Fate of flagship TV show uncertain after departure of moderator

Ljubljana – The fate of a flagship current-affairs show on the national public broadcaster, Studio City, remains uncertain after RTV Slovenija refused to renew the contract with long-time leader Marcel Štefančič amidst accusations that it is conducting a politically-motivated purge.

RTV Slovenija director general Andrej Grah Whatmough told the Programming Council on Monday that the leadership would conduct consultations until 23 May as to how to continue with the show without Štefančič.

Not only was Štefančič’s contract not renewed, the entire team working on Studio City has told the editor-in-chief of news and current affairs at TV Slovenija, Jadranka Rebernik, that it would not take part in the new concept presented to them, Grah Whatmough said.

Several journalists were offered to anchor the show. Some immediately rejected the offer, and two declined due to what Grah Whatmough said were threats against them and their families. One of these two was Vida Petrovčič.

The announcement comes after weeks of upheaval at the national broadcaster under a new leadership that has been accused by the civil society and centre-left opposition of having adopted a pro-government line that does not befit an independent public institution.

Last week dozens of RTV Slovenija staff gathered in support of Štefančič when it was announced that his contract would not be renewed, ostensibly because he had made insulting remarks about RTV Slovenija employees at a public debate.

Commentators and politicians on the right have long accused Studio City, a show best known for its fast-paced anchor and in-your-face comment, of leftist bias.

The show was first cancelled for the duration of the one-month election campaign with the argument that its time slot would be given over to debates, which was indeed the case.

When it was slated to return, the leadership announced that it would not renew Štefančič’s contract, which expired at the end of March, just days after he hosted the last Studio City.

The show was supposed to return on air yesterday. Instead, a journalist who recently transferred to RTV Slovenija moderated a recap of old Studio City shows.

In the meantime, Štefančič organised “Studio 9 May” at an alternative Ljubljana theatre that featured discussions with incoming prime minister Robert Golob and philosopher Slavoj Žižek.

As an expression of support for independent media, the show was livestreamed by major media outlets such as Delo, Dnevnik, Siol, N1 and STA. At its peak, about 20,000 viewers were tuned in, a remarkable achievement for livestreaming in Slovenia.