Corporate news 20.6.2024 16:34

STA financing overhauled in draft bill

Ljubljana, 20 June - Public financing of the Slovenian Press Agency (STA) will be overhauled under a reform bill that entered a 30-day public consultation period on Thursday and comes after the agency found itself on the verge of bankruptcy in 2021 when public financing was withheld.

Ljubljana
The entrance to the STA offices in Tivolska Street.
Photo: Tamino Petelinšek/STA
File photo

The existing law, passed in 2011, provides for the public financing of the agency's public service journalism, but during the stand-off with the last Janez Janša government it turned out that the financing provisions were often vague and unenforceable.

It merely stipulates that annual public financing is determined each year in a contract between the STA and the government without specifying how much money the STA is eligible for and how the annual grant is calculated.

In the new bill, there is a formula determining that public funding will cover the difference between the cost of performing the public service (which includes labour, operating and investment costs) and the commercial revenue the STA earns on the market.

The overarching aim of the new bill, according to the Culture Ministry, which is in charge of media policy, is to support press agency activity because the market is too small to support such a service on a purely commercial basis.

To achieve that, the bill also eschews listing which specific segments of STA operations are eligible for public funding.

Instead, it provides a broader definition of the services the STA is obligated to provide, and it determines which content is subscription-based public service, free-to-use public service, and commercial services.

Content produced for the media - text, audiovisual and other content - will be delivered on a subscription basis, but the headlines and first paragraphs must be available to the general public for free, which is an arrangement similar to the existing law.

All news about Slovenian minorities abroad and ethnic communities will meanwhile be free of charge, just as it is now.

Commercial services meanwhile include event organisation, media partnerships and such, activities that the agency already performs.

Other parts of the legislation remain largely intact, including the key provision on governance and editorial independence.

Notably, however, the annual financing contract will no longer be signed with the Government Communications Office, but with the Culture Ministry.

The STA management and editorial staff have welcomed the bill given that the existing legislation has been found to be inadequate. "We will examine the proposal and submit our remarks," they said.

"What we definitely expect, however, is that the final solution will sort out the inconsistencies and shortcomings of the existing law, and that the STA will be provided stable and clearly defined financing as well as editorial and institutional independence.

"Good legislation is the only way the STA can provide a high-quality public service developed in line with media industry trends," the joint statement reads.