Feature: Changing Structure of Slovenian Media Ownership Leads to Crisis of Legitimacy

By , 29 Mar 2019, 18:00 PM Business
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STA, 28 March 2019 - Leading Slovenian media companies, except the public broadcaster and national press agency, are in the hands of many different owners, domestic and foreign. But their ownership is often blurred, which a media expert believes contributes to the crisis of legitimacy they are in.

The leading TV channels are TV Slovenija, POP TV, which is the most popular TV channel in the country, A Kanal and Planet TV.

The list of Slovenian quality newspapers includes Delo, Dnevnik and Večer, but the largest market share of 42% in 2017 has tabloid Slovenske Novice.

The sale of Pop TV and Kanal A has recently been aborted, while Dnevnik and Večer are about to merge, and national telco Telekom Slovenije is said to be planning to sell Planet TV and news portal Siol.

But Jernej Amon Prodnik, head of the journalism department at the Ljubljana Faculty of Social Sciences, says Slovenia urgently needs a strategic reflection on its media to provide for quality journalism.

Although formally the country has many media outlets, in reality the media market is controlled by a handful which shapes the media landscape and public opinion, he says.

While calling for state subsidies to boost media plurality, Amon Prodnik believes it is an illusion to think deregulation and media concentration would facilitate quality journalism and quality media.

This could only aggravate the situation in a country as small as Slovenia. "It could easily happen that a few people would literally control topical and political daily news."

Unlike the privately-owed media, the public broadcaster RTV Slovenija and national press agency STA are not under so much market pressure, which Amon Prodnik deems good for journalists and editorial policy.

"Studies from abroad have shown that public media usually report about more different views, are more critical and their reporting is deeper," he has told the STA.

Amon Prodnik also opposes "a full merger of Dnevnik and Večer", which he says "could prove to be the final blow to both newspapers".

This would be a major problem in the long run because Slovenia has "relatively few general newspapers, which despite all the technological changes still largely dictate the daily media routine and represent quality journalism".

According to publisher Dnevnik's annual report for 2017, Dnevnik and Večer were the third and fourth newspapers in terms of market share, boasting 16.6% and 15.6%, respectively. Delo was in second place with a 21% share.

The merger of Dnevnik and Večer has already been approved by the Culture Ministry and is now awaiting clearance from the Competition Protection Agency.

The media company Dnevnik is owned by the publisher DZS (35.11%) and DZS Investicije (15.94%), with almost 26% owned by Austria's Styria Media International.

Večer is published by Slovenian media group Večer Skupina, which is owned by Uroš Hakl and Saša Todorović (each holding some 40% stakes).

The only newspaper in full foreign ownership is business daily Finance, which has been owned by Sweden's Bonnier Business Press since 2006 and had a 4.7% market share in 2017.

On the other hand, TV stations POP TV and Kanal A, that is their producer Pro Plus, have not been sold to United Group as planned.

The sale was estimated at EUR 230m and would be the biggest deal of its kind in Slovenia to date, with many fearing it for distorting competition.

It was in early 2019 that Pro Plus's owners - CME Media Enterprises, which is part of the Bermuda-based Central European Media Enterprises (CME) - changed its mind.

Amon Prodnik says this is good news for the Slovenian media environment. "Pro Plus has a relatively excessive influence, and in case of the takeover, it would further increase it and expand it to other communication levels."

Meanwhile, news portal Siol and TV station Planet TV, both indirectly owned by national telco Telekom Slovenije, are rumoured to get new owners.

Some information indicates that Telekom's supervisors could decide to sell TS Media, under whose wing is Siol.net, in the coming days.

Telekom also owns 66% of Antenna TV SL, which produces Planet TV, with the rest owned by Antenna Slovenia from the Greek group Antenna Group.

News portal Požareport has reported Planet TV could be bought by Serbian businessman Dragan Šolak, the founder of United Group, which also owns teleco company Telemach.

Foreign ownership is also expanding among news portals, with Styria Media International buying in February a 35% stake in Feniks Media, the company publishing news portal zurnal24.si.

Apart from partly owing newspaper Dnevnik, Styria is also the owner of second-hand goods portal bolha.com and job portal mojedelo.com.

Just recently, Novatv24.si, the company which is behind TV station Nova24TV - a TV broadcaster founded by senior opposition SDS members - saw a change in ownership.

Some 15% held by Hungary's Ripost Media was bought by Hungarian Agnes Adamik, with around 30% remaining split equally between another two Hungarian firms.

The media company Salomon, which is part of the company Media24 and indirectly in the hands of businessman Martin Odlazek, was recently reported to be buying a 19% in Infonet Media.

Infonet, owned by radio mogul Leo Oblak, operates a network of commercial radio stations around the country, including the most popular one, Radio 1.

Statistics Office data shows that at the end of 2018, there were over 2,320 journalists in Slovenia, 61% of whom were women. Over 75% have higher education.

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