STA, 10 July 2020 - The Culture Ministry published on Thursday proposals for extensive changes to the media act, the act on public broadcaster RTV Slovenija (RTVS) and the act on the Slovenian Press Agency (STA). The changes, which reportedly include a EUR 13 million cut for RTVS, will be subject to public debate until 15 July.
In line with the proposal affecting RTVS, 3% of the funds it collects in a year through the compulsory licence fee, presently at EUR 12.75 per household, would go to the STA and 5% to other media or what is described as the fulfilling of public interest in the media.
It is also envisaged that the public broadcaster lose revenue from its transmitting business, which would be transferred onto a new fully state-owned company. RTVS has assessed the total cuts at EUR 13 million a year.
The lost income is meant to be compensated with laxer restrictions on advertising, while changes to the media act, "aiming to enable more competitive conditions on the market" also speak of the relaxation of certain programme responsibilities.
The media act moreover received and expanded definition of public interest to include the notion of plurality, which is further elaborated as ownership plurality, world view plurality, and "media offer" plurality that involves things like genre and geographical diversity.
The proposal additionally explicitly mentions the role of courts when it comes to provisions prohibiting the incitement of national, racial, sexual, ideological or other forms of hatred and intolerance. Also, the right to demand a correction of a report is redefined as the right to secure a correction.
The changes moreover affect Slovenian music quotas, envisaging that Slovenian music must account for at least 20% of all music aired on radio or TV during daytime hours.
Meanwhile, key novelties in the act on the STA include provisions governing the appointment of supervisors and the dismissal of the STA director.
Under the proposal, new supervisors - presently appointed by parliament - could be appointed by the government within 15 days after the implementation of the act. The reasoning provided is that the STA, although state-owned and partially state-funded, is a limited liability company and that companies act rules should apply.
"This also secures more consistent responsibility for the management and operations," the proposal says, while newly listing among the reasons for the dismissal of the director a no-confidence vote by the majority of supervisors and "the inability to lead the STA".
Moreover, the article of the STA act talking about the principles of independence and impartiality would no longer contain the part stating that the STA must not become dependent - de facto, or legally - on any ideological, political or economic grouping.
While Culture Minister Vasko Simoniti started presenting the changes to deputy groups last week, the first public reactions have highlighted the short time being provided for public debate given the extent of the changes.
The head of the junior coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), Aleksandra Pivec, said on Thursday that the party had not yet studied the proposal and that the party's leadership and MPs would discuss it next week.
The head of the opposition Left, Luka Mesec, wrote that the government was out to "replace the leadership of the STA, starve out RTV Slovenija and establish some kind of media fund that would feed TV stations like Nova24", which is associated with the senior coalition Democrats (SDS).
Mesec added the changes said a lot about the priorities of the government, which is not focusing on healthcare but on "staffing at state-owned companies, machinations at the police force and the usurpation of public media". "Thus, defending the media is crucial if we want to defend democracy in Slovenia," the Left wrote.
The Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) responded by inviting fellow opposition parties to sign a demand for an emergency session of the parliamentary Culture Committee and the session has already been called for 15 July.
Coalition partners that have commented so far, mostly commented on Wednesday on the proposed changes to the act on RTVS. The SDS said it supported the idea to distribute part of the RTVS licence fee to other media, while the Modern Centre Party (SMC) warned the Culture Ministry that attention should be paid to securing greater independence of the public broadcaster. New Slovenia (NSi) has not commented yet.
Meanwhile, Faculty of Social Sciences professor Marko Milosavljević was critical of the public debate only being given six days, telling the paper Večer that the Culture Ministry should also be interested in having well written laws.
Milosavljević welcomed the fact that some of the solutions put forward by previous teams at the Culture Ministry had been taken into account, for instance that decision making on concentration of media ownership, aimed at prohibiting concentrations that would run contrary to public interest, is being transferred to the Competition Protection Agency.