Why have we chosen to explore The Role of the State in the Media Sector in Slovenia
Our decision to explore the State’s role in the media sector in Slovenia was motivated by enduring conflicts between the media and the political sphere, with the change of government in 2004 only aggravating the situation.
Furthermore, the studies conducted as part of the Media Watch project, which is now in its tenth year, and particularly the analysis of the situation of the public service broadcaster Radiotelevizija Slovenija and media ownership, called for a more thorough examination that would take us to the sources of the powerful influence of the State and political elites on the Slovenian media.
We sought to determine whether the situation of the Slovenian media and journalists and the relationship between the State (the political sphere) and the media could be explained with the help of concepts such as political parallelism, political clientelism and political instrumentalization, as utilized by Daniel C. Hallin and Stylianos Papathanassopoulos in an article entitled »Political clientelism and the media: Southern Europe and Latin America in comparative perspective«, and by Daniel C. Hallin and Paolo Mancini in the book »Comparing Media Systems – Three Models of Media and Politics.«
The presence of political parallelism in the media can be established by exploring the extent and the nature of links between the media and political groups, and the extent to which the media system reflects the dominant political divisions within society. These find expression in media content, priority of political preferences when recruiting media employees, and in organizational links between the media and political groups.
According to Hallin and Mancini, political parallelism is also manifested as the domination of advocacy journalism characterized by journalists acting more as commentators than reporters.
Comparison of the media systems in Europe and North America showed that a high level of political parallelism in the media is especially characteristic of Mediterranean states, so Hallin and Mancini called this set of circumstances the Mediterranean or polarized pluralist model. The other typical features of this model include the late introduction of press and commercial media freedom, a strong role for the State as owner, regulator, founder and co-funder of the media, and the politicization of the media with their instrumentalization in political conflicts also being frequent in the past.
Political clientelism, as Hallin and Mancini explain, produces a special status for regulatory and supervisory institutions within the media field. These are politicized, exposed to various pressures and not independent. For example, when assigning the key posts within these institutions it is political loyalty rather than professional competence that decides the choice; media owners need political links to secure favorable treatment when competing for projects or running their businesses, so they use the media as a trump card when negotiating with other elites or to intervene in politics. Moreover, political intervention is frequently the sole motive for media ownership.
In Hallin and Mancini’s layout, professionalism of journalists stands at one pole with its opposites being political instrumentalization, clientelism and parallelism. However, such professionalism can gain ground only in circumstances that allow journalism to evolve into an autonomous activity independent from other social and political factors. Of key importance is that journalists serve the interest of the public instead of serving particular interests, that their work be guided by professional criteria instead of being driven by goals imposed from outside, and that they avoid identification with particular views. The Mediterranean or polarized pluralist model is, in the words of Hallin and Mancini, characterized by weak professionalism, the absence of a strict division line between political activism and journalism, limited autonomy of journalism and an open conflict when it comes to promotion of journalistic autonomy.
Our aim was to establish whether the Slovenian media system includes some features of the Mediterranean model as presented by Hallin and Mancini. To be able to do this, we examined state (and political) influence on the media sector using several indicators – media ownership, advertising, subsidies i.e. state aid to the media, allocation of broadcasting frequencies, the operation of supervisory bodies controlling the broadcasting field, the operation of the public service broadcaster rtv Slovenija, the situation of audiovisual culture and the links between the Roman Catholic Church and the State within the media field.
This required careful examination of archival documents and events that accompanied the transition to capitalism, particularly those dating from the period after Slovenia gained independence, with emphasis being placed on recent circumstances.
Problems with accessing information and documents, continual changes in the ownership structure and employee replacements throughout 2007 slowed down our research work. These shifts were presumably related to political reshuffle in the year preceding the parliamentary elections. The year 2007 also saw a number of conflicts over press freedom and journalistic autonomy in Slovenia.
As a result, our documenting of events and the study of past and present phenomena turned out to be a challenging and painstaking task, with mining coming to mind as the most appropriate metaphor. At times, a specific document or piece of information opened the door to a series of unsuspected data and explanations important for the understanding of the subject treated here. On still other occasions, we were deluded into taking a wrong direction, or an already firmly established platform collapsed under the weight of an unexpected event.
In this book we have attempted to present information and relationships as they presented themselves to us in the course of our study. Accessing information was frequently a laborious process. For example, the Slovenian Indemnification Fund (sod) failed to respond to our request for information within the legally prescribed deadline. When we persisted, we were informed that sod did not consider itself subject to the law on access to public information; one employee expressed his doubt that we had legal grounds for collecting this type of information and suspected ill will on our part. Eventually, we received only part of the information we requested. The Ministry of Culture cancelled the agreed interviews with the director of the Directorate for media and audiovisual culture. We were only allowed to submit questions in writing through a pr employee as a mediator. For several months the Ministry refused to forward to us the results of a study which, according to the Mass Media Act, should have been used as the basis for the selection of projects to be co-funded. Throughout that period we did not know whether the study had actually been completed, whether it was publicly accessible, and whether projects had been selected using the study as a reference point.
The employees at various archives were more responsive, although we were mainly compelled to dig through unsorted piles of documents. The Post and Electronic Communications Agency (apek) asked one of our researchers to sign a document stating that she assumed responsibility for potential revelation of information that was not of a public nature, although the office of the commissioner responsible for access to public information stated that this burden could not be transferred to a person requesting information. However, given that the documents are not processed or sorted, and that apek probably lacks the human and financial resources needed to put in order the archive documentation, the only option we had was to sign the statement and examine the piles ourselves.
Despite these problems, we would like to express our thanks to Miha Kršelj of apek, Biserka Remškar of the Archives of Slovenia who is in charge of the archive material of the Socialist Alliance of Workers, and to the employees responsible for the archives of the General Secretariat of the Government of Slovenia.
In connection with these difficulties with information access it seems appropriate to mention an illustrative event that occurred in the course of our study. The German publisher waz issued a public statement saying that it had decided not to participate in the renewed auction for the purchase of an ownership stake in the newspaper Dnevnik. This was waz’s protest against incorrect conduct on the part of relevant services. It was clear from media reports that waz had explained the perceived incorrectness in a letter sent to kad, a company whose share was offered at the auction, and to the Prime Minister. We requested access to this letter from both kad and the Prime Minister’s cabinet, which they were obliged to provide in accordance with the law on public information. Yet kad informed us that access was not possible because the information involved was a business secret (waz later stated the same reason), while the Prime Minister’s cabinet forwarded the letter.
In searching for relevant information, the authors of this study had two valuable collaborators, Lana Zdravković and Luna Jurančič Šribar.
1 Daniel C. Hallin and Stylianos Papathanassopoulos, »Political clientelism and the media: Southern Europe and Latin America in comparative perspective«, Media, Culture & Society, 24(2), 2002, pp. 175–95. Daniel C. Hallin and Paolo Mancini, Comparing Media Systems – Three Models of Media and Politics, Cambridge University Press, 2004, Cambridge.
2 Daniel C. Hallin and Paolo Mancini, Comparing Media Systems – Three Models of Media and Politics, Cambridge University Press, 2004, Cambridge p. 28.
3 Ibid., pp. 67–68 and 73.
4 Ibid., p. 58.