Apr`es Moi, Le Déluge

News broke this afternoon that Studio City, the iconic RTVSLO programme, long a thorn in the side of soon-to-be-ex PM Janez Janša and his cronies, is to have its host Marcel Štefančič, jr. axed and its format radically altered. This, obviously, was not entirely unexpected.

Marcel Štefančič, host of Studio City, circa 2013.
Studio City and its host Marcel Štefančič, jr., circa 2013 (photo by yours truly)

All the evidence pointed to something like this. Not in the least because the outgoing regime and its recently-installed peons at RTVSLO spent the last couple of months dismantling every single bit of programming that dared look at the government with a critical eye. Studio City was right at the top of that list. However, that it should be done on 3 May, the World Press Freedom Day, is – not to be too direct – sadistic.

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The Siege Of RTVSLO

It may, of course, be pure coincidence, but fact of the matter is that only days into Russian aggression against Ukraine, the government of Slovenian PM Janez Janša began a siege and ultimately an assault on RTV Slovenija (RTVSLO), the country’s public broadcaster.

The building of TV arm of RTV Slovenija (RTVSLO), the nation's public broadcaster.
RTVSLO headquarters (source)

Normally, putting the war in Ukraine and the shit Janša is getting away with side by side would be gratuitous at best. But it is not only that there is a temporal overlap between the two. The Glorious Leader is directly using RTVSLO coverage of war in Ukraine to instigate the latest and most brutal round of undermining and destruction of the public outlet.

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In An About-Face, PM Janša Continues EPPO Shitshow

No sooner than pengovsky thought the madness had abated somewhat, the Janša government went full retard once again. Mere days after it had briefly reconnected with reality and acknowledged the two Slovenian delegated EPPO prosecutors, the administration came up with a draft law that would effectively revoke the nomination and put the government in charge of the process.

PM Janša and justice minister Dikaučič on an EPPO logo.
PM Janša had justice minister Marjan Dikaučič rubberstamp EPPO volte-face

The main takeaway here is, of course, that Janša government is aiming to extinguish prosecutorial independence. The rule of law is for liberal pussies, and all that. But what is really galling is the brazen manner in which the regime of the Glorious Leader floated the idea. Namely, this head-on attack against the rule of law came less than 48 hours after justice minister Marjan Dikaučič survived a no-confidence vote.

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Depeche Mode

It took Janša 3.0 government less than a month to score its first international embarrassment. Which is quite a feat, considering that the country is in the middle of containing the Covid-19 epidemic. The crux of the matter is a “dispatch” sent by the Slovenian foreign ministry in which they rebuke an alert raised on the Council of Europe media freedom platform.

Depeche Mode, Greatest Hits. Or something… (source)

To cut a long story short, in a pair of tweets PM Janša accused the public broadcaster RTVSLO of running false stories, being overpaid and overstaffed. Various domestic and international journalism organisations raised a stink with the CoE and this required an official government response. The document turned out to be such a fucking train wreck that everyone – including the foreign ministry – started running away from it, pronto.

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Referendum on RTV Slovenia, Part One: More Cowbell!

Slovenia is to hold yet another referendum this Sunday, this time on the recently passed law on national radio-television, RTV Slovenia. While not critical to the government of Borut Pahor (although it came with a price), the result will nevertheless be interpreted as an important benchmark for PM and his team and Sunday’s vote should therefore not be underestimated. But seriously, what is it all about? In short, it’s about turning state radio and television into public radio and television once again.


Boy with a flute, the mascot of RTVSLO by sculptor Zdenko Kalin (source)

The current law on RTVSLO (one the new law seeks to replace) was crafted in 2005 by then newly minted government of Janez Janša, passed by Janša’s coalition in the parliament and then confirmed by a very narrow margin on a referendum called by the freshly dethroned LDS, then still led by Tone Rop. The law was widely seen as a blatant attempt to subjugate the biggest and most influential public media in the country, mostly by changing the organisation and composition of Programming and Supervisory boards, making them more, shall we say, government friendly by increasing the number of seats in both bodies (thus making them ineffective in the long term) and increasing the number of government-appointed members: 21 out of 29 and 9 out of 11 for Programming and Supervisory boards respectively. In addition wages of all workers at RTVSLO including journalists were now subject to the Law on wages of civil servants, making their connection to the state even stronger. They were now in fact employees of the state, overseen by state-controlled boards.

The law was drafted almost single-handedly and vigorously defended by a prominent member of Janez Janša’s SDS Branko Grims, who later concocted an overhaul of the media legislation earning him the designation of Goebbels wannabe. But in all honesty, not everything about the law was inherently bad. One thing the law did achieve was to somewhat stabilise RTVSLO’s finances by introducing a special levy, a solution which has proven effective although highly unpopular (as levies tend to be) and object of many a mockery, mostly along the lines of “this is what I get for my 12 euro?”

So what did Slovenes get for their 12 euro per month? Well, not much. In fact, there’s a general consensus that RTVSLO programming has gone from bad to worse. Not only was political influence plentiful, now it was also government sanctioned. Not only was there less and less interesting content, ratings were being chased by actively mimicking programming approaches of privately-owned POP TV (which is anything but a public service). Thus RTVSLO willingly abandoned its role of a standard bearer in terms of keeping overall professionalism and quality content at acceptable levels. Add to that the constant tug-of-war between urban and rural Slovenia (more cowbell!) and you have one big money-guzzling clusterfuck which has just gone digital.

While Radio Slovenia – the “R” in “RTVSLO” – somehow managed to keep producing quality content and evade serious raids on its autonomy, this can not be said for TV which has provided us with some memorable epic fails, pengovsky’s favourite still being The Bomb in Studio/Big Bad Ultra double bill which was probably one of the lowest points RTVSLO hit since independence, courtesy of semi-competent journalists on a mission and a drive for ratings at all costs.

Shoddy programming was backed by shoddy management and in the end RTVSLO ended up paying shit-load of monies for various projects which either never saw the light of day or burnt cash faster than a Concorde with an engine on fire, adding precious little to either specific or overall ratings. It was as if accordion-based content was the only game in town…. Errr… In the village, that is. Because shows which included a lot of polka, dancing and accordion were a huge hit. Well, I guess almost anything you air during Friday primetime is bound to become a hit. In this case it was the accordion. There you go.

At any rate. The referendum is now on. And the latest polls suggest that a) the turnout will barely reach 20 percent and b) those who intend to vote are split almost down the middle, with those opposing the law holding the tiniest of edges. This will probably go down to the wire (again) especially since there is a lot riding on this vote politically. Which is why it is even more curious that the coalition has until now made only token efforts in promoting the “yes” vote and the opposition did similarly little in promoting the “no” vote.

More on that tomorrow, of course 😀

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