Czech Radio concerned over changes to Slovakia's public broadcaster

Director General of RTVS Ľuboš Machaj with Minister of Culture Martina Šimkovičová (12 March 2024).
Director General of RTVS Ľuboš Machaj with Minister of Culture Martina Šimkovičová (12 March 2024). Photo: Ján Zemiar, Ministry of Culture of the Slovak Republic

The Czech public radio broadcaster is following with "great unease" the current developments surrounding Radio and Television of Slovakia (RTVS), the country's public service media organization.

René Zavoral, Director General of Czech Radio, issued a statement defending the work of RTVS's current leadership. "The recent actions by the Slovak government raise deep concerns about the fate of the public service broadcaster and democracy in Slovakia," Zavoral wrote.

A draft law proposed on March 11, 2024 by Slovakia's National Council "effectively means the liquidation of the existing independent public service media RTVS, a long-standing and respected member of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU)," the Czech director warns.

Under the proposed changes, RTVS would be replaced by a new institution called Slovak Television and Radio (STaR). Zavoral stated that based on the draft law, the new entity's leadership, programming and broadcasting would be under direct political influence.

"This is undoubtedly an initial step towards the nationalization of the public service media in Slovakia and the suppression of its free and objective broadcasting, which is one of the conditions for maintaining democracy and pluralism of opinion in the country," Zavoral noted.

RTVS, under the leadership of Director General Ľuboš Machaj, is a respected institution fulfilling the parameters of a public service, independent news media as well as a cultural and educational body, according to the statement. "Its replacement by an entity whose alleged need for establishment is justified by the aforementioned values is therefore unnecessary and undesirable for the stability of not only the Slovak media market."

"This step only reinforces our concerns that the stated reasoning is a mere pretext and declaration, with the real goals being the suppression of RTVS's role as one of the pillars of democracy in Slovakia."

Czech Radio and RTVS are close partners sharing a significant part of their history, Zavoral said. "Both media are founded on their independence and fulfillment of public service values."

"Czech Radio expresses its support for the current RTVS leadership and all Slovak colleagues, and has grave concerns that the traditional values of public service media in Slovakia could become merely an instrument of political assignment in the future."

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