Dismissed TV Slovenija boss now put forward for the job

Ljubljana – Andrej Grah Whatmough, director general of the Slovenian public broadcaster, has nominated Natalija Gorščak for director of the broadcaster’s TV arm, after having dismissed her from the job in August last year.

In a press release on Monday, RTV Slovenija said Gorščak was the only candidate to apply for the job in line with the terms of the call by the 13 May deadline. Another application arrived by e-mail, and was thus not considered.

Grah Whatmough, who currently also serves as acting director of TV Slovenija, is now seeking endorsement from the RTV Slovenija Programme Council to appoint Gorščak.

In his proposal, he notes that he dismissed Gorščak in August 2021 because of “her failure to act at a time of urgently needed changes in a very demanding public media environment, and her not respecting internal rules and a conflict of interests”.

“The decision to put forward Natalija Gorščak for TV Slovenija director may thus appear at first to be illogical,” he wrote, adding that TV Slovenija “needs and deserves a director with a full term who will act with commitment, lawfully and in light of the public mission”.

He says one of the reasons for his decision is upcoming appointments of three editors-in-chief at TV Slovenija, which cannot proceed without a TV director being appointed either for full or interim term.

Given the past differences with Gorščak, he anticipates, in case she is endorsed by the Council, the two of them will need several rounds of discussions to reconcile their views on the tasks and goals ahead.

If she is appointed, he expects the new TV director to implement the necessary changes, implement programme overhaul and act in compliance with the statute and all internal rules.

“In this light, I will have a word with her about our future communication with the media. Throughout my term I have been trying for issues to first be solved internally and only in exceptional cases by turning to the external public,” Grah Whatmough writes, adding that the public does not expect RTV Slovenija staff to wash their dirty laundry in public.

Gorščak told the STA she had submitted an application because she cared about the public broadcaster, which she said was “facing imminent collapse.”

She said Grah Whatmough’s decision to pick her was proof that she had been wrongfully dismissed. “And after all this time he does not have a single hero to apply.”

Gorščak also acknowledged there was a chance that the Programme Council will not give the green light, and if it does she expects that she will face many obstacles.

Grah Whatmough dismissed Gorščak on 20 August 2021 just when the Programming Council was inquorate to give the go-ahead that is otherwise needed for such a dismissal. Gorščak initiated legal proceedings to challenge her dismissal while Valentin Areh was appointed acting TV director in September.

Grah Whatmough took over at the job in February after Areh’s six-month term ended and the call for applications to fill the post failed with Gorščak as the sole applicant but whose bid was incomplete.

TV Slovenija has been in turmoil with a majority of staff opposing appointments and changes to the programme made under the new leadership who took over under the Janez Janša government. Staff will start a token strike in protest on 23 May.

The incoming government coalition has been announcing it will amend legislation to depoliticise the public broadcaster, but the new opposition tabled its own bill at the maiden session of new parliament even before the coalition, which means the former will need to be discussed first.