Serbia/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.3 Cultural/creative industries: policies and programmes

In 2002, the Ministry of Culture in Serbia set up a Working Group to examine policy issues regarding the development of culture industries. This issue is very important because of Serbian future membership of the WTO and also because of the potential of the culture industries for future economic development in Serbia. A statement provided by the Serbian Ministry of Culture has been included in a Memorandum on Trade to the WTO.

However, the culture industries (CI) and the media have not been included in a 2002 strategic document by the Serbian Ministry of Science, Technology and Economic Development for the period up to 2010. Therefore, one of the main tasks of the Working Group of the Ministry of Culture is to raise awareness and lobby for the inclusion of the culture industries in strategic documents of the Serbian government. There is still a low recognition of the CI concept by policy makers as well as ideological resistance from the traditional part of the creative sector to be recognised as a CI or to have both dimensions, cultural and economic.

During the last couple of years, the concept of creative industries became very popular in Serbia as a tool for many different economic and social issues, very often outside the real sense of creative industries. This concept is mostly recognised in line with emerging international funds for creative industry projects, but they are still missing clear conceptualisations and high-quality projects that can support the development of the creative industries. Many private cultural companies have labelled themselves as creative industry leaders like the EXIT festival or the Nashville Jazz Festival. Mixer House in Belgrade is actively promoting the concept through different types of gatherings, B2B events and the Mixer festival. But all of the companies are primarily oriented towards presentation and promotion of creative industries, and they are not involved in supporting local creative production, stimulation of local creativity and innovation as well as high-quality audience development. At the same time, there are voices heard against the concept, understood as neo-liberalisation of the culture field.

Despite and maybe because of the ideological clashes, as well as the non-favourable business environment, the creative industries are still in the emerging period. In the last years, there was an intensive process of privatisation, especially in the field of film industries, which often failed. Most of the cinemas and state film companies have been privatised, not because of their creative legacy, but because of their valuable real-estate property. In 2007, Belgrade Film, one of the most successful state companies in the Former Yugoslavia, was sold for 9.1 million EUR. Only one of the cinemas that were part of Belgrade Film continued to operate. All the others were resold or rented to become restaurants, shops or casinos. Dunav film, the oldest film production company, which produced 504 films in the period 1954-2005, was also sold. Avala Film, a company with the biggest complex of production studios in the region is waiting to be privatised, with a lot of controversy surrounding this process. The number of cinema halls has diminished, so that in 2009 there were only 112 cinemas in the whole of Serbia (out of which 29 are in Belgrade and 16 in Vojvodina). The number of cinema tickets sold in 2014 was just over 1.2 million, which several years before was the number of spectators for only one film – Zona Zamfirova. Only 5.2% of the population visit the cinema and this is the reason that Serbian distributors just import 140 films on average each year, mostly Hollywood blockbusters (for more information see: Opštine u Srbiji 2009 (Municipalities in Serbia in 2009), State Office for Statistics. ISSN 1450 – 9075. It is interesting that this statistical bulletin has only one chapter regarding culture - about cinemas).

However, new initiatives in the field of cultural industries have been created. The NGO Academica (Uzice) has started to animate and promote the creative sector in South-East Serbia, (in the three cities: Uzice, Kraljevo and Cacak). Based on the creative industries' mapping documents (2007), about 155 enterprises and organisations and 90 freelancers were active in the cultural industries in South-East Serbia and the number of employees in enterprises and organisation totalled 1 750.

In 2007, UNDP Serbia launched two projects aiming to raise public awareness as well as promoting entrepreneurship in the creative industries. By the end of 2007, it organised a public debate on "Private museums in Serbia" in Belgrade. At the same time, a study on "Creative industries, competitiveness and design: proactive approach" was published.

Recently, new research and studies on the creative industries were produced. In 2013, UNESCO used the Institute for Statistics Haschosen Serbia as a case study for piloting a new UNESCO Institute for Statistics Baseline Model of Indicators for measuring the social and economic contribution of the cultural industries. This study will be of use not only for improving cultural statistics in Serbia, but also as a "role model" for improving institutional capacity in other countries and to build evidence based of its policy decision making. At the beginning of 2013 a "Green paper on the creative economy in Serbia" was prepared. The paper was produced as a result of discussion and public dialogue held at the First Creative Economy Forum in 2012 as well as consultations with different creative industries stakeholders. Recommendations from the "Green Paper" are a platform for establishing the Council of Creative Industries at the Serbian Chamber of Commerce (advisory body with the main aim to support development of CI) as well as meetings and consultations on improving the business environment for the creative industries initiated by the Ministry of Economy and the Serbian Chamber of Commerce in 2014. Recommendations of the Green Paper were also included in the "National programme for international financial support 2014-2020" created by Office for European Integration.

