ALTHOUGH the public broadcaster Slovak Television (STV) says it is protected from political pressures in the run-up to the parliamentary elections, its economic dependence on the state and burgeoning debt may leave it open to political interference, media experts say.
STV's budget for 2002 is Sk1.6 billion ($33.3 million), including state funding of Sk216 million ($4.5 million). The majority of the station's income is collected in the form of monthly fees which every TV-equipped household has to pay.
STV Director Milan Materák lamented that the sum was tiny compared to neighbouring public broadcasters. He said that the 2002 budget of the Czech public TV, for example, was about Sk7 billion ($145.8 million).
STV's large debt to Slovak Telecom (ST) is causing the station additional financial misery.
The debt has accumulated gradually since 1996. Although the state paid off Sk565 million ($11.8 million) to ST in July last year, after ST threatened to turn off STV's transmission signal, STV still owes ST Sk411 million ($8.6 million).
Stanislava Benická, head of the Slovak Syndicate of Journalists (SSN), said that "lack of political will" in parliament was to blame for the enduring and critical situation at STV, but noted that STV's management was partly at fault for "not exercising sufficient pressure on parliament to do something about it".
Materák told The Slovak Spectator that he plans to meet with ST's management in the last week of January, where the two parties will discuss solutions to STV's debt.
Benická and Materák agreed that as long as STV's debt existed it would be impossible for the station to "behave like a healthy business enterprise".
28. Jan 2002 at 0:00 | Martina Pisárová