During the 1990s the Slovene media were significantly
affected by political changes. The events that most influenced the
media world of the nineties were the introduction of the new media
law (arguments and discussions about the media law in Slovenia have
again become topical ten years later), the privatization of the
media, liberalization of the print media market and superficial
regulation of the broadcasting market, media monopolization and
commercialization. These events are the subject of the analysis
in this essay.
The Slovene media market is small, so relatively modest financial
resources suffice to establish control over it (especially
in comparison with the sums involved in the takeovers and acquisitions
in other European countries). Before the process of media privatization
got underway, the Slovene state expected the invasion of large
European and American corporations, similar to what has happened
in some other countries in transition. One decade later it
is possible to conclude instead that a small number of local
owners with stakes in numerous affiliated companies control
the major part of the Slovene media market. The concentration
is still in progress, while cross-ownership ties remain unchanged.
It is obvious that the state, or rather its supervising institutions,
do not have any mechanism (and no interest) to introduce order
into this field.
Moreover, the legislative body has overlooked another important
fact, namely that privatization has nothing to do with the ethics
of the media operation, and even less so with the accountability
of the media to the public. The democratic and plural media,
which were expected to be secured through the Mass Media Act
of 1994, proved to have a high price. In democratic societies
the prevention of media monopolization is the responsibility
of the state. However, in a system which is subject to voluntary
steps by the state, market and new owners, that is to say, in
which there are no legal and financial conditions for plurality
of the media, it is not possible to talk of media freedom.
The story of introducing firstly the Mass Media Act that came
into force in 1994 and then the Mass Media Act of 2001 brings
to light the state’s attitude towards the media deregulation.
In the beginning of the 1990s, the basic dilemmas revolved around
the questions of whether a law on the media was needed at all,
and what kind of law it should be. Once in force, the law proved
to be deficient. Insufficient supervision of the implementation
of the deficient law thus resulted in a non-transparent concentration
of media ownership and numerous violations of the law for which,
unfortunately, there were no sanctions.
The first changes to the Mass Media Act of 1994 were proposed
in 1997 followed by four years of debate before the Mass Media
Act, which replaced the former law, came into force. It treats
certain areas (for example, the interests of the state) in minute
detail, while others (for example the interests of citizens)
are dealt with only loosely. On the other hand, the fundamental
question posed over the past decade remains unchanged and, more
importantly, unanswered. This question is: What kind of the media
policy does the state actually support?