“Despite our requests and repeated warnings that started in October, saying that this documentation is urgently needed, the director did not want to hand it over. We have also repeatedly warned the director that his concealment of information could lead to a serious financial problem for the Slovenian Press Agency (Slovenska tiskovna agencija – referred to as the STA) and that he would bear the full responsibility for it. And what is more, we received his letter and the letter from the chairman of the supervisory board, asking us to tell them how much money we will give to the Agency, or how much is in the budget. This, however, is in stark contrast to the legal requirement to provide adequate funding. It is unacceptable that the director and the chairman of the supervisory board of STA demanded that the Government Communication Office act illegally,” explained the director of the Government Communication Office, Uroš Urbanija.
On Monday, a piece of news appeared in the media, claiming that the government of Janez Janša supposedly “quietly” stopped financing the Slovenian Press Agency, which was, of course, described as a new attack of the government on the public media outlets. This is how the credible and neutral MMC web portal of the national media house RTV Slovenia presented the matter, but the information turned out to be false. The director of the Government Communication Office (Urad vlade za komuniciranje – referred to as UKOM), Uroš Urbanija, explained that they had informed the government of the inability to continue to finance or sing a new contract with STA, and why this had happened was also evident from the attached files. According to Urbanija, the Slovenian Press Agency Law is very clear, stating that STA must be provided with adequate funding. Therefore, in October, UKOM asked the director of STA, Bojan Veselinovič, to provide all business documentation, on the basis of which it would be possible to determine how much money would be needed for adequate financing.
At first, Veselinovič left things to the STA supervisory board; however, the board clearly adopted the decision that UKOM should ask the STA director for all the needed documents. “Despite our requests and repeated warnings since October that this documentation is urgently needed, the director did not want to hand it over. We have also repeatedly warned the director that his overlapping data could lead to a serious financial problem for the STA and that he would bear full responsibility for it. Moreover, we received his letter and the letter from the chairman of the supervisory board to tell us how much money we will give him or how much is in the budget. This is in stark contrast to the legal requirement to provide adequate funding.”
“It is unacceptable that the director and the chairman of the supervisory board of STA demanded that the Government Communication Office act illegally,” explained the director of UKOM, Urbanija, and added: “Allow me to also point out that the requests made by the director show that the previous governments did not follow the legal diction, as the director claims that he would need 5,000 euros more per month, for carrying out the public service. The question of whether what the director claims is actually true, remains, because he does not want to provide UKOM with an insight into the entire business of the company. In any case, this is not how you are supposed to deal with public finances. It would be illegal for UKOM to pay for something, for which it does not even have all the records which would prove that what is being paid for, has been done at all,” Urbanija also explained.
Rapper Zlatan Čordić – Zlatko has little to do with the whole story, as some mainstream media claim. However, there is another problem here, that needs to be pointed out. The law requires STA to perform public service and report on individual events. And this is where the whole thing is quite flexible, Urbanija pointed out, when it comes to what it actually means to perform a public service at all. “As a result, what adequate funding means is also flexible. Therefore, there should be very strong arguments here, and things should be done in a certain order. If STA reports on, for example, all pop musicians, this is part of the established practice. But it is something else if they want to expand this notion of public service, in order to obtain even more money from public funds or from the budget. If events are reported on, if what is done is in the public interest, you must, of course, be appropriately paid for it. However, in the mentioned case, the same criteria must apply to Zlatko, as well as to any other singer of the same genre,” director of UKOM pointed out.
Are public funds flowing into private companies through STA advertising?
The question also arises as to what STA is doing with its advertising in some media. According to UKOM, this is an extremely controversial matter, and what’s more, UKOM believes that what is happening, is the indirect financing of commercial companies. “Which means that public funds flow into private companies through advertising,” Urbanija warned. It would, of course, be different, if the advertising was shown to have certain effects, but the question remains – does STA gain any new subscribers, if it publishes a full-page ad in selected media outlets? After all, STA is not intended for individuals, but for media companies or subscribers, who are usually not individuals. Therefore, there is no real logic in advertising in these media outlets. But if they insist on advertising, then STA should treat all media outlets equally, that is, advertise in all media in the same way. “So, this is also a very controversial issue that needs to be highlighted,” concluded Uroš Urbanija.