The Slovenia Times

Court allows new governing body to take over at public broadcaster

The seat of RTV Slovenija.
Photo: Boštjan Podlogar/STA
File photo

The Constitutional Court has revoked its earlier decision to stay key parts of the amended RTV Slovenija Act that was upheld in the November 2022 referendum, decreeing for the governing council of the public broadcaster to be inaugurated within seven days after the court's decision is published in the Official Gazette.

The decision, announced on 26 May, was backed by four of the nine judges serving on the Constitutional Court, one voted against, while two did not cast their vote. Two other judges had earlier been recused from the case, one after the decision to stay parts of the law had already been made.

"Given the divergences between the positions of the seven judges who are still deciding on the case, as a result of which none of the substantive decisions under consideration has received a majority support of five votes, it will not be possible to arrive at a substantive decision quickly," the court said.

For this reason, and given that there is no majority view that the new regulation is unconstitutional as such, that there are doubts about the lawfulness of the decision-making by the current programme council and the director general as stemming from the rulings of the Ljubljana Higher Labour and Social Court, and that RTV Slovenija director general and directors of the TV and Radio arms can currently only perform caretaker duties, the decision was made to void the previous decision to stay the changes to the RTV Slovenija Act.

In February, the court stayed parts of the article that determines the appointment of the newly created governing council, and fully suspended the articles providing for this body to adopt a statute, and publish a call for applications for the new management. This decision has now been reversed.

In the meantime, the existing programme council and the management have continued to perform their duties in their acting capacity. Their terms ended as the amended RTV Slovenija act took effect in late December 2022.

The amended RTV Slovenija Act was passed in summer 2022 soon after a new centre-left government took over with the argument that it would depoliticise the public broadcaster after close allies of the previous, centre-right government were appointed to key posts at what is Slovenia's largest media outlet.

However, the law was put to a referendum, where it was upheld by an overwhelming majority, but then the RTV Slovenija leadership mounted a constitutional challenge.

Four judges voted for the decision to allow the amendments to take effect: Matej Accetto, Rajko Knez, Katja Šugman Stubbs and Špelca Mežnar, while Rok Svetlič voted against, passing a dissenting opinion.

The decision means that the new governing body, which unlike the programme council will no longer have any members appointed by the National Assembly, can be inaugurated as per the amended law, as can the other new management bodies.

Since members of the new 17-strong council have already been appointed and the deadlines for its constitution and maiden session have already passed, the court set a 7-day period in which the maiden session of the new council needs to be called.

Andrej Grah Whatmough, acting director general of RTV Slovenija who was among those challenging the new legislation, has announced that he will honour the court's decision and will call the maiden session of the new council within the prescribed period.

The court's decision has been welcomed by the government, President Nataša Pirc Musar and trade union representatives of the RTV journalism staff and the Slovenian Journalists' Association, who expressed the expectation that the situation at the public broadcaster will now stabilise and professional standards would be restored.

Meanwhile, former PM Janez Janša responded to the decision on Twitter, asserting that the Constitutional Court ceased to exist and that dictatorship was restored in Slovenia.


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