Radio has a long history in Serbia. The oldest station, Radio Beograd (Radio Belgrade), has been operating since 1929. Today, it is the fifth most listened radio in Serbia. Radio Beograd 1 is mostly an informative channel, with news airing every full hour. It remains most famous for its rich cultural programs. In the 1990s, a number of radio stations grew dramatically. More than 500 stations (about 700 or even more, according to some estimations) operated across the country, most established and run without licenses. While a number of radio stations were launched for commercial purposes and broadcast music only, information-oriented radio stations, like other types of media, were divided in regards to their relationship with the ruling regime.
Ever since the Internet won the race of becoming the fastest news media, Serbian radio has sought to commercialise by broadcasting mainly music and light entertainment content. With a total advertising budget of €7m per year, over 300 licensed stations and a number of pirate radio stations broadcasting at the time of writing, radio production has little space for creativity and quality programming.
Regardless of the number of stations, only four major players reach half of the total audience in a highly concentrated radio market. Two channels of the Public Broadcasting Service – Radio Beograd (9.4 percent audience reach) and five commercial radio stations - Radio S and Radio S 2 (19.6 percent), Radio HIT FM and Radio TDI (11.9 percent) and Radio Play (10.3 percent) are among the top 10 ranked stations in the country.
In the current context of strong political influence and even control of the media, radio has lost the important role it had during the 1990s. Radio B92, which became an iconic symbol of media independence, and was renowned for its news and current affairs output, after being sold, has been transformed into a music-only radio station. It was renamed Play radio in 2015.
Some of the best ranked radio stations in the country (Radio S, HIT FM) are linked to the current political establishment.
On the small and controlled market, radio stations largely resemble one another, broadcasting mainly popular music and light talk shows, leaving no space for alternative voices. Some popular hosts and journalists found shelter podcasting on platforms such as soundcloud.
Several online radio stations have been launched in recent years. Among them post popular is Radio Aparat, launched in December 2016. During its first year of existence, Radio Aparat gained wide recognition and an international audience, as it dispersed the voices of Belgrade’s biggest music enthusiasts, as well those from the NGO sector.