Protest over changes splitting TV Slovenija news programmes

Ljubljana – Journalists’ trade unions have urged withdrawal of changes planned to the statute of the Slovenian public broadcasting service under which TV news programme would be split into two separate production units, which staff see as an attempt to create separate pro-government and anti-government news programmes.

The call for the withdrawal of the changes was issued by the Trade Union of Slovenian Journalists and the coordination of RTV Slovenija in-house journalist unions after the new statute was endorsed on Monday by the RTV Slovenija Programme Council. It is expected to be rubber-stamped by the supervisory board.

The unions believe the changed statute would increase financial and staffing risks for the public broadcaster. They see the planned split in the news programme between TV Channel One and Channel Two as entailing the risk of systematic violation of editorial autonomy and professional standards and a threat to unbiased reporting.

The changes were put forward by Andrej Grah Whatmough, director general of RTV Slovenija. Since the staff is opposed, the unions say Grah Whatmough has de facto already formed a new news desk that has no basis in the currently valid statute and persuaded 28 newly recruited TV Slovenija news programme staff to back changes to the statute.

The unions say dividing journalists in such a way does not befit RTV Slovenija director general, who at the same time serves as acting director of TV Slovenija, as it sows discord and uncertainty among the staff.

At the session of the Programme Council yesterday, Grah Whatmough said the proposal to divide the news programmes was opposed by a majority of staff on Channel One, while it was supported by all but one of the 28 journalists on Channel Two. Journalists have so far not been split between the two channels.

The director general said creating an additional news programme desk and editor-in-chief was required to facilitate staffing and programme manageability. He said the staff numbers and the volume of programme generated made the situation at the moment unmanageable.

Another change to the statue concerns the appointment of the editor-in-chief of the Multi Media Centre, which operates the broadcaster’s news web portal. The editor will be appointed and dismissed by the director general on the proposal of directors of Radio Slovenija and TV Slovenija. If the pair could agree on a candidate with 30 days, they could name each their own candidate.

The RTV Slovenija Works Council opposes the changes, in particular the split in the news programmes. TV Slovenija news programme staff sees the split as an “attempt to create differently oriented news programmes, a left and right one, or coalition and opposition programmes”.