By: Peter Truden
Employees of the national media outlet, RTV Slovenia, who are accustomed to the leadership of the Social Democrats party (Socialni demokrati – SD), held a press conference on Monday, where they warned about the impoverishment of the programme, increasing pressures and politicisation. We have repeatedly pointed out that leftism and journalism are not compatible and that RTV must become more professional – but individual journalists and editors who are employed there understand these comments as attacks on their work. It is also interesting that throughout practically the entire history of RTV, it has been run by prominent members of the Social Democrats; however, during those times, there were no protests or public calls being made due to alleged political pressure.
At Tuesday’s press conference, the employees of RTV Slovenia drew attention to the escalation of pressuring, political staffing, and the involvement of politics in the independence of journalists of the public radio and television. They pointed out that the first television programme is becoming increasingly impoverished, and in addition, the tv schedule is often not correct, and the decisions that are being made on the transmissions of shows and rallies, according to the employees, come as a surprise not only to the public but also to them. They also pointed out that the release of the new news programme show on the second television programme has been postponed again, even though it was supposed to be released immediately after the end of the Beijing Olympics. “We expect that only RTV will decide on possible changes to the public RTV programme and not that this is done on the initiative or for the benefit of political parties and influential people,” said TV presenter Saša Kranjc on behalf of the activists.
At the press conference, which was broadcast by the Slovenian Press Agency, the host of the show Odmevi, Igor E. Bergant, the host of the show Tarča, Erika Žnidaršič, and the host of the show Studio City, Marcel Štefančič, also each said a few words. “Political attacks already started on the day before the actual broadcast, even before we published anything. On the day of the show, we heard warnings inside the RTV building about the guests, about the concept, about the hosting of the show. And then the politics of guest conditioning happened again. And then the Prime Minister himself got involved, who described us as pro-Russian extremists, while on the day before, we were called British fascists and a disgrace,” said Žnidaršič, the host of the TV show Tarča, who has problems with objectivity. It is true that the media is the fourth branch of government and that their task is to reveal irregularities in the functioning of the other three branches of government – but Žnidaršič took this way too literally, as in the show Tarča (as well as elsewhere), she makes sure to criticise every move of the current government, even if it is actually good. “Supporting the government is not journalism; it is propaganda,” she said, apparently trying to say that every action of the current government is a priori bad – while in previous governments, such an attitude was, of course, not common.
They declared the BBC an amateur organisation
Štefančič, the host of the radical left-wing TV show Studio City, compared the events at the national media outlet with the behaviour of Viktor Orban and Vladimir Putin and their attitude towards media freedom. “The autocracy that attacked the national media outlet must also be strongly condemned,” he said, adding: “It takes only a step to get from where we are right now to the BBC’s drunkenness and disrespect for the audience, and from there to rudeness to colleagues and wasting time broadcasting pre-election rallies. And yes, once you get on the wrong track, you never know where you’re going to stop.” We can conclude from his words that he was upset because the public RTV broadcast a rally in support of Ukraine – for which he said it was a pre-election rally. His statement is completely inappropriate for several obvious reasons, but at the same time, the question arises as to why the weekly counting of Friday’s protest cyclists did not seem to be a “waste of time” to RTV.
In view of all of the above, it is quite unusual, but also very telling, that the political attack which happened in the case of the episode of the show Utrip that was prepared by historian Dr Jože Možina did not seem at all problematic to most employees of RTV. They also did not find the performance of Svetlana Makarovič problematic, who was invited to the stage by the unofficial leader of the protesters, Jaša Jenull, and Makarovič then threatened Možina with her poem. At that time, none of those who were loudly commenting on the situation at RTV on Tuesday defended their colleague, the attacked journalist Možina. However, the stir that was caused by the episode of the show Utrip, which was prepared by Možina, has not subsided to this day. Špela Furlan, a long-time aide to former President Milan Kučan, sent a complaint related to this episode to ombudswoman for the listeners’ and viewers’ rights, Marica Uršič Zupan, and the ombudswoman agreed with Kučan’s adviser and “found” violations of programme standards. “The ombudsman is, therefore, despite the fact that this is a commentary show, descending to the slippery terrain of genre suitability, where she might slip up quickly. The complainants were bothered by the content of the show, and even if the problem was in combination with the form, the only true part of it which could be the subject of serious consideration is the content. Did they find any lies in the commentary? Of course not. Instead, the ombudswoman dealt with genre suitability, which is completely irrelevant in this case,” Možina wrote in its letter to the RTV Slovenia Programme Council, in which he rejected all of the accusations made against him.
“Employees of RTV Slovenia are pointing out the impoverishment of the programme, the escalation of pressures and politicisation. If these same employees were willing to hear the other side, a different opinion, they might start to ponder and then realise what fools they are being,” commented psychoanalysis expert Roman Vodeb, while Minister of the Interior, Aleš Hojs, also expressed his disagreement with Žnidaršič: “Please do not try to mislead the public with claims about guest conditioning. It is my free choice whether I want to come to the show or not – if I am invited, of course. And I can base that choice on who the other participants are You decide who will be the guest. You decide whether I will be the one to come, or someone else, for example, Črnčec.”
Journalist Vinko Vasle also commented on the press conference, writing on Twitter: “The leftists of RTV staged a drama in front of the building of the media outlet, entitled ‘We are the only ones, and there will be no others’ in three acts: 1. We are not giving back RTV, 2. Autonomy is what we say it is, 3. The coin only has one side. Screenplay and directing by Igor Bergant.”
Another person who commented on what happened was Prime Minister Janez Janša, who wrote: “Translation into reality: when the programme council of RTV Slovenia was being led by the SD party officials – Kocjančič, Pikalo and Baskovič, everything as free. If RTV Slovenia is not managed directly by SD, then they call it a dictatorship. Putin, too, wants to save Ukraine from Nazism, which elected a Jew for its president.”