Ivan Ivanović returned to our TV screens on April 5th when his new show had its premiere on Nova S TV channel. A day after the premiere, we met with Ivanović at his restaurant in Vračar and exchanged impressions about his new beginning, the decision that he made and its consequences.
At the beginning of the interview, he says that the impressions after his first show are excellent and that comments are good. He also believes that there has never been a show of this quality in cable television production in Serbia.
„If I did not tell jokes on TV every Friday, I would probably be telling them in a bar every Friday, because that’s just me“, he adds.
„I don’t think that this show should be seen as a huge professional milestone for me but rather as a short recess during season 10. I was interrupted in staying on the top, so to speak. With the first episode, we showed everybody that we don’t f*** around. We are going to continue working as before, and in my opinion, we are the best in this TV segment in the Balkans,“ Ivanović says.
You said that you had a difficult time returning to TV screens. Why? What made you hesitant?
— Maybe my personal story is different because I literally had to start from nothing. I was doing everything myself on my way to the top. And once you get there, it’s a dog eat dog world. My departure was a form of protest and it did carry certain business risks. To begin with, I could have got no job offers and that would be the end. On the other hand, it wasn’t easy to make a comeback after a long recess and after everything that had happened. You are aware of how much the audience expects from you and that is quite stressful. I never had to encounter something like this before, but I have survived.
Leaving Prva TV was a form of protest. What happened so you had to make such a decision?
— My show could not have been done in the same way we had been doing it if we were to continue broadcasting on national frequency. Today, national frequencies are here to serve people in power, and that is quite obvious. In December, I already spoke to the viewers about what had been happening with the media in Serbia. I did not want to be a part of that. I think that people would have been very disappointed in me if I had stayed in such an environment and be a part of fake media. I wanted to demonstrate that a person had to fight for their principles regardless of being at risk of losing money or status. The price I had to pay for that was high and it was also a security risk because nobody wants to be on the front page of tabloids. Still, I couldn’t go against yourself. I had no choice. It was a coerced move and I couldn’t have done anything differently. I would have felt bad about appearing on any TV station that was unprofessional, biased and indecent. I had to put up with some of it, but that had to stop.
In the very first show, you asked Olja Bećković if her colleagues were supportive of her. Did you enjoy the support of your colleagues when you decided to leave?
— Well, my colleagues from the TV station I had worked for did support me, but in private. You have to know that if somebody is seen drinking coffee with me, that person will get a message from their superior along the lines „be careful about who you are having coffee with“. Nobody from Prva TV was comfortable with openly supporting me. As far as my other colleagues go, I have to say that anybody who meant something to me offered their support. Musicians and almost every actor that I know offered their support. Anyhow, I believe that those people who failed to support me and who are writing horrible things about me kind of understand why I did what I did. Their aggression stems from hating themselves for not doing the same thing I did because they don’t have enough courage or are afraid of losing their paycheck. I would like to say to all of them that they need to think more about themselves and their own lives, and not to emanate aggression through reporting fake news.
So, that’s how your colleagues reacted. How did your family react when you told them that you were leaving Prva and starting to work for Nova S?
— The most important person that I consulted about my departure was my daughter Staša. We talked about it and with one gesture she showed me that she understood everything. That was the end of that. In terms of my comeback, everybody wanted it, but when this first wave of satisfaction passed over, I started to realize that I was at the very beginning. My family did support me and were also a little worried about the entire situation. Of course, it is not normal that I found myself in such a situation.
Aleksandar Vučić was the first politician that was a guest in your show. Are you going to have more politicians on the show?
— I am not planning on having more politicians on my show because it has been misconstrued that I have opposition politicians on my show only to propagate their ideas. If the entire interaction between the parties in power and the opposition was better, yes, I would have more politicians on my show and would ask them all sorts of things. Now that you have mentioned Vučić’s appearance, I invited him to the show because I thought that it was unacceptable that opposition leaders were not allowed to appear on TV stations with national frequencies. Back in the day, he and Tomislav Nikolić experienced the same thing. Nobody wanted to have them as guests and that was a sort of self-censorship. Later on, they got invited to various TV shows. The real question I would like to ask him (Vučić) is what changed in the meantime so that he thinks it is acceptable that nobody from the opposition bloc is allowed to appear on a TV station with national frequency and say what they have to say. That is the real issue.
You were quoted as saying that the Internet was the only medium where you could exercise freedom. Do you still believe that?
— The point I was trying ot make with that statement is that it is unacceptable from the civilizational standpoint that the media with national frequency, which is owned by the Serbian citizens, don’t give a single minute of airtime to someone that opposes an official policy or is critical of it. There is no public debate about anything. For instance, the Belgrade authorities think that talking about the Belgrade cable car in RTS’ weather forecast was alright. Our profession is on its way down and everybody who stayed working for these systems and helped them in any way should be ashamed of themselves. I don’t want to be ashamed of anything. The current situation is absolutely unbearable. Another thing that is abnormal that there are more good journalists and journalistic stars outside the media. At Nova S, we formed a front consisting of the people who have been fired or are branded persona non grata by the mainstream media.
Serbia is a deeply divided country, and what you are describing are divisions in the journalistic profession too. Can we overcome these differences or are they insurmountable?
— We can always overcome them but in order for that to happen, a dozen of us needs to get together, look each other into the eyes, admit what we have done wrong and put our profession’s interests above our own. This is possible, but it’s a million dollar question whether it is realistic. We are divided in as much that nobody is sure what qualifies you to become a journalist since 70% of the people who consider themselves journalists did not graduate journalism from the Faculty of Political Sciences. While all of that is going on, we are losing jobs, a place to work and our freedom. The regime is cooking us like frogs. That’s what is happening to journalists. The first thing in this profession is that you have to tell the truth. Without resetting ourselves, and by ourselves I mean journalists, there isn’t much to hope for.
Serbia is God-given for satirical shows. The things you can find here, you can’t find anywhere else in the world. Is this good for your show?
— On the one hand, it’s excellent because there is a lot of material to work with and a lot of inspiration. On the other hand, it’s bad because there is nothing else that people talk about here but politics and you are at risk of having too much politics in your script. It’s also bad because the government is so hilarious that it is virtually impossible to make them even more hilarious. Even news programmes are hilarious to that degree that they are a joke unto themselves. Speaking long term, a situation that is this crazy cannot bring anything good to a nation or a country. I have been trying to explain this all the time. I have to underline that I am not a member of any political party and that I have never been one. As a free citizen, I can vouch that the current situation is absolutely abnormal.