The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), expresses concern at the proposed decrease in licence fees for Slovenia’s public broadcaster, RTV Slovenija. SEEMO believes that this proposal could undermine the independence of the public broadcasting service and affect program quality.
In August 2012, the centre-right coalition government announced that television license fees would diminish by 10 percent, starting in 2013, while Radio Television Slovenia submitted a proposal for a 1, 50 Euro increase. This budget decrease would imply the dismissal of more than 200 professionals without permanent contracts, according to SEEMO sources.
Slovenian analysts believe that the government proposal may be politically motivated. Breaching the law on public broadcasting, passed during the previous mandate of the current Prime Minister Janez Jansa, it was announced that several members of the broadcaster’s Supervisory Board would be substituted. Legally, board members cannnot be changed before the end of their mandate.
The announced licence fee decrease would imply an annual loss of approximately 9.5 million Euros and severely affect RTV Slovenija’s programming. It is worth noting that Article 2 of the Law regulating the public broadcaster states: “It is the duty of the founder to assure institutional autonomy and editorial independence of RTV Slovenia and provide adequate funding for the fulfillment of public service.”
While RTV Slovenia faces budget cuts, the state-owned Telekom launched a new commercial TV channel: Planet TV. In June 2012, TSmedia, a subsidiary of the state-owned Telekom, presented its plans for the new TV station, with an investment of 15 million Euros, according to the English-language publication Slovenian Times. Although the new station is presented as commercial, a number of analysts as well as opposition politicians have said the station was established as a government mouthpiece, according to the same source.
Thus, the government will count on its own commercial broadcaster. Some analysts suspect that the privileged position of Planet TV may breach EU regulations on free competition.
“I call on the Slovenian government to reconsider its decision to lower licence fee and guarantee the independence of the public broadcaster’s independence. RTV Slovenia is a public rather than a government television, “said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic.