Govt rejects co-funding major media outlets

Ljubljana – Several radio stations with special status and two national newspapers have been left without the state’s financial support and thus face a precarious situation, report the dailies Delo and Dnevnik on Saturday.

Media outlets which applied for the government’s co-funding scheme in an annual open call by the Culture Ministry have started receiving the ministry’s decisions.

A number of them have failed to secure state funding and thus face financial struggles.

Among these are also the national newspapers Delo and Dnevnik, which reported today that their applications had been rejected for their alleged media bias and because they did not focus on local coverage enough.

According to Dnevnik, the daily received zero points out of ten when it came to criteria determining politically balanced news coverage. Delo meanwhile received two.

Another major newspaper in Slovenia, Večer, was granted EUR 19,000 in what is co-funding for local and regional content, Dnevnik reported.

Media expert Marko Milosavljević from the Ljubljana Faculty of Social Sciences told Dnevnik the ministry’s commission in charge of reviewing the applications was in fact politically imbalanced itself.

“A five-member commission makes decisions about media plurality and objectivity with four members being extremely close to the SDS party,” he said.

The commission features Matej Makarovič, Borut Rončević, Mitja Štular, Jonatan Vinkler and Suzana Žilič Fišer.

Also soon to be left without government support are five radio stations that enjoy special status under the law, including Radio Študent, a small independent radio station which received almost EUR 100,000 from the state last year. This is 50% of the station’s co-funding scheme which will be impossible to secured elsewhere.

“This year’s open call was identical to last year’s, and so were the assessment criteria, the application was comparable to last year’s, the only thing that is different in the entire open call is the composition of the ‘expert’ commission,” Ana Kandare, the head of the Radio Študent institute, told Delo, describing the rejection as politically-motivated.

The remaining radio stations that have not been granted state funding are local Radio Krka, Radio Koroška, Radio Triglav and Radio Kranj. Radio Koroška told Delo that as a result of the cut in funding, the radio station will be forced to reduce its programme for the first time since it was established 60 years ago.

So far, the ministry has not responded to the STA’s query regarding the open call. The ministry did tell Dnevnik though that it would make the results of the open call public when all the applicants were notified of the decisions.

Meanwhile, also struggling financially is the Slovenian Press Agency (STA), which remains without government payment for performing public service. The agency has launched court proceedings to seek enforcement of pecuniary obligations for January.

The State Attorney’s Office, which is representing the government, rejected an option of a peaceful settlement of the dispute.

In what is the latest development in the STA funding story, the State Attorney’s Office lodged a complaint against the enforcement procedure on the last day before the relevant deadline, thus prolonging the proceedings.

The STA management sees the step as a way of stalling and is confident that the enforcement of payment will be secured in court as the law is clear about the state’s obligation to provide sufficient funding for the STA.

European Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič, the Slovenian member of the European Commission, told Dnevnik’s Saturday edition that the Commission was concerned about suspension of the STA funding. The Commission calls for the matter to be resolved without any delay, he said.

Cause for concern are also frequent verbal attacks on journalists in Slovenia, the commissioner said. “Given the European Commission’s stance, Slovenia is thus approaching its EU presidency on a bad note,” he said.