UKOM expects STA to sign agreement, STA seeks new round of talks
Ljubljana, 20 July - The Government Communications office (UKOM) has sent the Slovenian Press Agency a final version of the agreement on the STA public service, expecting the document to be signed immediately. However, the STA director finds that UKOM has not taken into consideration a single of the STA's key remarks, calling for a new round of talks.
UKOM says the agreement, valued at EUR 2.028 million, takes into account the costs of individual services of the public service as submitted by STA director Bojan Veselinovič.
UKOM expects the agreement, which it says ensures "orderly and transparent financing of the STA" while preventing "abuse and bending of legal provisions" to be signed immediately.
The office says it has alerted the STA director of apparent inconsistencies in the calculation of costs he submitted. It says Veselinovič's initial estimate was that the cost of writing and publishing a news item in its entirety was the same as the cost of publishing just the item's lede.
UKOM also writes that it could not accept Veselinovič's view that the STA law would be violated as the law stated clearly contents provided as part of the public service are freely accessible to everyone under equal terms.
UKOM says Veselinovič wished to "sell that content again in media market, thereby allowing different accessibility to content by those who pay for them and those who do not pay for them".
UKOM welcomed the STA introducing the section Public Service on its website, while it finds it unacceptable that under each item the message its that it cannot be used before a commercial contract is signed.
UKOM says that public service contents cannot be marketed as that would be in contravention to the law. The exception is the marketing of archival material, which the law allows.
"The latest move by UKOM, which has neither responded to STA remarks about the draft agreement nor considered a single key point that we have raised but has instead sent us the agreement this afternoon with the ultimatum that we must sign, indicates what the ultimate objective of the final battle for the subjugation of the STA is," Veselinovič said in his response.
"It is also indicative of how a person who ignores the statutory obligations to the STA imagines negotiations with a media house that he has brought to the brink of destruction," he added.
UKOM has failed to mention that it "has arbitrarily reduced eligible public service expenses in the agreement to such a degree that signing the agreement would be damaging for the agency". It would also be in violation of the rules of cost accounting and the rules adopted by the STA supervisory board.
Since the amount is an advance for the first five months of this year, for which the STA has not received any payment yet, it would not cover the expenses the agency has already incurred. "If we were to concede to this diktat, we would lose commercial revenue and hurt our subscribers, who have been supporting us and helping us to survive," said the STA director.
The STA has also not yet received official confirmation from UKOM about the two other prerequisites for the payment of the advance, even though both conditions have been satisfied when the STA launched a new system of presentation of public service content on its web pages, and submitted the requested documentation.
"A new round of talks is therefore necessary, talks that UKOM had previously promised. We will provide our official response to UKOM tomorrow, after we have consulted with legal and accounting experts," Veselinovič said in response to the UKOM's call on the STA to sign the agreement.
The STA has not received any state funding for the public service it has been providing for 201 days. The STA has been waiting to sign an annual agreement with the founder represented by the government and which is subject of talks with UKOM since December 2020.