The tabloid press is proliferating at a surprising speed in Serbia, to the extent that the country can claim to be the state possessing the greatest number of titles per habitant. This development is having interesting repercussions on mainstream reporting style.
The already impressive list of 200 dailies is increasing with the frequent arrival of new tabloid titles, such as Kurir, Press, Pravda, Alo and Grom. The wave of new newspapers is somewhat surprising as according to surveys only 9% of the population actually use the press as a information tool. According to the Belgrade based Vreme publication, the privileged position of the tabloid press lies very much in the nature of its contents and its involvement in the forming of public opinion.
In contrast with the majority of their counterparts in other countries which are primarily obsessed with scandal, the Serbian tabloids concentrate on politics, with populist vigour. The predominant line is quite clear: all politicians are corrupt and immoral. Yet the papers are reportedly far from independent watchdogs, they are heavily embroiled in the centres of power. Political sympathies change with the feeling of the moment, often reflecting the views of their information sources.
Despite the dubious agendas of the tabloids, they have succeeded where the quality press has failed. The newer papers are the first off the block to publish and critique the 'business' of those in power. The opinion of Vreme on this development is realistic, maintaining that despite the scandalising and insulting language and the frequent violations of journalistic ethics, their value is undeniable.
Indeed, the commercial success of the tabloids has had a significant impact on the direction of the general press. Media analysts warn that 'serious' papers are increasingly treating important issues in a tabloid style, to the point where the two are becoming difficult to distinguish between. The result is bizarre: tabloids have become a genuine force in the political scene, whereas the 'quality' papers resemble more and more the tabloids.