Culture Committee okays RTV Slovenija act changes

Ljubljana – The parliamentary Culture Committee has approved changes to the act on RTV Slovenija with which the government would like to reduce what it sees as the influence of politics on the public broadcaster. However, RTV Slovenija director general Andrej Grah Whatmough has doubts about the planned far-reaching leadership and oversight changes.

Presenting the changes to the committee on Monday, Culture Minister Asta Vrečko said the situation at the public broadcaster was unbearable, noting that TV Slovenija journalists launched a strike in May demanding journalistic, editorial and institutional autonomy, which is what the changes aim to do.

She believes irreparable damage is being inflicted on the public broadcaster and the changes on the table must be passed as soon as possible.

Grah Whatmough meanwhile believes that the fast-tracking of the changes through parliament contravenes the constitution. This is also claimed by the opposition Democrats (SDS), under whose government Grah Whatmough was appointed.

The SDS tried to prevent the changes from being fast-tracked at an emergency plenary session earlier on Monday, but their motion was voted down. The party has not excluded the possibility of challenging the bill in a referendum.

Under the changes, the existing programming council and the supervisory board will be replaced with a single council with 17 members in which more power would be given to the employees and civil society.

Moreover, RTV Slovenija would be led by a four-member management board headed by a chair person. The board would consist of a TV director, radio director, workers’ director and digital contents director.

Grah Whatmough raised issue with the planned changes in leadership and their appointments, saying the government did not even bother to perform a proportionality test.

Acting TV director Patrik Greblo told the committee that more funds are needed to protect the autonomy of TV Slovenija, while Radio Slovenija director Mirko Štular said many problems stem from the founder’s inappropriate attitude to RTV Slovenija. He believes the solution lies in expertise, including expertise of the programming council.

Trade unions meanwhile underlined that politics must lose its influence on RTV Slovenija, also expressing hope that independent and stable funding for will be the next step.

In the debate, Tatjana Greif of the coalition Left said that RTV Slovenija had been hijacked by politics and called for immediate stability.

Mojca Šetinc Pašek, an MP for the senior coalition Freedom Movement and former journalist at TV Slovenija, underlined that RTV Slovenija was a public broadcaster, it belongs to the nation, not a political party. She added the changes would introduce nothing more than corporate oversight and management.

Andrej Hoivik of the SDS believes the government’s objective was to behead the public broadcaster. He also criticised the fast-tracking of the changes.

Iva Dimic of the opposition New Slovenia (NSi) said the main objective of the government was to change the structure of RTV Slovenija, even though there were many open issues that should have been tackled first. She believes it is key for the broadcaster to regain the public’s trust.

The committee passed several amendments tabled by the coalition drafted to incorporate recommendations of the National Assembly’s legal service, under which workers would get six instead of five representatives in the new 17-member council.

The committee also threw out changes to the media act drafted by the SDS.