THE FIRST and riskiest part of the merger of public-service broadcasters Slovak Television (STV) and Slovak Radio (SRo) to form Rozhlas a Televízia Slovenska (Radio and Television of Slovakia), or RTVS, is now complete. This was accomplished in September when joint organisational structures and control processes became routine, RTVS director general Miloslava Zemková told the SITA newswire in late December.

“In my opinion this first phase really went well,” stated Zemková, who has been the head of the new broadcaster since February 2011, adding that merging two public institutions is quite unusual within European conditions. “The fusion of SRo and STV has gone according to plan since parliament elected me to the post of director general.”

Zemková added that the merger of the two institutions was particularly risky in the joint institution’s first year of operation.

“From the viewpoint of the merger I have to say that we have fulfilled what we wanted to fulfil,” Zemková stated. “We even did this earlier than planned and saved more money than we originally expected.”

The merger of SRo and STV required a tight savings regime and Zemková expects the same will be required for 2012.

“While in 2011 we found resources that could be saved in systemic measures, in 2012 we will go deeper to search for reserves,” Zemková stated, predicting that management will again be able to find several percentage points of savings.

The second and third phases of the merger will be developed in 2012 and will be of key importance as all the supportive elements of a joint system should be firmly connected. Modernisation of technologies is also in the pipeline and this includes not only development of a common financial, technical, legal and administrative system but also merging of archives.

The merger should eventually lead to a joint headquarters for RTVS but currently the radio and television parts occupy different buildings in Bratislava.

“It would be ideal to have one seat because we would save additional costs,” Zemková stated, seeing savings in terms of energy use, cleaning, guarding of buildings and maintenance of premises. “Such an investment will be returned in some years but currently we are not in a situation permitting us to solve this in Bratislava. Thus, we would like to solve this first in our offices in Banská Bystrica and Košice.”

In these two cities the broadcaster is preparing a selection process for a joint building while RTVS management is considering the announcement of a public tender for proposals for joint space in Bratislava. But RTVS has not planned any large investment into buildings in Bratislava in 2012 except for adapting existing premises.

Zemková, the former director general of SRo, was elected the first director of RTVS on February 10, 2011 and has a five-year term.

RTVS was created by the merger of SRo and STV that occurred on January 1, 2011 based on legislation approved by the Slovak parliament on November 30, 2010. At that time Culture Minister Daniel Krajcer, whose ministry prepared the legislation, warned that if the merger did not take place, the public-service TV broadcaster would suffer even worse economic losses. The legislation was designed to stop STV from accumulating further debt and to improve the quality of its broadcasting.

Merging and reforming Slovakia’s public-service media was projected to last for at least three years. It started with the merger and is expected to culminate with the end of RTVS’s current financing model in which every electricity consumer pays monthly fees to the broadcaster. RTVS is scheduled to be financed from the state budget beginning in 2013.