In 2014, WIPO supported the Institute for Protection of Intellectual Property in Serbia to produce research on copyright industries in Serbia. The aim of this research is to present the economic contribution of the copyright industries in Serbia as well as to analyse the intellectual property framework and its influence on the development of the copyright industries in Serbia.

The contribution of the creative industries to the Serbian economy and job creation can be seen in several lines through direct the economic impact (primary and secondary economic impact) as well as induced economic impact. In 2012 the total economic impact of the creative industries in Serbia was 8.85% of total employment and between 6% and 9.8% of total Gross Value Added (GVA). Depending on sub-sectors in the creative industries, the average growth rate of employment was between 1% to 6.4%, while the GVA growth rate was between 0.2% and 10.8%.

Table 1:    Preliminary results on economic impacts of Creative Industries in Serbia, in EUR, 2012

Economic indicator

Primary impact

Secondary impact

Total economic impact of creative industries

Formal employment full time

79 189

73 724

152 913(8.85%)

Contribution to Gross Value Added (GVA), real price 2002




Induced economic impact of creative industries

-Private consumption

634 million

385 million

1.019 million

-Public consumption

170 million

248 million

418 million

Source:    Mikić, H. ed. (2014) Creative Industries in Serbia, Belgrade: Creative Economy Group Foundation.

In 2012, the average productivity of the creative industries was 12 000 EUR and it was 30% higher than the economy average. Each job in the core creative industries creates 1 job in related fields of the creative industries, while 1 job in the supporting sectors is created per each 5 jobs in the creative industries. Each enterprise in the creative industries engaged about 70-100 freelancers, which is about 570 500 freelance contracts per year. The export potential of the creative industries is also evident: the emerging export industries-export of creative services was 2.5 times higher than the export of creative goods, with a value of 493 million USD (4.5% of total export in 2008).

In 2010, the Ministry of Culture, Information and the Information Society set up a Task Force for Development of Creative Industries. The task force proposed the programme Creative Serbia 2020, focused on the development of the creative industries in three main fields: development of evidence based policy research in creative industries (economic and social contribution studies, policy relevant reports and papers); raising public awareness and organising creative industry debates in Serbian cities; and non-financial and financial support for creative industries (small-scale grants). The first outcomes of the programme Creative Serbia 2020 is the publication "Creative Serbia: new ways of development" and forums and debates about creative industries as a concept for poverty reduction, employment of young people and raising entrepreneurship in rural and undeveloped cities in Serbia. The Task Force was mandated only for two years, which largely constricted any kind of serious engagement in this area. Having in mind that the Ministry of Culture was often given useful suggestions by different working groups (working group for professional development, decentralisation, child culture, etc.) while rarely implementing them, it was the same case with the proposals given by the Task Force for creative industries. Due to politics (the elections held in Serbia in May 2012), the work of the Task force was blocked and experts and institutional partners gathered during its first mandate have continued the mutual cooperation and all programme activities proposed to the Ministry of Culture have continued to live though the private-public partnership project "Creative Serbia". In 2013, the project "Creative Serbia 2020" was selected by the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee as one of the "innovative programmes" for building the "soft" infrastructure for the creative economy and public-private partnership in developing creative industries (UNESCO CE/13/7.IGC/5 Rev. Paris, 18/11/ 2013).

The draft text of the Strategy for culture for the period 2012-2022 (proposal, which was not approved due to a change of Minister) contains a definition of the creative industries as well as culture in accordance with UNESCO FCS 2009 and recognises new and modern fields of culture such us design, crafts, architecture, and IT. At the moment, the Ministry of Culture and Information is working on a new strategy for culture with no clear intention of including the creative industries as an integrative part of the cultural sector targeted by strategy.

The Cinema Law (whose infrastructure is mostly privatised), was developed with help from the Council of Europe. It created the Film Centre of Serbia, which started to operate in 2005. On the basis of an open competition, the funds are distributed to producers, who are obliged to return a certain amount. Television stations, as well as cinemas, will also contribute to this Fund from screening and broadcast taxes. At the moment in Serbia, Ministerial funds are distributed on the basis of competitions for film projects as subsidies.

