One of the buildings of RTVS public broadcaster in which Slovak Radio is based, in Bratislava. EPA-EFE/JAKUB GAVLAK


Slovak opposition boycotts vote that sees public broadcaster shut down


The Slovak opposition walked out of the parliament chamber en masse before a vote was taken to abolish Rozhlas a televíža Slovenska (RTVS) and replace it with a new public TV and media outlet.

With only the 78 members of the government left to cast their ballot, the proposal passed unchallenged on June 20. Under the legislation, RTVS will become Slovak Television and Radio (STVR).

According to the draft law, the director of the new channel will be elected by a board of nine, four of whom will be nominated by the culture ministry. The other members will be chosen by the parliament, where the coalition government has a majority.

Several amendments to the law tabled by coalition MPs were accepted.

Once signed by President Peter Pellegrini, it should come into force on July 1, 2024.

The government led by Prime Minister Robert Fico moved to abolish RTVS because, he said, it “does not fulfil its mission of objectivity, respect for diversity of opinion, and promoting the national interest by supporting the country’s cultural values and traditions”.

The opposition had been staging mass street protests for months in protest against the bill but after an assassination attempt on Fico on 15 May, demonstrations stopped.

National media reported culture minister Martina Šimkovičová as saying: “I believe that with the adoption of this law we will be able to return Slovak television and radio to Slovak viewers and listeners and public television and radio programmes and news to all citizens of Slovakia.

“We have taken the first step towards STVR. We will once again broadcast programmes, series and documentaries, cycles created for the entire spectrum of those interested in high-quality original works”

RTVS said in statement that “the current management of the broadcaster respects the passing of the law, but at the same time perceives it as a step against public law”.

“It is a black day for the independent public space in Slovakia. It is a black day for the media in Slovakia. And it is a black day for civil society in Slovakia,” said RTVS chief Luboš Machaj after the law was passed.

A new body called the Ethics Commission will also be created to oversee the compliance of programming executives with the statute. None of the employees of STVR will be part of this commission to ensure its independence.

The law will introduce an obligation for STVR to measure the audience of most of its programmes and to ensure what is described as quality and acceptability of content.