The Slovenia Times

The Truth for Sale


Delo Revije is the biggest Slovenian publisher of magazines, with most of its titles enjoying a long tradition. During that time, the ownership has changed from public to a shared stock company. However, a month ago readers realised with disappointment that their favourite reads from the company were missing from the newsstands. The reason? The company has gone deep into debt and has been unable to pay its employees for several months.
On the face of it, this is peculiar. Delo Revije reported EUR 106,336 in net profit last year. The key to the mystery lies in the 2008 takeover of the firm by a company called Monera, which for this purpose received a EUR 32m loan from state-owned bank NKBM. The further financial manoeuvres by Monera's owner Matej Raščan pushed Delo Revije to a EUR 27m debt, facing bankruptcy. Then the creditor jumped back in and called an auction for the 44 publisher's brands. The sole buyer was NKBM's own subsidiary KBM leasing, which intends to lease these brands to the best buyer. Although the magazines got back on the shelves and the journalists were finally paid, the agony seems far from over.

Brewery owns the papers

The Slovene Association of Journalists has published a statement condemning the outcome as a continuation of the farce, suggesting that: "The transfer of brands only spruces up the bank's balance sheets while failing to solve the staff's problems. They could have ended the agony of Delo Revije months ago by seizing the shares and transferring claims into ownership stakes."
President of the Journalist trade union Iztok Jurančič, meanwhile, criticised the lack of supervision over the dealings of Raščan's companies. According to him, there was no basis for a EUR 30m loan the bank gave to Monera, as Raščan did not meet the bank's criteria for such loans.
The story of Delo Revije is just one episode in the ongoing saga of Slovenian media ownership. In short: the major owner of Delo, Slovenia's biggest daily, is debt-ridden Laško Brewery. Delo itself owned 80 per cent of Maribor-based daily Večer, which was sold to a small computer company 3lan owned by the infamous Matej Raščan, but the Ministry of Culture found illegalities and imposed restrictions to this buyout. What all this means is that Večer currently has no owner and daily Dnevnik lacks an editor-in-chief with a full mandate, apparently because the journalists and owners have different ideas about the candidates.

Politics and Ownership

While the three major Slovenian dailies have financially fallen victim to the appetites of Slovenian tycoons and the recession that has followed the buyouts, the media as a voice of the political truth has suffered too. The 15 years of liberal government up until 2004 led the Slovenian political right wing to believe that the media in general was systematically keeping them down. When they finally seized power it was clear that a major project would be 'harmonising' the mediascape. Janša's government did not merely make legislative changes. It also did its best to secure editorial loyalty wherever it could, most notably in public broadcaster RTV and in Delo through the ownership changes. This resulted in a notorious petition against censorship signed by 571 journalists and also backed by the Slovene Association of Journalists. These events among others resulted in the establishment of the renegade Association of Journalists and Commentators, a small yet vocal union in line with the ideas of the conservative SDS and its leader Janez Janša.
To return to the Delo Revije affair, magazine editor Goga Sredojević has stated that she was subjected to political pressures as she was asked to put Janša on the front page of a magazine Obrazi (Faces). This pressure allegedly came along with Matej Raščan as the owner of Delo Revije. This suggests that Raščan does not only make business, but also influences the political agenda. Nevertheless, his assets were involved in still mysterious free weeklies, the content of which exclusively worshipped the SDS and damaged its opponents. These two weeklies, which had no formal political allegiance, were distributed in 2008 and ceased immediately after the elections.

A messy picture

Slovenia boasts six dailies: politically they range from the relatively conservative Finance to the liberal Dnevnik. East-Slovenia oriented Večer and Delo as the biggest national paper with its Delo's tabloid goldmine Slovenske Novice are tougher to pigeonhole. While the liberals view Raščan as the conservative patron of the press, pushing the media under the control of SDS, it is seems that Boško Šrot, the former member of ruling Social Democrats and the infamous owner of Pivovarna Laško which owns much of the Slovenian press, aligns more to the "transitional left". Only Finance and Žurnal24, which are in total foreign ownership, seem to be spared the political games. The weekly front reveals a less complicated situation with traditionally liberal Mladina against conservative Reporter and Demokracija.
Whatever certain political interests might have to gain through media, the damage is being done to the profession of journalism and to quality reporting. Women's magazine Jana has been around for 40 years but recent events have pushed it on the brink of extinction. Its editor-in-chief Melita Berzelak, made it clear: the government should change the "predatory legislation". But when it comes to media laws and ownership, it all gets very complicated.

Nothing Shocking

Tabloid Slovenske Novice remained the best-selling daily in Slovenia in the second quarter of 2011, while Nedeljski Dnevnik is still the most popular weekly, data from the Slovenian Advertising Chamber shows. Slovenske Novice was followed by broadsheets Delo and Dnevnik as the best selling dailies, while the second and third best-selling weekly papers were Nedelo, the Sunday edition of daily Delo, and tabloid Lady. Data on the best-selling periodicals in the first six months of 2011 show that the most widely read monthly magazines were Vzajemna, which is intended for pensioners, ahead of Reader's Digest and children's magazine Cicido, while women's magazine Anja was the most popular fortnightly paper followed by Bravo and Kih. The Chamber established that the negative trend of the average circulation of printed media was gradually coming to an end.


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