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Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Did you know that there is also a trade union at RTVS that does not support (!) changes to the RTVS Act?

By: L. K. F.

A trade union also operates within RTV Slovenia, which does not support the proposed amendment to the law on RTV Slovenia. This is the Broadcasting Workers’ Union of Slovenia, which includes employees in technical departments. And it is an equally important component of the creators of RTV Slovenia programmes. Its president Tom Zalaznik responded with an important message to the management, workers, and trade unions of RTVS last Monday, but he did not speak publicly until yesterday, when he appeared at the culture committee in the National Assembly and before that answered our journalist’s questions from a week ago. Moreover, no one reported on the position of his union. Which is what all the media are in a hurry to do when it comes to press union messages.

A week ago, when the RTVS trade unions sent letters to all employees, which included a draft amendment to the RTVS law and an initiative to the mandate-election commission in the National Assembly to dismiss 18 members of the RTVS programme board, we in our editorial office unofficially managed to obtain a response from the Workers’ Union broadcasting of Slovenia to this. In it, they wrote that they do not support either proposal.

“The trade union will provide the justifications for these two decisions in the context of the discussion on the initiative and proposal for amendments to the law, which we rightly expect will be made possible in accordance with current regulations and common practice,” they added to their message. It is signed by the president of this union, Tom Zalaznik, who answered our two journalistic questions yesterday, a few hours before the meeting of the culture committee in the National Assembly, at which he conveyed the position of his union, i.e., the representative of the technical staff at RTVS.

Our questions were: “Why do you not support the consideration and adoption of amendments to the Act on RTVS following the urgent procedure and oppose them because they do not meet certain conditions from Article 143 of the Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly?” and “Why do you oppose or do not support the initiative of the mentioned three trade unions and associations (Journalists’ Union of Slovenia, Coordination of Journalists’ Unions of RTVS, and Association of Journalists of Slovenia) addressed to the mandate-election committee of the National Assembly?”

The government and the coalition completely missed the ‘point’

Tom Zalaznik answered us that in order to understand the differences in views of the current situation in public radio and television, it is difficult to give a brief description, in a sentence or two, although the art of explanation lies precisely in the effective capture of the essence. And continued: “Perhaps it is worth trying this in the introduction, even if it seems like a joke to some, it actually sounds quite real. To the first question, the summarised answer would read: ‘Because the government and the coalition completely missed the ‘point’, and it should be pointed out loudly.’ The second answer would sound similar: ‘Because the initiators-activists missed the ‘point’, and the initiative cannot be supported.’”

“By the way, it is not about three trade unions, but one, professional-journalist (SNS), within which a coordination (KNS) and the association (DNS) with the same headquarters address are organised – as has been seen several times so far with the aim of creating the impression of larger dimensions, as they really are,” Zalaznik warned.

And he continued: “Regarding the government’s proposal for the adoption of the law under the emergency procedure, it is not worth wasting a lot of time. At least in the procedural part. Anyone who googles ‘emergency procedure’ on a tablet or phone learns from the hits on the first page during morning coffee how it works, what it is for, and why a broader discussion is excluded. The material basis (Article 143 of the PoDZ-1) is clear, with clumsy weaving about the effects of ‘preventing difficult-to-repair consequences for the functioning of the state’, and the intention of the proponents – to subordinate the administrative and supervisory bodies and the editorial and management structure of the institute to politics.”

This was followed by Zalaznik’s significant opinion: “To be clear, when I mention politics in this context, it is not about politics ‘en général’, about regulating the situation in a certain social area or about social relations, as perceived by the ancient Greek philosophers, but about a precisely defined socially active group of people (parties, government, parliament, etc.) with their beliefs and views, which they otherwise legitimately represent in social life.”

The proposal for amendments to the Act on RTVS is not acceptable – we are taking a step back with it

The content of the proposal to amend the law is also not acceptable, emphasised the president of the Slovenian Broadcasting Workers’ Union, who has been employed at RTVS for several decades: “With it, we are taking a step back, to the foundations of the 1990s, when the intention of the legislator was perhaps even noble, but with the implementation of the law at the time, we as a society and the country “failed” the exam. However, a broader social discussion about this is necessary, at least in the manner and form that we undertook during the ministership of Minister Širca. Of course, honestly, and sincerely, without subsequent political bribes in the final form, which caused the law to fail at the time.”

Encroachment on an individual mandate is not legal and also constitutes an encroachment on the autonomy of public radio and television

What does the initiative of the journalists’ union mean to the National Assembly? To this question, Zalaznik answers: “If their representative is to be believed, that the union prepared the content of the amendments to the law or participated in its preparation, then the initiative to dismiss the members of the management body is probably just a clever media-supported manoeuvre to convince the public of the necessity of political intervention in public radio and television. It is hard to believe that the mandate-election commission would actually be expected to remove almost the entire body.”

“Court decisions from the previous mandate speak for themselves in this regard – encroachment on an individual mandate is not legal and also constitutes encroachment on the autonomy of public radio and television,” the interlocutor clearly points out. And he also thinks that if anyone questions the objectivity of the journalists’ reporting of the news programme, he is immediately criticised for encroaching on journalistic, editorial, and institutional autonomy – even before the discussion takes place: “Ergo, the perception of fellow journalists, what constitutes interference in their autonomy and the autonomy of public broadcasting, is very sensitive, and the detection of interventions or attempted interventions is exceptional. Is it possible that they were not careful and overlooked that the appeal to the mandate-election commission of the National Assembly calls for an intervention in the autonomy of RTV? It will be difficult to convince anyone that this is not the case. The conclusions are self-explanatory – there are different levels of perceived interference with autonomy, the interventions themselves are of different intensity and the tolerance threshold for them is variable and subjective. When we talk about the mentioned autonomies, we are not all speaking the same language, that is quite obvious.”

Zalaznik concluded: “Regardless of the excuses, what some have done before, both the initiative and the bill in the emergency procedure are about encroaching on the autonomy of public radio and television – what others are planning to do now!”

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