The most important achievement has been the acceptance of Serbia and Montenegro into the Eurimage programme on 17 November 2004, during the annual Eurimage meeting in Strasbourg. Since then, 12 feature film projects have received a Eurimage grant, numerous films and 10 distributors got grants for distribution, and five cinema halls received grants for adaptation to become cinema halls for European films: Art Bioskop Muzeum, Dvorana Doma Sindikata, Dvorana Kulturnog Centra Beograda (Belgrade ), Multimedijalni centar MRKvart, Kraljevo and Cinéma Zrenjanin

The huge project BibliOdyssey had been launched to improve the book trade infrastructure, with support from the Matra programme (Netherlands), the Open Society Fund, and both Ministries of Culture in Serbia and Montenegro. Within this programme, the BIS (Book Information System) and the Distribution Centre were created, bookstores in smaller towns were supported (10 bookshops) and different professional courses are being organised. Still, the impact of the project remained relatively low, as distribution is the weakest element in the book value chain.

Another important and very complicated issue is piracy, which was particularly rampant throughout the 1990s, due in part to the international embargo (making it impossible to pay for copyright), as well as the lack of government intervention, leaving "small entrepreneurs" to develop and enter this field legally. The situation in the film / video / television and music market has been almost completely solved when it comes to domestic legislation, but piracy through the Internet and the closure of cinemas has almost completely destroyed the cinema market in Serbia. The only positive steps are coming through the new shopping malls in which multiplex cinemas are being opened, mostly screening Hollywood blockbusters. When it comes to publishing, wide-spread piracy is mostly depriving the rights of local authors and publishers; local photocopying offices are even selling school manuals or best-selling books in "photocopy version". In spring 2004, the National Library, the University of Arts and the Publishing House Clio launched a huge campaign, "my private pirate library", to raise public awareness on these issues.

The increase in the amount of new book publishers, after 1991, does not necessarily indicate an expansion of creativity in the book trade. The number of new titles is often a misleading indicator of creativity. Many excellent writers emigrated from the country and others stopped writing. Only recently have new and important publishers been emerging and they are the key stimulators for authors and the book trade. Dismantling the old state subsidised system and the transition towards the market and privatisation has put the book industry in a difficult position, especially regarding book distribution and sales. This whole situation should be improved by introducing a new Law on Publishing according to European standards which would introduce new government measures in areas such as: incentives for authors (i.e. competitions for new scripts), sponsorship, creating authors' copyright societies, further improvement on the acquisition of books for libraries, etc.

In 2002, the Ministry of Culture introduced a joint system for all municipal public library purchases through the National Library of Serbia, which could be considered, besides its nominal support to public reading, as some kind of indirect support to the book industry (to publishing). The Ministry has spent 19.5 million EUR in the last five years on this programme. This kind of support also exists in the city of Belgrade. From 2002 to 2005, the city secretary for culture spent 1.3 million EUR on financing book purchases for city libraries.

The Belgrade Book Fair has lost its international and regional significance and it has changed its management structure twice since 2000, but this event still remains a sociological phenomenon as the cultural event with the largest number of participants (around 200 000 visitors). The participation of Serbian publishers at book fairs abroad sporadically receives public support from the state and from the city of Belgrade.

There are no specific and systematic training and educational programmes available for cultural industry professionals. However, some partial initiatives exist in certain sectors of the cultural industries – for example in the field of media. There are trainings organised by different professional journalist associations, such as the Journalists Association of Serbia, the Independent Association of Journalists etc. Most of these trainings are dedicated to journalists.

Another relevant development inside the creative sector is the opening of several co-working spaces across the country. These creative hubs and collaborative platforms gather freelance professionals from the fields of design, IT, gaming industries, as well as freelance cultural managers, social entrepreneurs and curators. While Belgrade is seeing the proliferation of such spaces and some specialisation (Nova Iskra is a design hub, Gnezdo for young entrepreneurs, In Centar for social entrepreneurship), co-working spaces in other cities are generally gathering freelancers, amongst some work in culture or / and creative industries (Bee Home in Subotica, Pionirska from Novi Sad, Co-working Zrenjanin, etc.).

Chapter published: 14-08-2015