Changes to the RTV Slovenija act passed in re-vote

Ljubljana – The National Assembly passed in Thursday’s re-vote changes to the RTV Slovenija act that overhaul the governing bodies of the public broadcaster so that their members will no longer be appointed by parliament, political parties or the government. The vote comes after the lower chamber of parliament vetoed the changes on Wednesday.

50 MPs voted for the changes and 24 against. To override the veto 46 votes were needed.

The changes were vetoed by the National Council with the main argument being the speed with which the government as the sponsor of the law would like to replace governing bodies at the public broadcaster.

Under the changes, the existing programming council and the supervisory board will be replaced with a single 17-strong council in which the staff will be represented by six members.

The remaining eleven members will be appointed by the Italian and Hungarian minorities, religious communities, the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts and various other institutions and organisations.

In place of director general, the law would introduce a five-member management board comprising of directors of radio and TV arms, workers’ director and digital contents director.

The terms of incumbent decision-making bodies and officials will end when the law comes into effect and the new council will be formed within 60 days.

The councillors that backed the veto said those time frames were unreasonably short, with councillor Milan Ozimič calling the changes rash, arguing that problems at the broadcaster were rooted too deep to be tackled in such a simplified way.

Supporting the law were members of the upper chamber’s commission on culture with trade unionist councillor Branimir Štrukelj, and also voting against the veto were the interest group of employees.

Just today the opposition Democrats (SDS) filed some 6,200 voter signatures to initiate proceedings for a referendum to be called on the changes, with deputy Alenka Jeraj saying the changes would undermine independence of the public broadcaster.

Jeraj, too, noted the changes being discussed in a fast-track procedure and that civil society had been excluded from the debate, saying that “this is apparently the modus operandi of the new government.”

The SDS and New Slovenia (NSi) repeated this in today’s debate in parliament, noting that the new council would have no representative of the viewers and listeners. The SDS is also bothered by the fact that parliament will have no say in appointing of members of the council. According to the NSi, “complete politicisation of the broadcaster is being conducted in the name of depoliticisation”.

The Social Democrats (SD) said there had been enough of censorship and influencing the editorial and journalist autonomy. “The public RTV Slovenija is neither yours nor ours and must never be the target of politics again,” the party said.

The Ministry of Culture responded by saying that change in how RTV Slovenija is managed and supervised was necessary, adding that the new law fully withdrew politics from the institution and increased the influence of employees and civil society.

The ministry added that by means of the referendum the SDS was trying to keep the status quo, under which politics directly appointed the supervisors and most members of the programming council, which undermined the broadcaster’s reputation.