92 during times of tension with the authorities.

Small beginnings

The early broadcasts were on a single FM transmitter which covered only about 50 km around the Yugoslav capital.



Veran Matic (centre) is the station's founder
Its enjoyable blend of music, lively phone-ins and incisive current affairs coverage quickly became a focus for opponents of the increasingly authoritarian and bellicose Yugoslav President, Slobodan Milosevic.

It was the programmes' popularity which safeguarded B92 when the government attempted to silence it.

The first of these attempts came in 1991, when it was accused by the Justice Ministry provoking "aggressiveness among the people".

B92 was back on air the following day after massive public protests.

Vigilance

The station went from strength throughout the 1990s, expanding into TV production, the internet and publishing.

It also spread far beyond the confines of Belgrade, reaching about 60% of the Serbian population and using satellite and internet technology to provide news in English and Serbia at an international level.

During the mass demonstrations against election fraud in 1996, B92 came into its own.

As angry protests against the Milosevic government were held throughout the country, B92 kept the Serbian people informed.

Observers say the station's vigilance during this period was largely responsible for opposition parties obtaining the significant representation at regional level they now enjoy.

Questions of impartiality

That is not to say B92's "independence" was a cloak of opposition partisanship - in fact it was a model of impartiality, giving both side of every argument and not resorting to the inflammatory language of its competitors.

The events of 1996 earned the station another shutdown, again quickly reversed.



Attempted closures have caused public outcry
There were international protests and tens of thousands of people marched to the station offices - the authorities backed down saying the loss of B92's signal was caused by a faulty transmitter.

The 1999 Kosovo crisis saw the end of B92. It also saw the birth - a few months later - of B2 92.

As Nato began bombing Yugoslavia, the government took over the radio studios and started broadcasting pro-Milosevic programmes using the B92 wavelength and identity.

It carried on broadcasting for a while through the internet, where it aroused the ire of alliance generals as much as did the Belgrade government.

While Nato did everything it could to portray its version of events, B92 was the most reliable source of information as far as Serbs were concerned and it often contradicted the statements made by the Brussels propaganda machine.

The rebirth as B2 92 came in August 1999, assisted by Studio B television, the organ of the opposition Serbian Renewal Movement,

Both the Radio and TV transmissions were closed in the current sweeping media crackdown, but, true to form, B2 92 was soon back on the air, via satellite and the internet, from a secret location.

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See also:

17 May 00 | Media reports
How free speech went off-air
03 Apr 99 | Monitoring
Serbia closes B92 radio station
18 Mar 00 | Europe
Serbia clamps down on media
13 Apr 00 | Europe
Serb media defies government
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