Government, Politics and Regulation

The regulation of media in Slovakia is a heavily politicized process. All of the regulators covering media are in theory autonomous institutions, but in practice they take orders from the politicians in power as the state has the biggest say in appointing and dismissing their boards. The sole authority directly in charge of media regulation is the Council for Broadcasting and Retransmission (RVR), a body created in the early 1990s to watchdog the broadcast industry. However, their regulatory role is decreasing as licensing of broadcasters, due to digital developments, has become a formality.

Photo by Dennis Jarvis

Policy in Slovakia is usually initiated by the culture ministry, which drafts most of the initial proposals for legislation in the media field. However, parliament has an equally high influence (in some cases even higher) in the policy process. A number of media laws (such as the Digital Broadcasting Act) drafted by the culture ministry have been significantly altered in parliament under pressure chiefly from private broadcasters, according to journalists and media experts interviewed for this report.[1]

Several other regulatory authorities indirectly cover news media. In fact, a significant role in shaping the Slovak media market is played by the antitrust regulator, PMU. Its decisions, for example, allowing media acquisitions by Penta Investments, a mighty financial group, have helped this company gain an outstanding dominant position in the media market.

The biggest regulatory issue in Slovakia is the internet. This is a field that is still outside the state regulation and, according to most of the journalists interviewed for this report, it should stay like that. However, the government is looking into ways of regulating online content. Already, empowered by EU legislation, the RVR is taking its role in internet regulation more seriously than the EU ever recommended. Although it has not yet made many decisions in the online area, RVR is carving out its own territory online, regularly publishing the list of outlets that are in its regulatory sphere. These outlets are a hotchpotch of small and big broadcasters, publishers and telcos that have a presence online (who doesn’t?). Conspicuously, major on-demand suppliers and social media are not covered by RVR (or any regulator for that matter).

The key influencers in the Slovak media regulation are in a way or another associated with politics and politicians. Most of those sitting on regulatory bodies need in the first place the support of authorities (parliament or government) to be appointed in those positions. The Slovak regulatory environment is characterized by a dearth of vision and progressive thinking needed to spark innovative journalistic projects. Instead, hackneyed regulatory practices allow the Slovak news media market to get captured by a handful of financial powerhouses with dubious business practices and heavily anchored in political life.

[1] See Methodology in Media Influence Matrix: Slovakia