M E D I A W A T C H    S E R I E S
Marko Zajc, Janez Polajnar
Ours and Yours
Tanja Petrović
A long way home
Brankica Petković, Marko Prpič, Neva Nahtigal, Sandra Bašić-Hrvatin
Media Preferences and Perceptions
Mitja Velikonja
Sandra Bašić-Hrvatin, Brankica Petković
You call this a media market?
Brankica Petković, Sandra Bašić-Hrvatin, Lenart J. Kučić, Iztok Jurančič, Marko Prpič, Roman Kuhar
Media for Citizens
Mitja Velikonja
Jernej Rovšek
The Private and the Public in the Media
Sandra Bašić-Hrvatin, Lenart J. Kučić, Brankica Petković
Media Ownership
Roman Kuhar
Media Representations of Homosexuality
Dragan Petrovec
Violence in the Media
Majda Hrženjak, Ksenija H. Vidmar, Zalka Drglin, Valerija Vendramin, Jerca Legan
Making Her Up
Gojko Bervar
Freedom of Non-accountability
Sandra Bašić-Hrvatin
Serving the State or the Public
Sandra Bašić-Hrvatin, Marko Milosavljević
Media Policy in Slovenia in the 1990s
Breda Luthar, Tonči Kuzmanić, Srečo Dragoš, Mitja Velikonja, Sandra Bašić-Hrvatin, Lenart J. Kučić
The Victory of the Imaginary Left
Matevž Krivic, Simona Zatler
Freedom of the Press and Personal Rights
Karmen Erjavec, Sandra Bašić-Hrvatin, Barbara Kelbl
We About the Roma
Tonči Kuzmanić
Hate-speech in Slovenia
Darren Purcell
The Slovenian State on the Internet
Breda Luthar
The Politics of Tele-tabloids
Marjeta Doupona Horvat, Jef Verschueren, Igor Ž. Žagar
The Pragmatics of Legitimation

Sandra Bašić-Hrvatin
Serving the State or the Public
The Outlook for Public Service Broadcasting in Slovenia

eBook (498kB, pdf)

In this study Sandra Bašić Hrvatin analyzes the public institution RTV Slovenia and the main problems related to it - funding, public control and fulfillment of the public role - and draws comparisons with other public broadcasters across the world. She concludes that RTV Slovenia is in crisis and suggests that it cannot be successfully resolved unless certain questions relating to the role and significance of contemporary public service broadcasters are answered first. “To support PSB today means to support the option of an open communication space in which all citizens, no matter what their material wealth or communication competence, will have access to communication channels and a chance to influence programming and content.”

Among the conditions that are indispensable for successful operation of a public service broadcaster are its political and economic autonomy, a supply of funds which enable programming in the public interest, and public control. The study therefore focuses on three basic questions:

  • How have public service broadcasters ensured the representation of the public in their supervising bodies?
  • How are public service broadcasters funded?
  • What kind of program do public service broadcasters offer?

The operation of RTV Slovenia is analyzed within the wider context of the transformation of state media into public service media in ex-socialist countries. In addition, she draws parallels with public service media in some western countries where public service broadcasting has a long tradition.
The author first gives a concise definition of a public service broadcaster. “It enables the public to access channels of mass communication, serves the public interest, and opens and sustains the space for public debate.” Since the public funds a public service broadcaster, serving the public interest is the key task of a modern public service broadcaster, which is accountable to the public rather than to the state or advertisers.

The author further concludes that the crisis experienced by public service broadcasters in ex-socialist countries has both systemic and structural reasons and that it would be wrong to think that this crisis has been produced by inadequate media legislation. “Not even an “ideal” law would guarantee an “ideal” PSB system, because a successful PSB system is not a product of legislation alone. A law can prescribe requirements for the functioning of public service broadcasters, but not also details of their practical operation.”

The author then proceeds to identify the main problems that accompanied the transformation of the state-owned radio and television system in Slovenia into a public service system, and compares them to those experienced by other countries. The analysis of the structure and operation of the RTV Council reveals that the RTV Council often took decisions in its own interests neglecting the public interest which it should have represented.

The author also analyzes the funding of RTV Slovenia and concludes that poor management and financial loss that accumulated over time resulted in serious financial crisis, with another contributing factor being non-transparent operation. The principles of audio-visual policies adopted by the EU stipulate that it must be clear from which source a particular service provided by a public service broadcaster is financed and that the public funds must be the main source of funding, and advertising revenues a supplementary source. In addition, separate accounting should be applied for public funds and advertising revenues. Accordingly, one of the key tasks of the lawmakers when drafting a new law on RTV Slovenia is to secure its transparent funding.

During the transformation process RTV Slovenia failed to establish modern management principles necessary for efficient handling of such a large institution. The situation was further aggravated by identity crisis (audience erosion and commercialization of programming) that accompanied the financial crisis, and by the crisis in the perception of the fundamental role of public service broadcasting.

In the chapter dealing with the audience and viewing shares, the author argues that, in addition to the viewing/listening share, a significant factor to be taken into account when assessing the justifiability of public funding is a public broadcaster’s influence on the audience or rather, public life.

As regards possible solutions to this multifold crisis, the author suggests that certain elements could be resolved by the state, others by RTV Slovenia, and still others by the public. The drafting of a new law on RTV Slovenia should be preceded by wide public debate. The government should publicly assert its support for the public service broadcasting and then provide all mechanisms needed for uninterrupted operation of the public service broadcaster. In addition, the new law should provide the transparency of operation and funding of the public service. Political interests should be eliminated from the supervisory body of the public broadcaster (the RTV Council). Sufficient funds should be available to finance the content that is in the public interest. The public should be enabled to influence programming. A body that would take care that public complaints are taken into account should be established. The public institution should provide the best possible work conditions for its journalists and encourage their continuing education. And last but not least, RTV Slovenia must have an efficient and responsible management which should ensure rational spending and transparent operation.