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četrtek, 21 januarja, 2021

Vinko Vasle and Jože Biščak: Your touching concern for the media due to changes in media legislation is really completely unnecessary

Dear Director General of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) Noel Curran, European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) and European Commissioner for Values ​​and Transparency Věra Jourová!

Have you ever lived under communism? You haven’t? Well, both of us, the undersigned, spent part of our lives in a communist regime in which life was good only for a handful of selected party members. Other citizens, especially Roman Catholics, were inferior, we lived in straitened circumstances, we faced poverty, as private entrepreneurial initiative was more the exception than the rule. Things even went so far that you had trouble obtaining permits (such as a building permit) at municipal offices if you were not a socio-politically appropriate person. If you expressed an opinion that was not in line with the political guidelines of the one and only permitted party (the League of Communists), you could have had great trouble; you could have ended up in prison, in the worst case you were killed by the secret political police (Udba).

At that time, the public RTV was a political-ideological branch of the League of Communists, and it was run by the highest party officials, who mainly cooperated with the secret political police. That »public service« was the service of a handful of authorities, and the only prevailing »opinion« of this RTV service were party documents, resolutions and weekly briefings with the party chief and at the same time the head of the secret political police.

What has changed since then? Not much. Public RTV is still the successor to the former regime and that’s how it basically works. Its operation in an important content area – that is, in the information-political program – is extremely one-sided, biased, unprofessional, even inflammatory, in many cases the journalists of this medium also use lies and manipulations. This is not a public service that would be equally fair or, if you will, equally relentless to all when it comes to the truth. The analysis of the contents of the radio and television part of this public service quickly shows that these are distinct left-wing contents, very similar to those from the times before the independence of Slovenia, ie from the times of the communist regime. On RTV Slovenia, different opinions are not desirable, but if they are, they are in such a minority that they do not really reach the public at all. For example, if someone who does not share a left-wing belief appears in a news program on TVS, the presenter becomes upset and constantly interrupts the interlocutor and imposes his or her opinion on him or her. After all, this was shown at the TV-debate on the topic of changes to the RTV Act and media legislation, which was led by the extremely biased journalist Ksenija Horvat.

Something similar happened at the parliamentary committee for culture, chaired by the leftist Violeta Tomić – there the ratio of external guests was 17:1 in favor of those who do not support the changes in the laws. And that only voice came to the floor only after a series of protests, that it is unacceptable if there is a ban on public speech and public expression of opinion in a democratic parliament. At the same time, individual very privileged RTV employees demonstrated in front of the parliament, not only against much-needed changes to the RTV law, but against any changes that would the now loss-making public institution get out of the red numbers and that would help reduce unnecessary costs in times of technological revolution in the field of TV production. In terms of production, TV Slovenia lags far behind comparable televisions in Europe. Things even culminated so far that the current General Manager Igor Kadunc has repeatedly resisted the request of the Supervisory Board to prepare a good remediation program. And at the suggestion or request of the Supervisory Board, the the Program Council has twice tried to dismiss General Director with the explanation that it is detrimental to the development of this public service. Of course, there was no dismissal, because at that time the ruling structure of the successors of the party and of the former regime delegated its members to this institution – even illegally, because by law, representatives of all political options, in addition to representatives of the professional public, must sit on this body.

In general, of course, the revolt of the leftists and the management of RTV Slovenia only means the fear that RTV would become impartial and more plural. The radio and television part of the public service RTV tackles many important, fatal issues from the position of pronounced hatred of different opinions, stigmatizes and disqualifies different opinions and does not inform, but imposes its opinions and beliefs. They also adapt the selection of guests and even the formats of shows (such as Tarča, Utrip, Politično), and the worst thing is that this happens in daily news broadcasts.

