Various collaborators of the Peace Institute,
and in particular the participants in the Media Watch project
ongoing since 1998, carried out a number of research studies
and published many findings and reports. All were part of
our efforts to achieve greater diversity of media content,
greater dispersion of media ownership, more credible and accountable
media operation, better access to media for minorities and
increased responsiveness of the media to citizens’ proposals
and complaints. During public debate on the new law on rtv
Slovenia in 2005, and on the amendments to the Mass Media
Act in 2006, we submitted remarks to the solutions proposed
by the Ministry of Culture and compiled and argued for concrete
changes to a number of legislative proposals that were inadequate
in our opinion. We invariably explained in writing our alternative
proposals and attempted to argue for them during their public
presentation in Parliament. Practically none of our proposals
that offered integral and conceptually alternative solutions
to the controversial points in the two laws was accepted,
apart from some minor ones that concerned corrections to other
proposals. The bills that were eventually passed into laws
implemented in practice the model of media policy tailored
to the goals of the ruling coalition.
Based on the conclusions of the monitoring of the three segments
described above, we give several key recommendations that
reflect and reinforce our past efforts.
1. Media ownership and its impact on media
The provisions in media legislation stipulating restrictions
on media concentration should be accompanied by effective
mechanisms for supervision and penalizing of failures to comply
with these provisions. Participation of governmental bodies
responsible for this area should be ensured.
In addition to stipulating restrictions on media concentration,
the government should adopt a proactive approach by stipulating
and developing clear, independent and effective mechanisms
for encouraging media plurality through state subsidies. State
subsidies should be allocated by an independent body on the
basis of clearly defined and transparent criteria and granted
to those contents that cannot ‘survive’ autonomously on the
media market. It is especially important to prevent the abuse
of subsidies to exert pressure on media that are critical
of the government, or to reward media that report favorably
on the government.
In granting special status and benefits to non-profit, community,
minority and other media for the production and dissemination
of content in the public interest (in Slovenia such status
is enjoyed by radio and television programs of special significance),
the government should ensure regular supervision of whether
the media meet the requirements regarding the implementation
of agreed responsibilities and content and whether they observe
professional and social standards.
When debating and amending media legislation, the government
should ensure the participation of representatives of the
interested public during the preparation stage, promote public
debate and the confrontation of various viewpoints and solutions,
and allow sufficient time for reaching a consensus on key
issues of media policy. The law makers should take a clear
stance on the proposals and remarks submitted by the representatives
of economic entities, professional unions, experts and ngos,
and explain their reasons if they decide to reject these proposals.
The state should withdraw from media companies because it
has been proved that stakes owned by state funds and state-owned
companies are exploited in order to exert political influence
on the media, business and editorial decisions and the appointment
Journalists and their associations should make an effort
to remedy the mistake they made in the past when they sold
out their interests in media companies obtained in the privatization
process. The situation could be improved by strategic pooling
of resources to purchase ownership stakes in media companies
or to establish their own media outlets.
Information on media owners, and on the owners of media owners,
enables citizens to establish whether there exists conflict
of interest. Therefore, this information must be accessible
to the public, while the government should stipulate and take
care that the data in publicly accessible databases are truthful
and regularly updated. The transparency of data prevents the
holders of political and economic power from abusing the media
for the promotion of their own interests.
In the majority of countries, public service radio and television
are in crisis as a result of scarce funding, continual interference
from government in the media operation or the lack of serious
political will to transform state-owned media into public
service media. The situation in Slovenia is much the same.
The legislation and the development of public radio and television
should be steered towards greater participation of the public
in the management and supervision of public radio and television,
while ensuring their institutional and editorial autonomy
in terms of funding and management. It is especially important
to enhance the functions of public service broadcasters and
strengthen their role in providing social cohesion and inclusion
of all groups and communities, especially minorities.
