Ex-govt communications chief on course to head TV Slovenija

Ljubljana – Uroš Urbanija, the former director of the Government Communication Office, has been endorsed by the RTV Slovenija programme council for appointment as TV Slovenija director, the TV arm of the Slovenian public broadcaster. RTV Slovenija director general Andrej Grah Whatmough will decide on his appointment.

Grah Whatmough, who was appointed to the post under the Janez Janša government, will decide on Urbanija’s appointment after interviewing him next week. If appointed, Urbanija will have a four-year term.

The 29-strong programme council endorsed Urbanija by 17 votes. He needed at least 15 for his bid to get preliminary endorsement. The other candidate, Patrik Greblo, a conductor who has been serving as acting director of TV Slovenija for less than a month, got only 13 votes.

In his presentation Urbanija said his priority would be to improve relationships at the public broadcaster. He plans to reorganise work, arguing that while some staff are burning out with excessive workload there is still quite some manoeuvring ground to give assignments to others.

Asked about analyses of reporting by TV Slovenija by UKOM during his guide, Urbanija rejected the allegation that it was an insult to journalists’ work, but said it was an attempt to find the best possible solutions, which he saw as a positive contribution.

The analyses, which UKOM discontinued under the new government headed by Robert Golob, were seen as pressure on journalists’ autonomy both by RTV Slovenija journalists and journalist organisations.

Sašo Hribar, a representative of the staff on the programme council, noted that many of the well-established shows had been cancelled recently and replaced with new ones. Urbanija commented that he advocated evolutionary rather than revolutionary change.

He expressed reservation about a new bill on the public broadcaster tabled by the new government in a bid to depoliticise the service, suggesting the changes were too radical and head-over-heels.

Before serving as the Janez Janša government’s top communications officer for two years until the new government assumed office on 1 June, Urbanija worked for several media outlets, including the news web site of RTV Slovenija, the STA and Planet TV.

Helena Milinković, the head coordination of in-house journalist trade unions at TV Slovenija, commented that it had been clear since the end of his term at UKOM that Urbanija would be picked for TV Slovenija director. She warned the situation at the broadcaster was expected to get even more tense, saying that Urbanija was engaged in bullying as domestic politics desk editor at the STA.

“In our view he is the most unsuitable candidate for any position at the public broadcaster, let alone to be director of television at this time. He is known as a wrecker and as one who is dismantling the public service media, not as one who is trying to build it up or act in its interests,” she said.

Under his leadership, UKOM refused to pay the Slovenian Press Agency (STA) for the public service in line with the law for almost an entire year.