The Slovenian public broadcaster (RTV Slovenia) and some other media (such as the state news agency – STA), which you are defending, are behaving exactly as they did in the former communist regime. The planned changes in the media legislation are not as big as they were shown to you, and they are even less (financially) destroying the public media service. They are just a step in the right direction, as they are limiting (and eliminating) monopolies and cartel agreements and will force the public broadcaster to operate more rationally, and part of the money from the RTV-contribution will go to other media (including the state news agency). Therefore, your moving concern is really superfluous, there is even a doubt that you did not read the documents on the new laws at all, but you only summarized what was served to you from Slovenia. This doubt is completely justified, because those who reported about the Slovenian government to you demanded an extension of the public debate until the end of August, because they did not have enough time to study the amendments to the laws, and you obviously examined them in a few days.

Discussions on changes to media legislation (there was also a debate in the parliamentary committee on culture, to which the president invited only left-leaning media and experts) now revolve more or less around public television. The main complaint is that the government led by Janez Janša wants to (financially) destroy RTV Slovenia and subjugate it. This, of course, is not true. Even the Constitutional Court ruled more than fifteen years ago that the state must ensure financial independence for the public media. RTV Slovenia therefore even enjoys constitutional protection from the interference of the respective authorities. And we find it hard to believe that the current coalition would overlook something like this. If something is wrong with the law, it will be decided by the constitutional judges anyway.

However, those who complain to you today forget that the Constitutional Court then clearly stated that RTV Slovenia, as a public service broadcaster, is committed to freedom of expression and must serve »the exercise of the right to public information and to be informed«. The performance of this mission (as also written in the Law on RTV Slovenia) is based on the fact that it must provide broadcasts that reflect the lives and problems of various population structures, and that it respects the principle of political balance and worldview pluralism. In other words. Just as a civil servant in an administrative unit must treat the applications of both the (extreme) left and the (extreme) right on an equal footing (and without discrimination), civil servants on national television have to cover an event or problem in society from several angles. This (simply and concretely) means that if RTV Slovenia has an interview with Professor César García Hernández, who deals with »anti-immigrant hysteria« and romanticizes migration, it must also have an interview with someone (such as Professor Kevin MacDonald) who warns on the dangers of migration.

In our opinion, RTV Slovenia does not fulfill this mission (plurality of opinions and world views that reflect all population structures). RTV Slovenia has become a place where a single view is allowed, that is leftism. Therefore, the theatrical concern of the public broadcaster, the moralistic »experts« of civil society, and left-wing politicians was just cheap folklore for the public.

In the background of resistance to any rational changes on RTV Slovenia, of course, there are also the privileges of individuals and groups that have been formed and consolidated for many years – whether it is individual employees or some external part-time employees, and especially the ideological and political successors of the communist regime, who at this time also shout in the streets that they do not want to give up their RTV and threaten with death those who try to make RTV a normal public radio and television station that will be comparable to Europe. Last but not least, this is confirmed by the fact that opponents of the changes also included the last president of the communists and the head of the secret political police, Milan Kučan, in the campaign. This is not surprising, of course, as virtually all media outlets in the country are in the service of the former regime, and two smaller media outlets that fall into the right-wing conservative field are under constant attack, harassment, police persecution, interrogation and demands that they should be banned from any advertising revenue (Democracy, Nova24TV). RTV Slovenia is therefore only a part of the dominant ideological left-wing media landscape, but unlike others (which are private companies), RTV Slovenia is financed from a contribution paid by everyone, regardless of religious, political or any other belief. Therefore, some amendments to the law try to distribute the collected funds in such a way that it will also affect the equal treatment of all social groups, views and orientations. In the 21st century, the call for this sounds like something unbelievable and in fact, public RTV Slovenia is a stone age of professionalism, but everyone refers to the fact that this is its autonomy and that attempts at any much-needed changes are an attack on that autonomy. In reality, this is merely a request to preserve the current situation in which the public RTV Slovenia stays as deep as it was in the years of the undemocratic communist regime.

Unfortunately, we notice that some international journalistic organizations and especially the EBU, of which RTV Slovenia is a member, support RTV Slovenia as an ideological dinosaur of Central Europe due to unilateral information or possibly even agreeing with that.

Vinko Vasle, a longtime journalist and editor and former director of the public Radio Slovenia (RTV Slovenia), and Jože Biščak, editor-in-chief of the magazine Demokracija and president of the Slovenian Association of Patriotic Journalists

The letter was also sent to foreign embassies in Slovenia for their information.


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