Ljubljana – The STA lost practically no subscribers in 2021, its output remained at the level of 2020 and it finished the year with a profit, despite being left without government co-funding for 300 days last year, STA director general Igor Kadunc and editor-in-chief Aljoša Rehar told the press on Thursday.
Rehar said this was a confirmation of the quality of the agency’s work, as is the fact that around 25% of content on news portals is content produced by the STA or based on STA reports.
The agency increased revenue to EUR 4.3 million, including with the help of a fund-raising campaign and a 2.4% rise in revenue from commercial services, and posted a gross profit of around EUR 170,000, preliminary figures show.
Although the STA and the Government Communication Office (UKOM) managed to work out some open issues, the state still owes it around EUR 99,000 for the public service.
While the donations enabled the agency to avoid bankruptcy, they remain largely unused after the government paid its overdue funds for 2021.
They are to be spent on training and on payment of annual leave journalists were unable to use last year. Kadunc said over 1,000 days of paid leave remains unused.
He said that measured by hours clocked in, the agency had 5.3 employees fewer than in 2020 although more than five left the agency during last year’s financial crisis.
“The figures show that the STA was very prudent about labour costs, which it won’t be able to take in the long-run,” said Kadunc, who took over at the end of October.
The STA and UKOM have recently signed a contract on financing for 2022, but Kadunc admitted that “relations with UKOM are complex”.
“We had to first come to terms on how we understand the implementation of the contract for 2021,” he said in reference to several open questions.
UKOM for instance says the STA’s summary of a commentary from the press cannot fall under public service payments, which means a loss of revenue of EUR 8,000 for 2021.
The two sides also do not see eye to eye on short radio news the STA producers, insisting that every single item must be accompanied by an audio clip.
“We’ve decided to work out what is right through procedures at the State Attorney’s Office or courts,” said Kadunc.
“We also had to calculate an average price of a news item to set the amount of public service fee, while I’m well aware that ‘an average item’ means nothing,” he said.
The STA having to provide free of charge to other media up to five photos a day also remains an issue, although the STA agreed to it last year to avoid bankruptcy.
“If we hadn’t signed the contract, the STA would have suffered major damage, but it needs a calm basis to do its job,” said Kadunc.
Editor-in-chief Rehar welcomed the financial stability the contract brings, but “at the same time we have some reservations”.
He singled out payment on the basis of the number of news items and payment on the basis of an average price of a news item as problematic for STA journalists.
He believes this could lead to financially rewarding content that is easy to produce and punishing the content with added value which takes more time.
“This is not suitable for our sector. We hope and we urge for a solution which will encourage quality and development to be found as soon as possible,” he said.