The Slovenia Times

Public broadcaster in dire financial situation

The logo of the Slovenian public broadcaster. Photo: Nik Jevšnik/STA

Less than two months after taking over, the new management of RTV Slovenija has revealed that Slovenia's biggest media outlet is facing a dire financial situation. In the first eight months of the year, expenditure exceeded revenue by €6.3 million, which figure is to rise to €10 million by the year's end.

Addressing reporters on 2 October, the management said their predecessors left bills unpaid and taken out loans to cover the wage bill, even as they had bragged about positive results.

The loss, which would have widened to €9 million had the public broadcaster not sold shares in Eutelsat Communication, is largely the result of higher labour costs.

Aside from across-the-board pay raises for the public sector, staff were reassigned to better paid posts, new staff were hired and pay of existing staff increased, and there were several court settlements.

Expenditure was €3.6 million higher than planned, and by the end of the year the loss is expected to surge to €10 million - provided the measures the new management has already taken will have the desired effect, head of finance and accounting Saša Umek Knez said.

End-year revenue is projected to be €6 million lower than planned due to lower advertising revenue, failure to sell several pieces of real estate, and lower-than-expected proceeds from the sale of Eutelsat Communication shares.

"The previous management withheld documents for months, probably to make the figures look better, but also to make things more difficult for us," RTV Slovenija chairman Zvezdan Martić said.

Higher wages, reassignments

Just before its term formally ended when the amended law on RTV Slovenija took effect late in 2022, the previous leadership gave several hundred employees higher wages, either through bonuses or by signing annexes that gave workers 20% higher pay due to the complexity of their work.

The previous leadership also reassigned many workers to new posts and gave them additional managerial powers, and changed internal rules in such an opaque manner that it is impossible to know which ones currently apply. Many contracts were made without input from human resources and are not even registered in official records.

The previous director general, Andrej Grah Whatmough, denied that the broadcaster had been borrowing for several months to pay salaries, describing his successor's claims as "inaccuracies, untruths and lies".

"During my term, we borrowed €1.3 million ... for holiday allowance in July 2023, repaying it within days. This was also a regular practice before," Grah Whatmough wrote on X.

The new management has already been tasked by the RTV Slovenija council to produce a report on the state of finances and staff. An internal audit has been launched to check all operations between 1 January and 1 August.

One major reason why the financial situation is so bad is that the licence fee has not increased since 2012. If it had been indexed to inflation, annual revenue would have been €30 million higher this year.

The new management is already talking to the government on how to secure additional funds, Martić said.

New management accused of "purges"

Since the four-member management led by Martić took over in August, director of the TV arm of the public broadcaster has been dismissed and the chief news editor has resigned. Anchoring teams on prime time news shows have also been replaced.

The opposition Democrats (SDS) have described the staffing changes as "unwarranted purges" and a "staffing tsunami", demanding MPs discuss the situation.

The party claims the new management, appointed after a "controversial and undemocratic decision by a minority of Constitutional Court judges", unlawfully dismissed director general Grah Whatmough and television director Uroš Urbanija, whereas chief news editor Jadranka Rebernik and a series of editors "resigned under tremendous pressure".

The previous management, appointed by a programme council named when the SDS was in government, had been heavily criticised for bullying employees and bringing in staff with either little experience or with close links to the SDS, such as Urbanija, who served as the SDS-led government's chief communicator.

Several media have described the latest changes as merely a rollback of controversial changes instituted by the previous management.


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