Media reform continues to raise dust
The Culture Ministry-proposed changes, unveiled last Thursday, were meant to be subject to public consultation until tomorrow, which was a major point of contention along with the far-reaching impact.
The strong reactions, in particular to a more than EUR 13 million cut for the public broadcaster, part of whose funding would also be directed to private media, continued to pour in today, including from the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), an alliance of public service media organisations.
The EBU addressed a letter to the Slovenian authorities expressing concern over the future of Slovenian public service media. It urged the government to enable proper time for discussion on the proposed media reform in line with EU standards.
The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) joined the EBU's warnings and calls, saying that they were most concerned with the proposed changes to the funding of public service media in Slovenia and the extremely short period of five days for public discussion.
The Slovenian Union of Journalists expressed opposition as well, saying the amendments are "targeted against the plurality and democratic nature of the media landscape and market".
In line with the changes, the public interest segment of the media would receive EUR 1.6 million less, says the union, adding that its medium-term projections show that some 650 jobs would be at at risk.
The criticism was echoed in a joint call signed today by several leading trade union confederations, including the ZSSS and the KSJS.
"Things need to be called out for what they are. This is an attempt to introduce control over two key media outlets in the country, the public broadcaster RTV Slovenija and the STA, which at least in principle promote a plurality of views and interests," KSJS head Branimir Štrukelj argued.
While the same point was made a few days ago by the Slovenian Journalists' Association (DNS), the rival association - the Association of Journalists and Commentators (ZNP), expressed support for the proposed changes today.
The ZNP believes they will force RTV Slovenija to become more commercially-oriented. However, advertising should still remain limited to a certain extent so as to prevent the broadcaster becoming too commercial. According to ZNP, the STA would on the other hand get more funds and could "focus better on its basic mission, which is to inform the public about important topics".
Meanwhile, heeding the call for a longer public consultation period, the leaders of coalition parties and coalition deputy groups reportedly agreed today to extend the public debate until the end of August.
The news was broken by Aleksandra Pivec, the head of the junior coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), which had announced a push in this direction on Monday. New Slovenia (NSi), another junior coalition party, also tweeted that it called for an extension.
The decision, although not the exact new period, was later confirmed by the head of the media directorate at the Culture Ministry Ivan Oven as part of a debate on the topic hosted by public radio station Radio Slovenija's Studio at 5pm show.
Oven defended the reform saying it would simplify cost cutting procedures, while the focus was on expanding the rights of users, increasing the transparency of funding, securing independent permanent and transparent sources of funding, all of which leads to synergy effects.
Most other guests of the show disagreed, including STA director Bojan Veselinovič, who explained that the state budget contribution presently accounts for half of the STA's budget or EUR 2 million, which translates into 1 euro a year per citizen.
While Oven spoke of the state being able to economise through the STA being funded though 3% of RTV Slovenija's licence fee income instead, Veselinovič finds it hard to believe that these are amounts that could not be secured by the state.
Journalists' Association (DNS) representative Primož Cirman added the solutions were not about saving costs but about directing the money into "the right pockets", meaning media close to the current government.
Similar points were made about a planned EUR 25 million fund for TV production, the funds from which would be allocated directly by the culture minister.