The government has arranged for the financing of the Slovenian Press Agency (Slovenska tiskovna agencija – referred to as the STA), instructing the director of the Government Communication Office (Urad Vlade Republike Slovenije za komuniciranje – referred to as UKOM), Uroš Urbanija, to pay the STA an advance of 845 thousand euros for the expected expenses in performing the public service in 2021, as soon as he reviews the agency’s comprehensive reports on its financial operations. At the same time, they noted that the responsibility of the STA, as a good manager, is to make sure that the taxpayers’ money is spent rationally. “Unlike what the current management team of the agency is doing, which is requesting money, despite the fact that it refuses to submit a report on how they spent it in the past,” they explained. Given that the possibility of development for the agency has increased dramatically in the period of digitalisation of its services, they also warned that the STA should offer more services and that they should be available to all.
The government recently regulated the financing of the Slovenian Press Agency, which was established 30 years ago in order to perform the public service of providing comprehensive information to the public, both domestic and foreign. The government is also the sole founder and shareholder and thus also the 100 percent owner of the STA.
As the government explained, it is their duty and responsibility, as a good manager, to make sure that the taxpayers’ money is spent rationally. That is also why the STA has the duty and responsibility to spend the taxpayers’ money as rationally as possible and must also inform the government on how the money was spent – regularly and comprehensively, in accordance with the Public Service Agreement. “Unlike what the current management team of the agency is doing, which is requesting money, despite the fact that it refuses to submit a report on how they spent it in the past,” they explained.
In the 30 years since the establishment of the STA, digitalisation has significantly increased the possibilities for providing wide access to information for the public; however, the government notes that the STA is not making full use of these possibilities. “An essential part of its online content remains locked and is only intended for subscribers who pay monthly fees,” they explained. Thus, on the STA website, only brief introductions of the news articles are available free of charge, so the majority of the public exercises their right to be informed by reading the web portals of other media providers, which, through payment for the market services offered by the STA, are then able to publish full summaries of the news free of charge for everyone.
The STA unjustifiably accused the government of interfering in its editorial activities
The government has decided to link the financing of the public service with the extent of the public service provided in accordance with the STA Business Plan in order to strengthen the scope of the provision of the STA public service. If, as it was done in the past, the government provided compensation for the provision of public services in advance, it would give up the only mechanism that allows it to verify the extent to which the STA Business Plan was actually implemented, nor could it encourage the STA to further implement it. “We hope that the management and supervisory bodies of the STA will also realise that the basic purpose of the STA and its mission is to strengthen the public services, and not to increase the performance of marketable activities,” they added.
The government believes that the response of the agency’s management team, which interpreted the government’s request for a report on the use of the taxpayers’ money as government interference in their editorial policy and/or as an attempt to subordinate the agency to certain policies, was unprofessional and irresponsible towards the STA employees. “It was also misleading, which we strongly condemn,” they added. They further emphasised that the credibility of information and access to information are key elements in ensuring the public’s right to information. “The editorial board of the agency is solely responsible for the credibility of the information provided to the Slovenian public by the STA, as neither the management nor the supervisory bodies of the STA nor the government may interfere in the STA’s editorial policy and content design.”
The government wants to review the financial operations of the agency
The government is concerned about the conduct of the STA’s management, which, even at the cost of the liquidity problems that the agency is now facing, continues to problematise the fulfilment of the provisions of the Public Service Agreement. “The government, as the founder, is obliged to ensure the smooth performance of the public service even under the circumstances like these, and therefore, it instructed the director of the Government Communication Office of the Republic of Slovenia, Uroš Urbanija, to pay the STA an advance as soon as he reviews the comprehensive reports on the agency’s financial operations. The advance amounts to 845 thousand euros for the expected expenditures for the provision of public service in 2021,” they explained at the end.