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Public media set to share new digs

SLOVAKIA'S public broadcasters will share a new home in Bratislava by 2013, the government has decided.
The government approved the Culture Ministry's plan to move Slovak Television (STV) and Slovak Radio (SRo) into a new building on October 24.

SLOVAKIA'S public broadcasters will share a new home in Bratislava by 2013, the government has decided.

The government approved the Culture Ministry's plan to move Slovak Television (STV) and Slovak Radio (SRo) into a new building on October 24.

The Sk2.6-billion building (€78 million) is to be located near the new site of the Slovak National Theatre. Construction is expected to start in 2010 and wrap up by 2013.

A Culture Ministry report found that the new shared media complex is the best way to make the public media economically efficient, Nataša Slavíková, the general manager of the ministry's Media and Audio-visual Department, told The Slovak Spectator. It is expected to cut their operational costs by 60 percent.

"The building will have a clear economic effect, although its construction is demanding from the legal and organisational point of view," she said.

According to the report, conducted for the ministry by a private company, the SRo only uses 30 percent of its building, and the STV uses just 41 percent. In 2006, the SRo spent Sk81.3 million on the maintenance of its building, and the STV spent Sk66.3 million.

Culture Minister Marek Maďarič suggested that a common headquarters could also improve cooperation between the broadcasters.

"One building leads to . . . cooperation in some areas," he told the media after the government session on October 24. "And this can lead to some connections in the future."

The STV is not opposed to the proposal approved by the government, as long as it doesn't affect the broadcaster's output, STV spokesperson Želmíra Habánová said in a statement sent to The Slovak Spectator.

But in its comments on the proposal, the STV stressed that the report used to justify the building was not sufficient.

"The study is so general that the STV cannot responsibly choose any of the proposed alternatives," the management wrote.

Moreover, the report does not consider the needs of a TV broadcast, or the digitalisation that has already started in the STV, the comments read.

The SRo is not against the proposal, either. Deputy director general Vladimír Repčík told The Slovak Spectator that the plan for the media complex seems ideal for the broadcaster. But he also expressed some reservations.

"We agreed to cooperate with the Culture Ministry in carrying out this project," he said. "But so far we do not know how much editorial, physical, creative or technological room we will have at our disposal, in exchange for the capacity that we now own in the existing radio building."

Public media experts have been critical of the decision. According to Miroslav Kollár, former chairman of the STV Council, the control body of the STV, the government used inadequate information to make its decision.

"The basic data and reports were only reports for further discussion, not for the final decision," he said.

For example, the ministerial plan accounts for the sale of the current SRo and STV buildings, but this needs to be approved by the respective broadcasting councils first.

"Nobody consulted the councils; they automatically assumed that the councils will approve it," Kollár said. "This is not a solution that would result from a normal, partnership dialogue. Simply, it is a solution that was forced on the media without being based on really good analyses, I think."

Mária Hlucháňová, the former chair of the SRo Council, agrees.

"In my opinion, it all leads to the merger of both public media," she told The Slovak Spectator. "This is not right. Of course, politicians have a certain wish to have public media under their thumb."

The SRo building has a concert hall with high-tech equipment in it, and it is not clear what would happen to it if the building was sold, she said. She suggested it would be more economical to create a common building by expanding the SRo's pyramid building, on the valuable land that it already owns in the city centre.

Media analyst Andrej Školkay does not think merging the media buildings is the best solution.

"From the Culture Ministry report, it is not so clear that the alternative that was approved is the best one," he told The Slovak Spectator.

Not all of the options for solving the broadcasters' economic woes were considered, he said. He also disputed Maďarič's claim that the broadcasters could cooperate more if they were housed in the same building.

"In the era of internet and mobile phones . . . it is not a problem to communicate and exchange information across the same town," Školkay said. "It is enough to have goodwill."

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