During the 1990s the Slovene media were significantly affected by political changes. The events that most influenced the media world of the nineties were the introduction of the new media law (arguments and discussions about the media law in Slovenia have again become topical ten years later), the privatization of the media, liberalization of the print media market and superficial regulation of the broadcasting market, media monopolization and commercialization. These events are the subject of the analysis in this essay.
The Slovene media market is small, so relatively modest financial resources suffice to establish control over it (especially in comparison with the sums involved in the takeovers and acquisitions in other European countries). Before the process of media privatization got underway, the Slovene state expected the invasion of large European and American corporations, similar to what has happened in some other countries in transition. One decade later it is possible to conclude instead that a small number of local owners with stakes in numerous affiliated companies control the major part of the Slovene media market. The concentration is still in progress, while cross-ownership ties remain unchanged. It is obvious that the state, or rather its supervising institutions, do not have any mechanism (and no interest) to introduce order into this field.
Moreover, the legislative body has overlooked another important fact, namely that privatization has nothing to do with the ethics of the media operation, and even less so with the accountability of the media to the public. The democratic and plural media, which were expected to be secured through the Mass Media Act of 1994, proved to have a high price. In democratic societies the prevention of media monopolization is the responsibility of the state. However, in a system which is subject to voluntary steps by the state, market and new owners, that is to say, in which there are no legal and financial conditions for plurality of the media, it is not possible to talk of media freedom.
The story of introducing firstly the Mass Media Act that came into force in 1994 and then the Mass Media Act of 2001 brings to light the state’s attitude towards the media deregulation. In the beginning of the 1990s, the basic dilemmas revolved around the questions of whether a law on the media was needed at all, and what kind of law it should be. Once in force, the law proved to be deficient. Insufficient supervision of the implementation of the deficient law thus resulted in a non-transparent concentration of media ownership and numerous violations of the law for which, unfortunately, there were no sanctions.
The first changes to the Mass Media Act of 1994 were proposed in 1997 followed by four years of debate before the Mass Media Act, which replaced former law, came into force. It treats certain areas (for example, the interests of the state) in minute detail, while others (for example the interests of citizens) are dealt with only loosely. On the other hand, the fundamental question posed over the past decade remains unchanged and, more importantly, unanswered. This question is: What kind of the media policy does the state actually support?