By: Mitja Iršič
We can believe the activists who recently occupied the public institution RTV Slovenia and clearly told us that this is their institution, not ours, that they are fighting for editorial independence and want to get rid of pressure. They want independence in their own bias and no more pressure to adhere to their own Professional Standards Regulations from 2000.
Their hidden desires are to maintain the status quo before annoying executives started reminding them that the basis of journalism is to check all sides of a story. Around 2021, when UKOM under the leadership of Uroš Urbanija began to analyse the reporting of RTV Slovenia, all citizens somehow assumed that RTV Slovenia was biased. That is how it is. One of the things, like gravity: it is not nice to fall off a skyscraper and kill yourself, but there is nothing we can do about it. Viewers on the left received this with silent approval, viewers on the right with silent disapproval. But both somehow thought by default that this state of affairs was eternal, ever since they switched on the programme for the first time in 1957 on the then TV Ljubljana and aired something other than – a presentation of the achievements of socialism.
Behind the scenes of the propaganda machine
Perverted logic, which has been quietly accepted by the right for three decades, says that the communists founded RTV and therefore it is impossible to prohibit them from editorially ruling there, or to force them to adhere to the editorial standards they themselves adopted 22 years ago. The previous government of Janez Janša changed this paradigm.
For the first time, people were able to look behind the scenes of this mighty propaganda machine, which produces new generations of socialists day by day. We saw that our subjective feelings about biased reporting were not just feelings. They could be measured empirically. UKOM’s analysis, which was tirelessly attacked by both the media and academics – but only ideologically, never substantively – proved with actual examples day after day how it is reported on television, which should belong to all citizens. When topics that were damaging to the right were reported, a second opinion was often not sought, or if it was, the other opinion was smothered among the three opinions of the left.
When reporting on topics damaging to the left, they apologetically sought multiple sources – from the political to the professional and quasi-professional – to defend the subject under attack. When they reported on topics that were positive for the right, they were mentioned briefly with a laconic description of what was happening, and sometimes they were not mentioned at all. When they reported on topics that were positive for the left, they were mentioned in the opening credits and front pages of the web portal.
The analysis is still available online. You can look at it and you will quickly notice a very distinct pattern of bias. With examples that repeat themselves day after day. This is precisely why ordinary citizens have also become more attentive, and for this reason they no longer trust everything that Tanja Starič and Igor E. Bergant read eloquently from the teleprompter.
These days, for example, we were upset by the double standards of how the Bled Strategic Forum was reported this year, when it was on the front page and declared the most important event of the year, and last year during Janša’s government, when the participation was much more respectable and numerous than today – the news was buried deep among other news, even those that were completely trivial.
Such small differences would not have been noticed a year ago. But now, when for two years we have witnessed a total war against the previous government and – as the former director Ljerka Bizilj herself admitted – political agitation, we become more careful when we hear such news.
It is quite normal that the journalists of RTV Slovenia do not like such attention. For years, decades, they were used to concealing their bias and wrapping it in cellophane of independence and autonomy. Now, deep down, they realise that this is the end, regardless of whether the government succeeds in completely subjugating the public institution with the new law and ruling there forever through its surrogates in civil society. People have already started to see it. Although RTV Slovenia has been losing credibility for many years, which concrete numbers also show, Valicon’s research showed a strong correlation between trust in RTV and the magazine Mladina, which is significant. Showing that this is not the television of all citizens, but of one very specific political and ideological option.
The alignment of the Slovenian media with the interests of RTV Slovenia is already the stuff of legends. Every time some RTV Slovenia news show is hijacked by activists led by Igor E. Bergant and after the end of the show “in support of and against the pressure of the management” they appear next to the host; a chain reaction occurs. In just a few minutes, the Association of Journalists of Slovenia reports on this and expresses its support. Then the so-called Odlazek’s media surface – first with announcements on Twitter of individual publications, then individual journalists follow. Followed by Mladina. And then the left-wing politicians. Yes – left-wing politicians who want nothing more than the “depoliticisation” of a public institution, so that employees at RTV Slovenia can be left-wing in peace again. This machine is incredibly well-oiled, and we can only imagine what capital-social inputs coordinate this beautiful dance of leftist excess.
Entry portal to politics
Otherwise, it has been a popular joke in Slovenia for a long time that journalism is only a gateway to left-wing politics or a job in one of the state institutions. The last, most notorious example is Mojca Pašek Šetinc, a former independent and professional RTV journalist who switched to politics and is now completely non-politically fighting against the politicisation of RTV Slovenia. But there were so many such cases that it quickly becomes clear – the journalistic profession is just an audition. The real job comes only after a journalistic career.
Such obvious political attribution was even more exposed by the statement of the Association of Journalists of Slovenia: “The departure of journalists from the profession is completely legitimate and, given the poor conditions in journalism, understandable. The public media were and are still under severe financial pressure.” Excuse me?! Now what kind of nonsense is this? Yes, many people in journalism earn barely more than the minimum wage – but such people do not belong to left-wing politics. In left-wing politics, the rich red cream lands. Among the highest paid salaries at RTV, which were publicly announced in November and December 2021, as many as 29 journalists were on the list of the first 50 highest paid. In April and May, however, 25 out of 50. The 50 highest salaries range between 5,071 and 4,157 euros. I think that even the most ardent supporters of the left parties do not believe that Tanja Fajon and Irena Joveva entered politics because they could not afford a head of endive with their miserable salary at RTV Slovenia.
With such arguments, which are humiliating for common sense, DNS only further exposes what we all already see – the Slovenian media scene, with a few exceptions, is primarily a public-private conglomerate of PR support for left-wing parties. Why the left-wing? Because this is the Slovenian default way of thinking since Khmerisation in 1945. Slovenia in 1928 was an average European country with a strong People’s Democratic Party. In 1945, Slovenia was a radically different country. Unrecognisable.
Those who once voted for the People’s Party moved away, were quiet and numb, or ended up at the bottom of some mine shaft. Slovenian Khmerisation was no less thorough than Cambodian. And that is why today socialism and support for left-wing ideology is the default way of thinking even among journalists. The new broadcasting law, which the ruling coalition wants to brutally implement, will only cement the situation as we have known it for 80 years. Those direct phone lines with CK ZK still remain today, except that today we have e-mail and SMS.