By: Sara Kovač /Nova24tv
At the request of the SDS and SMC parties, an emergency session of the Committee on Culture began on Monday on the topic of media ownership in Slovenia and the concentration of media space. As the most problematic, they point out the concentration of media in connection with Martin Odlazek, who, according to the SDS, together with his family members, controls more than 60 different media. Although the company can only create quality media by ensuring pluralism in the media space, members of the committee from LMŠ, SD, SAB and Levica obstructed the meeting by saying that it was a big farce in the whole matter. SDS MP Alenka Jeraj critically warned that the opposition obviously only wants one-sided media.
The committee called on the Ministry of Culture to draft appropriate legislation to prevent media concentration. According to the STA, he also suggested that he ensure a more proportionate distribution of state funds for all areas of media creation and development, and that he conduct an analysis of the state of the Slovenian media space.
As the opposition, which obstructed the session, is thus disturbed by the operation of our media – Nova24TV – SDS MP Alenka Jeraj initially pointed out that the media was established in accordance with the applicable legislation. The media concentration discussed at the session, however, is one that is inconsistent with the Media Act. To this end, an emergency meeting of the Committee on Culture was convened. “Quality media and its creators are the bearers of culture, and are irreplaceable as practitioners of the public’s right to information, in developing national and cultural identity and the Slovene language, consolidating fundamental social values such as human rights, democracy and tolerance, for the development of education and science, for promoting a culture of public dialogue, and consolidating the social and legal state,” she emphasised.
The left wants one-sided media
According to Jeraj, society can only create quality media by ensuring plurality in the media space. “Obviously, they have the most problems with this in the opposition, which only wants one-sided media,” she said, adding that it is important to realise that media freedom is necessary for media balance, i.e. their autonomy without the influence of power centres. She pointed out that in Slovenia, due to the protection of pluralism and diversity of media and media content, media ownership is limited by the Media Act. “In addition, the report on media pluralism in the EU brings high-risk findings in the field of media concentration. As many as 75 percent were measured, and 73 percent in terms of commercial and ownership influence on the media.” According to the MP, this indicates the need for better supervision of the relevant bodies in order to prevent disputed takeovers or mergers.
The Slovenian media space is extremely one-sided
Several surveys of the media space have been conducted in Slovenia. A 2002 survey by the Institute for the Revival of Civil Society found that the Slovenian media space was markedly one-sided in its political and ideological preferences. Meaning that it supports the transitional left. According to Jeraj, these are political parties and groups that are the successors of former socio-political organisations.
In 2006, the Institute for Strategic and Developmental Analysis, in its research on the state of media pluralism, found that despite the solid structural development of the media space, there is a significant deficit in terms of lack of opinion and opinion differentiation and diversity. In 2007 and 2008, the Faculty of Applied Studies in Nova Gorica found in research on media freedom and media space autonomy that there are pressures on the media in a way that in certain cases can significantly affect their operation. The most current research was conducted in 2020 by the Faculty of Media entitled Media Landscape Research, where the key findings are that most of the media in question have a recognisable political and ideological note and that the left views prevail over the right.
With manoeuvres comes concentrations that should not be
“Media ownership and concentration undoubtedly affect media pluralism and media freedom,” Jeraj said critically, adding that Slovenian legislation does not allow for media concentration. “In recent years, various manoeuvres have led to concentrations that should not be. In Slovenia, the owners are Slovenian citizens or foreigners, who often have nothing to do with the media and their main activity is related to other areas (e.g. construction). The owners include already convicted entrepreneurs, various funds from abroad, and many have hidden ownership.”
Odlazek’s media octopus is an example of combining the press, radio and television, which is prohibited by the Media Act
The MEP mentioned that a delegation of the European Parliament was coming to Slovenia this week, which was also interested in the state of the media. “It is right for them to know that an individual in our country owns 60 media, radios and televisions, even though all this is prohibited by the media law,” she stressed. The greatest concentration of media occurs in connection with Martin Odlazek, who was convicted of exploiting the disabled. “We estimate that the competent authorities do not act in accordance with the law or do not problematize the matter, because otherwise such a concentration would not have occurred in all these years,” Jeraj pointed out critically.
Odlazek, together with his family members, i.e. connected persons, controls more than 60 different media. Salomon Ltd is the largest company in the Media24 group. The Odlazek family manages it through Eurofit, a family business owned by Martin Odlazek and his children. A significant part of the ownership of Salomon Ltd (45.39 percent) was transferred to a Company for managing bank debts years ago due to the collapse of the Krater printing house. This means the direct ownership of all citizens. “For many years now, Martin Odlazek has been building his media empire by combining the activities of the press, radio and television. Since 2018, he has been interested in buying Večer newspaper. At that time, the Ministry of Culture issued a prior consent for the merger in a joint publishing company, but the announced merger should also be decided by the Competition Protection Agency,” the MP pointed out critically.
As it is known, Odlazek also bought Primorske novice, he is the owner of Dolenjski list, Reporter magazine, many other magazines and radio stations, which is also evident from the media octopus published in the photo below. MP Jeraj pointed out that violations of the law are avoided by not publishing the media by a single company. “Namely, this would be obviously illegal and could be stopped in time. Thus, there are more than ten different issuers intertwined in a complex ownership network controlled by one key owner. This is Martin Odlazek and his family members.”
The Public Agency of the Republic of Slovenia for the Competition Protection does not take action
State Secretary at the Ministry of Culture Dr Ignacija Fridl Jarc spoke about harmful media concentrations. “We would like to draw attention to the increasingly worrying developments in the media market, which pose a serious risk of harmful media concentrations.” She said that they had also written to the Public Agency of the Republic of Slovenia for the Competition Protection several times in this regard. “Unfortunately, we find that the situation has not improved since then. Thus, we are still witnessing media takeovers, mergers and other forms of media concentrations that have not been notified to the competent authorities. Thus, we are witnessing illegal ownership connections,” she warned critically.
The director of the media directorate, Uršula Menih Dokl, emphasised that they are aware of the problems in the field of media ownership concentrations and are actively looking for solutions to them. “That is why we proposed changes to the media law last year,” she added. Miro Petek, an adviser to the Minister of Culture, spoke about ownership concentrations in the field of press distribution, which can be seen in more detail at the link below.
The concentration of the media leads to the dominance of leftist ideas
Borut Rončević from the Faculty of Applied Social Studies – FUDŠ spoke about the study of unbalanced media space and stressed that we are dealing with a very pronounced ideological concentration and this concentration is such that it leads to the dominance of leftist ideas in the media space. “This applies to both the private media and the national RTV Slovenia, which is completely inappropriate from the point of view of the mission of this house. The concentration we are talking about now is only part of this struggle to maintain and consolidate the conceptual concentration,” he pointed out.
Odlazek’s empire was underestimated
The owner of the Požareport web portal, Bojan Požar, was critical of the obstruction by the opposition. “Every normal politician should know that the media is such a big deal in every country and that such a concentration of media, specifically Odlazek’s, can change overnight. When all media structure and media ownership are concentrated in one person, it is quite possible that at some point there will be a change in his policy and the media will thus switch to another political option. I believe that the opposition should also be aware of the seriousness of the problem of media concentration. Content matters. You need to know that the editorial policy of the media is determined solely by the owner,” he was clear. Požar believes that media ownership should be clear, as it is only the owner who sets the editorial policy. He is convinced that so far they have “underestimated Odlazek’s empire”, and pointed out the state funding of these media, and he also sees the monopoly of the commercial television POP TV as a big problem, especially in the field of advertising.