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
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
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.