Legislation, internal documents and professional codes should
include principles and mechanisms for the prevention and penalizing
of publishers’ or owners’ attempts to exploit the media as
an instrument for achieving particular political aims. The
present codes of journalists’ associations do not meet these
requirements fully, and furthermore, publishers/broadcasters
and owners should also be obliged by such documents to respect
the codes. The complaints and adjudication mechanisms should
be expanded to include journalists, publishers and the public.
Social circumstances of employees in the media industry affect
the quality of work and responsibility demonstrated by journalists
and other media workers. Media professions are vulnerable.
However, the importance of their social role and their indispensability
in exercising the right to freedom of expression, acquisition
and dissemination of opinion and information mean that it
is in the interest of society as a whole to secure favorable
social circumstances for media people to perform their work.
The transparency and stability of social circumstances should
be established through collective agreements between the employers
NGOs concerned with the media field, expert associations,
interested and professional groups should be strengthened
in terms of organization, material conditions and staffing.
They should cooperate among themselves, reach agreements,
debate and negotiate on how to ensure the realization of interests
they represent. Their common goal should be a developed, clear,
and successful media operation in the public interest.
In order to achieve greater inclusion of citizens in media
activities, civil interest groups and ngos should aim for
more active and creative use of new technologies and develop
new, autonomous forms of media production and dissemination
of content. In so doing they should establish links with similar
civil initiatives abroad.
2. Television news
Television broadcasters, and the public broadcaster in particular,
take into serious consideration the finding of our research
that politicians dominate the group of interlocutors in the
main news programs, and make an effort to include more topics
and interlocutors from outside the political arena, especially
the representatives of civil society and minority groups.
They should also make an effort to move away from Ljubljana-centric
coverage and include more topics relating to regions and localities
outside the capital. In addition, television companies, and
the public broadcaster in particular, should make a deliberate
and systematic effort to increase the representation of women
in the news. When covering international topics, more attention
should be devoted to events and circumstances outside Europe,
and topics from all continents should be included. Such measures
towards elimination of the negative trends in the structure
and content of television news should be developed systematically
by introducing regular internal monitoring, editorial analysis
and meetings, internal guidelines, mechanisms and decisions.
3. Reporting on minorities
When reporting on minorities the media should take utmost
care to comply with the legal provisions and professional
standards outlined in journalistic codes of ethics. On the
other hand, individual media could develop their own internal
ethical and programming guidelines for this delicate area.
Media professionals, and editors in particular, should take
heed of repeated alerts by media researchers pointing to the
mistakes made in presenting various minorities.
With the help of internal rules of conduct, supervision mechanisms,
careful editorial policies and continual analysis of editorial
decisions, media companies should ensure that the members
of ethnic, social and other minorities are not stereotyped
or treated in a discriminatory manner.
The coverage of minorities should necessarily include the
viewpoints of the representatives of these communities. In
order to achieve this, journalists and media companies should
cultivate contacts with minority groups. This could be realized
by engaging a journalist who specializes in that specific
area, is well informed about it and maintains contacts with
Reported events should always be placed in a context, because
conflicts between the minority and the majority group, or
within a minority group, are not isolated incidents but usually
have a long history.
There is no reason why the main actors appearing in media
reports on minorities should be politicians. The media should
seek topics and interlocutors out in the world and provide
regular coverage of the life of minorities, instead of the
current practice of covering excesses. This would enable the
readers, listeners and viewers to obtain better knowledge
and to better understand the situation of minorities.
The media could develop mechanisms for verifying the quality
and suitability of the coverage of minorities in cooperation
with representatives of these groups. The members of minority
groups should regularly inform the media about their activities
and efforts. They could provide feedback on media coverage
through letters to the editor. All editorial offices should
have available clear complaint mechanisms that make possible
prompt and immediate publication of corrections.
Both the national and the local media should pursue a systematic
employment policy that would ensure the inclusion of minority
group members working as journalists and other media employees.
This could be achieved by adopting one of the exemplary models
involving scholarships, training and practical work that would
increase the number of qualified journalists and media employees
coming from minority groups.
By recruiting staff members from among the minority groups,
media companies would increase employees’ sensitivity to minority
related topics and ensure that they are better informed about