The Slovenia Times

Strike at public broadcaster as tensions run high

Journalists present their demands during a 24-hour strike on 4 April. Photo: Bor Slana/STA

A large proportion of journalists at RTV Slovenija staged a 24-hour strike on 4 April, the latest escalation of tensions in a long fight against the management and senior editors that the journalists claim are destroying the national public broadcaster through politically-motivated staffing and programming decisions.

"Pressure on editorial autonomy is increasing, professional standards are being violated, non-transparent staffing is continuing, the broadcaster is being financially drained and its reputation is being tarnished," the strike committee said.

Programming was restricted throughout the day, all three TV channels broadcast mostly reruns, the flagship news website did not publish any news save for a notice about the strike, and there was muzak for long periods of time on some of the radio channels interrupted only by announcements concerning the strike.

However, not all programming stopped. The striking in-house trade unions gave the members free reign in how they want to strike, and journalists and editors appointed or hired by the current senior management continued to work to produce the news programme, a move the strike committee said amounted to obstruction of the industrial action.

Strike activities started almost a year ago and there have been several brief public actions whenever trade unions representing journalists felt like they have reached a dead end. This is the first time that a full-day work stoppage took place.

The current management was appointed by a programme council that was elected during the term of the previous, right-wing government. Both the councillors and the management have been accused by journalists and journalists' organisations as promulgating a partisan agenda through programming and staffing decisions.

The two sides have been engaged in talks but the Trade Union of Slovenian Journalists says there has been no progress as the management employs all manners of delaying tactics. "We have been teaching them for months how to negotiate. We are currently in the 19th round of talks," the union's president Alenka Potočnik said.

The coalition parties expressed support for the staff on strike with Culture Minister Asta Vrečko saying the action proved the situation was "serious". She urged the management to step down and praised those on strike for their courage and determination.

On the other hand, acting TV Slovenija director Uroš Urbanija and Rajko Gerič, the recently appointed news editor-in-chief at TV Slovenija's Channel 2, expressed the hope the two sides will iron out their differences and start addressing the issues.

Urbanija said the situation was much better than last May when the strike activities first started, "but there is still a lot to be done and we're doing it". He said it would be easier to respond to the trade unionists' criticism of a deteriorating situation and jeopardising the public interest if it was "more specific".

The broadcaster is currently in legal limbo as well. The new government passed an amended law on RTV Slovenija in a move it said would "depoliticise" the broadcaster by overhauling the management structure, which would entail the replacement of the entire programme council and top level of management.

But while the amended law was upheld in a referendum initiated by the right-wing Democratic Party, the RTV Slovenija management initiated a constitutional review, which is ongoing. The court has stayed key parts of the amendments until such time as it reached a final judgement.

In the meantime, both the RTV Slovenija management and the coalition parties are trying to disqualify judges they deem biased, which is likely to prolong the time it takes for the court to reach a final decision.


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