Journalists and free press advocates say the programming shift at Slovenia’s public broadcaster could curtail critical journalism and benefit the centre-right government in next year’s elections, who understand the politics behind the move.
The changes, adopted by the Program Council of RTV Slovenia on 29 November, shortened or eliminated some of the main news programs, while others moved to a less-prominent second channel. TV Slovenia is a part of RTV Slovenia, which also includes a public radio channel. There will be some changes in the radio channel too, but there is no dispute on them.
The new management of RTV Slovenia claims that the changes, to be phased out by the end of March 2022, are designed to improve ratings. Skeptics say this is not the whole story.
Lawrence C. Hutting, senior advocacy officer at the European Center for Press and Media, said: “Whether or not the proposed reforms are designed to curb critical political journalism, they have a tangible impact on RTV’s ability to inform the public and investigate the government. Capacity has to be reduced.” Freedom, told the VOA.
Most journalists on TV Slovenia news programs agree. More than nine out of 10 signed a petition in protest.
“This plan represents a major change, which we believe has no potential to enhance the quality of reporting,” Igor Evgen Bergant, senior TV anchor from Slovenia, told VOA.
“We want change; we want a better working organization… but the plan adopted will spread news reporting to multiple channels and thus reduce people’s interest in our news. Hence, our relevance will be reduced,” Bergent said.
He is the anchor of major evening news shows odemevic, which is to be reduced from 30 minutes at present to 25 minutes. But other programs will be more affected.
Management did not disclose the changes in detail, but TV journalists told the VOA that before the April 24 parliamentary election all political debates move to another channel, while the main evening news shows danevnik Will be shortened by about a third to 20 minutes.
a weekly show, Politics, which analyzes internal politics will be abolished. weekly show utrip, which investigates incidents in the country, and zerklow tedna, which focuses on global events, will be moved to another channel along with many others.
The journalists’ petition received public support from several universities, academics, Slovenian diplomats, trade unions, trade chambers and public institutions.
Nevertheless, the management of RTV Slovenia stands by the changes. Management did not respond to VOA’s detailed questions but sent a statement saying TV Slovenia is in “serious trouble”.
“Viewerships for most shows have been falling over the years, only danevnik And odemevic It has lost about half of the 250,000 or one-time loyal viewers since 2003. That’s why we are changing the news schedule.”
Bargant said viewership did not include those who followed the show on mobile phones and after a time delay, and ratings were falling in other countries as well.
Although the government has no direct influence on TV Slovenia’s production, many believe the change will benefit the government of Prime Minister Janez Jana ahead of the April vote.
“It is difficult to prove whether the current government is behind these decisions,” said Marko Milosavljevic, professor of journalism at the University of Ljubljana. “However, such marginalization of the information program can certainly benefit this government, especially before the election, because the elimination of analytical and potentially critical shows and reports can dent the position of the media and the image of this government.” can be reduced.”
The broadcaster gets most of its income from a mandatory RTV subscription which is paid for by most of the households. It is run by a 29-member program council mandated to function independently. However, the majority of the council’s members, 21, are appointed by Parliament.
TV Slovenia operates a 24-7 operation and is one of the most popular TV channels in the country. It competes with many private channels. Its largest competitor is owned by the international investment group PPF which is based in the Czech Republic. Another competitor, Nova24TV, was founded in 2016 by members and supporters of Jansa’s Slovenian Democratic Party.
The Ministry of Culture, which oversees the media, did not respond to VOA’s questions about the government’s influence on TV Slovenia. In September, the ministry denied putting any political pressure on the leadership of TV Slovenia.
RTV’s new chief executive, Lady Planet Whatmoff, who took over last April after being appointed by the Program Council, dismissed rumors that her appointment was political and denied being under any pressure.
In August, however, he sacked the director of TV Slovenia. The new director then appointed a new managing editor of the TV’s news programmes, after the previous editor, Manika Jenczyk Ambrojic, resigned in October due to changes in the planned schedule.
Opposition parties say Jansa’s government is trying to control the broadcaster through the Program Council to get favorable coverage.
“It is clear that (government parties) want to take control of the public channel and change that … Sarek told VOA.
Since taking power in March 2020, Jansa has been criticized by local and international institutions for the government’s media policies. These include the decision to stop paying to the national news agency, the STA, which normally gets half of its income from the government.
This comes after Jansa said on Twitter that the agency was biased and “a national shame”.
Government payments to the STA resumed in November following the appointment of a new CEO following the resignation of predecessor Bojan Veselinovich in September over his inability to reach a financial deal with the government.
Several TV journalists told the VOA that since Jansa took power, they are feeling more pressure. Last year, Jansa used Twitter to accuse TV Slovenia of spreading lies.
On 3 December, Jansa shared a tweet accusing a TV Slovenian journalist of lying when he compared government spending on the health system to military spending.
Analysts said Slovenian journalists are still capable of producing independent news – for now.
Hutting said: “Against a backdrop of increasing threats and threats against RTV journalists, it is important to support the broadcaster and its employees so that they can continue to report high levels of news.”