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Radio 021 Finds the Right Mix

Broadcasting from the capital of the northern Serbian province of Vojvodina, the station’s anticonformist approach attracts, keeps listeners

NOVI SAD, Serbia — Radio 021 (, located in Novi Sad, the capital of the Serbian province of Vojvodina, prides itself on being just a little different.

The station launched — to the beat of the Rolling Stone’s hit “Satisfaction” — in 1997 as the region’s first independently owned station with its employees holding 18 percent of the company. In a country where almost half the population listens to the Serbian version (with Serbian lyrics and influence) of Middle Eastern folk music, Radio 021 wanted to offer an alternative for those who prefer the classic rock scene of the Rolling Stones, The Beatles and similar genres.

Radio 021’s Newsroom. All photos courtesy Radio 021

Originating during the “Milošević era,” the citified, fast-paced station, sporting the same numbers in its name as the area code of the city in which it resides (021), was considered an “outsider,” one that tested the political powers in place at that time. Despite criticism, Radio 021 founders and staff, who now own 100 percent of the station, persevered, determined to stick to the station’s raison d’etre: to offer Serbian listeners more music choice, and to deliver what they felt was unbiased information.

Thanks to its distinctive format, Radio 021 gained momentum and soon became recognized as a unique station in Novi Sad and its vicinity.

Catapulting the station to success were programs such as “Svetski Servis Bajki” (“World Fairytale Service”), which Radio 021 produced as a response to the bitter arguments between the authorities and opposition political parties of the time. The show transformed current news and affairs into fables based on stories written by the ancient Greek fabulist Aesop, where animals have a human aspect, and are used to satirize human failings. Listeners were quick to pick up on the show’s subtleties, raising it to the top of the charts.

A Radio 021 Billboard in Novi Sad

Another prominent Radio 021 program was “Multiradio,” which was broadcast in six languages and targeted the multiethnic population of Vojvodina. The gist of the show was to allow listeners to express their opinions and offer suggestions to the authorities.

Now that the country’s political situation has stabilized, the station today airs programs focused on current affairs and special interest. One of the most listened-to programs today is “Život Grada” (“City Life”), dedicated to interesting events and common questions affecting listeners. Others successful programs include is “Zdrav Svet” (“Healthy World”), which highlights ways to live a healthier life, and “Roditeljski Servis” (“Parents’ Service”), dealing with parent-child relations and issues.

Michael Devenport, left, is interviewed by
Editor in Chief SlobodanKrajnovic in March 2014.
According to a survey carried out by Ipsos Strategic marketing in 2013 Radio 021 is still the most listened-to station in Novi Sad in the over-25-year-olds.

The station is equipped with Sennheiser MD441 and AKG C3000 mics, a Soundcraft S10 mixing console, Orban Optimod-FM 2200 processor and a 300 W Elettronika Mizar transmitter.

“Our goal is to act positively on society and to diminish any negative influences,” said Editor-in-Chief SlobodanKrajnović. “Radio 021 does not merely translate the news and views, its mission is to explain the bare substance of events, pointing toward trends that are bringing progress to our society,” he said.

Targeting 25- to 54-year-olds, Radio 021 insists on asking difficult questions and demanding direct, precise answers, encouraging its journalists to use their creativity and initiative.

The station also takes part in various social and humanitarian events. It is a media promoter and supporter of cultural and social programs in Novi Sad, including the Festival of Street Musicians; the EXIT Festival, which was recently named “Best Major Festival” at the European Festival Awards 2014; and theFair of Ethnic Food and Drinks.

Jovan Stojanovic interviews Cane, lead singer
of the Belgrade rock group Partybreakers.

With Radio 021’s website drawing seven times more daily visits than the average number of its on-air listeners, the station believes digital, interactivity and mobile electronic media are the ways of the future. And regardless of the very competitive Serbian landscape, the station is managing continued growth thanks to its careful combination of Internet and FM broadcasting.

Due to its anticonformist approach, the station also attracts top figures in Serbian life that frequently pay a visit to its studio. Recent visits include that of Michael Davenport, head of the EU delegation to Serbia, who in an interview stressed the importance of electronic media in Serbian political life, and applauded the achievements of Radio 021.

Blažo Guzina reports on the industry for Radio World from Belgrade, Serbia.