Original article (in Serbian) was published on 26/08/2022
The “world exclusive” that American Bloomberg published an interview with the director of Telekom Vladimir Lucic, in which it praised the operations of this state-owned company, appeared in numerous media in Serbia, such as Vecernje novosti, Informer, Republika, Kurir, Alo and the provincial public service. Readers could already find in the headline how the world-famous Bloomberg praises Serbian Telekom, but the key thing was not mentioned anywhere – that Telekom paid for the publication of the laudatory text, that is, it is paid content. Apart from the fact that it is not journalistic content but an advertisement, it did not even come from Bloomberg, but from the British site Business Reporter, from where it was shared by Bloomberg.
“Telekom Serbia is the largest telecommunications and multimedia provider and market leader in Southeast Europe, American Bloomberg reported”, Vecernje novosti claims.
“WORLD EXCLUSIVE American Bloomberg published an interview with Vladimir Lucic: The international expansion of Serbian Telekom”, praises the Informer.
A few paragraphs below briefly explain that it is about an interview that the director of Telekom, Vladimir Lucic, gave to the British “Business Reporter”, which Blumberg also shared on its website.
“The head of Telekom stated that this company has 11 million users in the region with the potential to grow by at least another two million. Last year it achieved a total revenue of 1.3 billion euros, and this year’s revenue will reach a record 1.5 billion euros, far more than other providers in the region”, write Vecernje novosti and Informer.
These web portals, referring to Lucic, further add that the next goal is the expansion of Telekom in the countries of Western Europe and North America.
Apart from the fact that they already attributed the entire interview to Bloomberg in the title, even though Bloomberg only took it over (and stating from whom), web portals did not emphasize anywhere that it was content that Telekom itself paid.
On the website of “Business Reporter“, which published the interview, right under the title “Digital transformation is a chance for the Western Balkans”, it is clearly emphasized that it is paid content by Telekom Serbia. Bloomberg also clearly states that this is sponsored content – above the text and in the URL address itself, it is stated that the content is sponsored as well as that Telekom Serbia is a “client of Business Reporter”.
On Bloomberg’s website, you can find paid or sponsored content from other Business Reporter’s clients, such as various private companies. However, Bloomberg has clearly distanced itself from such content, stating that it is exclusively produced by Business Reporter and paid for by its clients.
“The content is not Bloomberg’s journalistic work. Bloomberg is not involved in creating the content, nor does it necessarily reflect the views of Bloomberg, its associates or owners”, Bloomberg’s website states.
In the video interview, which lasted about four and a half minutes, the host asked Lucic only four questions – among other things, why the Western Balkans is important to Telekom, how many people from the region they want to reach and what are Telekom’s plans.
Since Telekom paid for the interview and the accompanying text, it is no wonder that no critical questions were found in it, nor were problems in the business of this company presented, which part of the public in Serbia has been warning about for a long time.
Collaboration with Bloomberg
Telekom Serbia also cooperates with Bloomberg through the Bloomberg Adria web portal, which started operating this year.
The content mostly concerns news from the field of business, and the editorial centers are located in Belgrade, Zagreb, Ljubljana, Sarajevo and Skopje.
As Bloomberg announced on October 15, 2021, this platform was created by an agreement between Bloomberg Media (whose owner is Bloomberg LP) and Mtl Swiss – a company whose majority owner is Telekom Serbia.
Telekom in debt
Among other things, as the economic journalist Misa Brkic recently wrote for the newspaper Danas, last year Telekom achieved a “pale” income, but incurred a large debt. According to this journalist, Telekom’s recently published financial report for the year 2021 was “embellished” to make the results look better than they actually are.
Among other problems, Brkic points out that since 2017, Telekom’s net debt has grown from 413 million euros to 1.53 billion euros (in December 2021), among other things, due to the purchase of several cable operators, capital expenditures and dividends paid to shareholders.
“To be able to finance (also politically motivated) investments, Telekom increased its debt position with new bank loans”, writes Brkic.
At the beginning of July, Lucic told the local media that the debt amounts to 1.4 billion euros and that the company would sell bonds of half a billion euros so that, according to him, the money earned could be used to refinance loans and diversify the debt.
Brkic believes that the “polished” financial report will not be enough to convince investors on the stock market to buy Telekom’s bonds and that the state will probably have to guarantee this transaction.
By the way, this is not the first time that the media in Serbia has kept silent about the fact that certain content published by the world’s media has been paid for or sponsored. Two years ago, for example, it was announced that the British newspaper Financial Times (FT) wrote that “Serbia is moving forward like lightning”. Apart from the fact that the aforementioned text was not published by the FT, but by a magazine belonging to the same company, the media kept silent at the time, not mentioning that the published content was paid for, which Raskrikavanje wrote about.