On Monday 29 November, the programme council of Radiotelevizija Slovenija (RTV SLO) approved the public broadcaster’s 2022 Programme Production Plan (PPN). However, the plan has been met with widespread criticism. We explain the situation, the wider context, and the public responses. 
What has happened? 

RTV SLO’s programme council met today to deliberate on the 2022 PPN, where proposed changes to news programming have drawn significant concern in Slovenia and abroad. The PPN was subsequently approved, with 17 councillors voting in favour of the proposal while five voted against and four abstained. RTV SLO reports that there will be a three-month delay for the planned changes to TV Slovenija’s news programme. 

Read more: Program councilors approved the PPN with a delay for the TV Slovenia news program (Slovenian)  

During a press conference held on 30 November, RTV SLO revealed some of the most important programme changes within the broadcaster. Notably, TV Slovenija’s news programme was deemed to be “in a serious crisis” with declining audiences. In response, RTV SLO will model its news programmes after public broadcasters in Austria, Germany, and the UK. “The length of the show Prvi Dnevnik at 13.00 will be adjusted to 13 minutes, so is the show Zeit im Bild at 13.00 on ORF. The length of Dnevnik will be adjusted to 20 minutes, the same length of the same shows Zeit im Bild at 7.30 pm and ZDF Heute at 7 pm. The length of Echoes will be adjusted to 25 minutes, the same length has the show Zeit im Bild at 22.00,” RTV SLO’s management said. The daily general interest news programme Slovenska kronika will now also air on Saturdays and Sundays while a new evening news block will be introduced on TV Slovenija 2. 

Read the full announced changes: PPN22: Program innovations and changes in 2022 (Slovenian) 

The International Press Institute (IPI) had reported that under the newly passed Program-Production Plan (PPN), Globus – RTV SLO’s flagship foreign policy programme – and several other talk shows would be cancelled while some other daily news programmes, such as Slovenska kronika and Dnevnik, would be shortened. Additionally, there was concern that some daily news programmes would be moved to RTV SLO’s lower viewership second channel. Election programming would likewise be transferred to the secondary channel, where it would be broadcast in the absence of major sporting events,” IPI further reported. 

According to RTV SLO management, plummeting ratings of news shows and a worsening financial situation were among the reasons behind the programming changes.  

In a letter criticising the changes, more than 90 percent of RTV SLO’s staff said the proposed PPN would critically limit their ability to produce quality public service reporting. However, only minor amendments were made to the proposed PPN. The editor-in-chief of TV Slovenija news programme and three TV Slovenija editors have quit in protest.  

Why is this so problematic? 

Public media in Slovenia has been under attack for some time now. In June, a report from Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) noted the “renewed pressure from the threat of budgetary cuts and harassment of its staff” RTV SLO has come under. These pressures have come from as high up as the country’s Prime Minister Janez Janša, who has long criticised RTV SLO and issued threats to its public funding.  

Staff have also received threats to their safety. In a recent attack where a journalist received a letter with an unknown powdered substance, RTV SLO wrote, “The management of RTV Slovenija, journalists and editors of the TV Slovenia Information Programme and all employees of RTV SLO strongly condemn such acts or intimidation. Free and independent journalism is one of the fundamental postulates of democracy. We would like to point out that in Slovenia it is necessary to strengthen the culture of public dialogue and to preserve the independence and autonomy of journalistic work at all costs.” 

The proposed PPN came mere months after Natalija Gorščak, the former Director of TV Programmes, was fired from her post on the grounds of alleged violation of the broadcaster’s bylaws. She was also accused of allowing ratings to plummet. However, Gorščak maintains that her firing was based on her refusal to comply with personnel and programme changes requested by RTV SLO’s Director General Andrej Grah Whatmough. She maintained that if requested changes were implemented, they would go against the public broadcaster’s statute. Valentin Areh has since replaced Gorščak as acting director for a maximum period of six months.  

Meanwhile, on Wednesday Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) debated the state of EU values in Slovenia, with a specific focus on whether media freedom and the rule of law were under threat. The European Parliament reports that MEPs noted media defunding, legal actions such as SLAPPs, and online harassment as examples of efforts by Slovenian government officials to silence perceived critics. The systematic undermining of critical media by the Slovenian government is happening even as the country holds the role of presidency of the EU Council until 31 December 2021. 

What has been the response? 

The backlash to the proposed PPN had been widespread: denouncements came from TV Slovenija’s Information Programme staff who called the plan “reckless and uncoordinated”. Civil society organisations, international media advocacy organisations, local journalists’ associations, and even other regional press councils, such as the Croatian Journalists’ Union, had also criticised the plan. 

“These changes will marginalise public interest reporting and undermine the broadcaster’s core mission: to provide the country’s citizens with professional and informative reporting on both domestic and foreign current affairs,” an MFRR statement said. 

Header: Building of RTV Slovenia (Television’s part). Credit: Pv21/Creative Commons