Ljubljana – The parliamentary Culture Committee debated on Monday media ownership and concentration in Slovenia. The session was boycotted by the centre-left opposition, while the committee urged the Financial Administration (FURS) to examine deals in the media conglomerate controlled by businessman Martin Odlazek.
The committee called on the Culture Ministry to draft legislation to prevent media concentration, proposing it ensure a more proportionate distribution of state funding for all media areas and that it undertake an analysis of the Slovenian media situation.
The Economy Ministry was urged to call on the Competition Protection Agency (AVK) to play a more active role in preventing media concentration.
Moreover, the parliamentary inquiry investigating abuses and uneconomic behaviour in the Bank Assets Management Company (BAMC) was urged to prioritise addressing the issue of BAMC’s ownership in the Salomon media company, which is considered to be indirectly in the hands of Odlazek, and to inform the committee of the key findings.
The committee also instructed the Agency for Communication Networks and Services (AKOS) to check the licences originally granted to all radio stations against the current situation in this area and to report back to the committee members within one month.
What is more, the committee proposed that the authorities, particularly FURS, examine purchases of companies by Odlazek’s media group in the past five years, including those related to the weekly Reporter, the newspaper Primorske Novice and radio network Infonet.
Listing the reasons for today’s emergency session, Alenka Jeraj from the ruling Democrats (SDS) highlighted the importance of media plurality and cited the findings of some studies claiming that the Slovenian media arena “supports the transitional left”.
She said that in recent years media concentration was present despite the legislation banning this phenomenon, highlighting the Odlazek case. Along with his family members, he controls more than 60 various media outlets, she said.
The session was boycotted by the opposition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), Social Democrats (SD), Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) and the Left.
Lidija Divjak Mirnik from the LMŠ said media concentration was being discussed by those striving for “concentration of ideologically coloured media”.
The chair of the committee, Violeta Tomić from the Left, told the SDS and the junior coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC), the two parties that had requested the session, that the number of “news portals set up by the SDS” was unacceptable.
Gregor Perič from the SMC said there was a systemic problem in Slovenia in terms of media pluralism, adding he was concerned when media ownership was not clearly set out, because it affected “the functioning of our democracy”.
Tadeja Šuštar Zalar from the junior coalition New Slovenia (NSi) said media freedom was ensured in Slovenia, however media concentration was an issue.
The Culture Ministry noted legislative changes were needed. The ministry’s State Secretary Ignacija Fridl Jarc said that the ministry had repeatedly warned about developments in the media market which posed a serious risk of harmful concentration.
She pointed out the ministry had limited powers to act under the current media act.
Economy Ministry State Secretary Simon Zajc cited the stance of the AVK, which monitors ownership changes in the media sector and has assessed some specific cases, but has so far found no breaches of the prevention of restriction of competition act.
AVK does not have the power to monitor media pluralism, Zajc quoted the agency, adding that this would require legislative changes.
Several other experts also said that the act on media was in need of reform, highlighting that the issue of media concentration was an expert issue and not a political one and that systemic solutions were needed.