Ljubljana – The National Assembly passed in 53:26 vote on Thursday changes to the act on RTV Slovenija with which the government would like to reduce what it sees as the influence of politics on the public broadcaster. The changes come after RTV journalists recently went on strike twice demanding editorial autonomy.
Under the changes, the existing programming council and the supervisory board will be replaced with a single council with 17 members in which more power would be given to the civil society and staff.
While none of the members will be appointed by the National Assembly which has significant influence on the body at the moment, the staff will be represented by six members.
The remaining eleven members will be appointed by the Italian and Hungarian minorities, religious communities, the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SAZU), the National Council for Culture, the Slovenian Olympic Committee, the Information Commissioner, the Human Rights Ombudsman, the Council for Sustainable Development and Environmental Protection and the National Council of the Disabled.
Under the changes, the council will be advised by a five-strong financial board. To prevent the conflict of interest and corruption, RTV Slovenija council members will have an option of only one re-election.
Moreover, RTV Slovenija will be led by a five-member management board rather than a director general. The board will consist of a TV director, radio director, workers’ director and digital contents director and be headed by a chairperson.
During the debate, the senior coalition Freedom Movement said that a change is necessary because the public broadcaster’s programming council is just an extension of the opposition Democrats (SDS).
The coalition Social Democrats (SD) said it was time to abolish censorship and that it was unacceptable for any party to claim the public broadcaster as its own.
The coalition Left meanwhile said RTV Slovenija was in agony and its employees captives of political manipulation, while the public was paying the biggest price.
The opposition meanwhile claims that the coalition wants to reorganise the public broadcaster politically. The SDS was critical of the exclusion of the National Assembly from council member appointments.
New Slovenia (NSi) was critical of the fact that the changes are being fast-tracked through parliament, saying there was no emergency situation to warrant this course of action.
Mojca Šetinc Pašek, an MP for the Freedom Movement and former journalist at TV Slovenija, said fast-tracking the changes was necessary because irreparable damage was being done to the state.
Branko Grims of the SDS meanwhile said the purpose of fast-tracking the changes was to “silence the truth”. “You want to banish any opinion different from your own and transform RTV Slovenija into an ultra-leftist mouthpiece.”
RTV Slovenija has been in the spotlight lately with its staff warning of political pressure and political staffing by the previous, Janez Janša government.
As the European Commission released its third annual Rule of Law Report on Wednesday, its Vice President Vera Jourova said past developments in the media in Slovenia had prompted the Commission to start considering media rules that would apply to all EU member states.
In the report, the Commission recommends Slovenia to strengthen “the rules and mechanisms to enhance the independent governance and editorial independence of public service media taking into account European standards on public service media”.
The Commission pointed to the procedures to appoint the programme council of RTV Slovenija as so far most members were appointed by parliament, political parties and the government.
EU sources commented on the proposed changes to the RTV Slovenija act by saying that Brussels welcomed the government’s willingness to take action and introduce more safeguards to protect the independence of journalists.