This book presents the studies that were conducted as part of the project entitled Media for Citizens, which is concerned with media pluralism and citizens' communication rights. The project is an effort to enhance the ability of citizens, and minority groups in particular, to actively participate in media society.
The project is run by the Peace Institute with the support of the European Commission. The studies published in the book are based on the monitoring of media ownership and its impacts on media autonomy in Slovenia; monitoring and comparison of topics and speakers featured by two prime time television news programs, one broadcast by public television and the other by the major commercial television station in Slovenia; and monitoring of presentation of minorities, particularly the Roma, Muslims and gays and lesbians, in selected local and national media in Slovenia.
The book also presents recommendations for changes of media policy and media practices. The studies included in the book and other activities within the project Media for Citizens are available also at our web page Media For Citizens available at http://mediawatch.mirovni-institut.si/media4citizens/.
The authors of the report on media ownership in Slovenia, Sandra Bašič Hrvatin, Lenart J. Kučič and Iztok Jurančič, focused on the implications of the current structure of media ownership and state's interests in the media for the autonomy of Slovenian media. The stakes held by the state are the result of a specific form of media privatization during the early 1990s. The authors point out that the data on media owners found in companies' registers and the lists of official media owners do not reveal the real state of affairs. In order to obtain the wider picture, it is necessary to expose the links among people sitting on boards of companies that are official media owners and of those which have no media stakes but are in the position to pull levers by which they can influence media operation. To illustrate this, the authors present the ownership structure of the main national daily, Delo, and explain how it affects the autonomy of journalists and the newspaper. The exposure of the interplay of politics, media ownership and media content further reveals another form of political pressure, one exerted through advertising strategies employed by the largest advertisers, say, telecommunication and insurance companies whose significant shareholder is the state. The authors also examined some controversial legislative changes, particularly those introduced during the last two years, including state subsidies to the media. A comparison of the financial reports of broadcasters whose programs enjoy the status of special significance (and which were entitled to subsidies between 2002 and 2005) and financial reports of other broadcasters showed that subsidized broadcasters had lower return on capital, but their labor costs were also lower than the average in this sector. Another peculiarity that emerged was that seventeen radio channels had no employees, and fifteen had only one employee.
Marko Prpič compared two prime time television news program, Dnevnik, broadcast by public television TV Slovenija, and 24 ur news by the major commercial television station, POP TV. He used the quantitative analysis to study the topics covered by the two programs, the extent of reporting on these topics and the actors/speakers appearing in these programs. The period of monitoring was March 2006. The two news programs are similar in structure, with only minor differences in certain segments and the length of airtime devoted to commercials. The analysis by thematic blocks showed relatively little difference between the two programs. The commercial television gave more airtime to the set of topics covering internal politics, wars, conflicts, crime and security, and the set dealing with culture, entertainment, sports and leisure time. Coverage of crime stood out in terms of the length of airtime given to it on the commercial channel, while public television placed more emphasis on international conflicts. Both news programs mainly reported on the events related to the capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana, while the absence of regional and local coverage was most conspicuous within the set of topics dealing with economic issues. Topics related to minorities and weak social groups were most noticeable by their absence. The analysis of interlocutors who appeared in news programs revealed that politicians prevailed; women accounted for less than one-fifth of the interlocutor group, and when they did appear in news programs, they usually gave statements about topics related to public services, welfare state, humanitarian work, society and religion, or they were featured as anonymous interlocutors. Both news programs demonstrated an Euro-centric attitude in covering international affairs, so, for example, there was not any report dealing with South America or Australia during March 2006. In the author's opinion, the most worrying is the fact that all negative trends typical of commercial televisions – domination of politics, the absence, or at best the modest representation of minorities and civil society, the prevailing Ljubljana-centric approach to domestic affairs and Euro-centric approach to international affairs, the inordinately low number of women appearing in news – is also characteristic of the public service broadcaster. One interesting piece of information is that the television audience ratings showed that the combined number of viewers of the two news programs analyzed in this study was lower than that of the prime time news program (Dnevnik) during the early 1990s.
Roman Kuhar analyzed media representation of minorities, the Roma, Muslims and gays and lesbians. The period analyzed was February 2006. Kuhar employed quantitative method and discourse analysis to establish who was given opportunity to speak, what they said, whose views and interpretations were reproduced, what the underlying assumptions were and which discriminatory practices were present. The majority (78%) of the texts analyzed (249 altogether) related to Islam and Muslims, because of the coinciding protests provoked by the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. The authors were mainly male journalists, and men also prevailed in the interlocutor group. Of the 390 interlocutors, most of whom were politicians, 89% were men. Delo and Večer dailies carried the greatest number of texts about Muslims (there were 194 of these altogether). The author describes the circumstances surrounding the cartoons episode and ensuing protests as a form of moral panic among the media underpinned by stereotypical representations that created the impression that violence is characteristic of the entire Muslim community. Another problematic technique used was generalization, whereby the »voice of the Muslim world« was presented as unified and frequently identified with the most radical attitudes. Many texts lacked the context, fostering the impression that all Muslims were non-civilized radicals. The group of interlocutors in media texts about Muslims included 290 men and 26 women; 13% of interlocutors were the representatives of the Roman-Catholic community. The topics related to Muslims and Islam were most frequently discussed by European and American politicians, and the ratio of “western” to Muslim interlocutors was two to eight.
Nearly 20% of all media texts about the Roma were featured in the crime section of daily newspapers and dealt with criminal offences committed by the Roma. Another issue in relation to which the Roma were most frequently mentioned was the debate about the umbrella law on the Roma. There were 45 male and 15 female interlocutors altogether, most of them non-Roma. In most media texts analyzed here, the Roma appeared as passive objects who present a problem, are uneducated and lazy. The most frequently used expression was »problematic Roma issues,« with education and employment being in focus. Generally, the media image of the Roma connotes negative, different, and uncivilized attributes. Even within one rare positive context, in a report covering a translation of poems into Romany, the translator was described as a freak character and an exception among the uncultured Roma.
The 14 texts covering gay and lesbian issues confirmed the thesis that homosexuality was a marginal topic. Media still present homosexuality as an excess or an exotic phenomenon. Recently, gay and lesbian issues have been most frequently addressed in relation to a political debate about the law on the registration of homosexual partnerships. Generally, the media no longer treat homosexuality as a medical phenomenon as they did in the past, but discourses reproducing stereotyped images still find way into the media. One typical approach is to enshroud homosexuality in the veil of secrecy. In contrast to other two minority groups, gays and lesbians themselves are most frequent interlocutors appearing in these texts, especially GLBT activists.