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Public radio station plans layoffs as it restructures

Slovakia's state-run radio station, Slovenský Rozhlas, is embarking on a major restructuring of its organization that will result in layoffs of at least 100 of its staff in the station's technical department, a top representative at the station told The Slovak Spectator.
According to Vladimir Holan, Slovenský Rozhlas's deputy director and program manager, the station's directors are making recommendations to their supervisory committee, the Council for Radio Broadcasting, involving program restructuring and major outlays for administrative and technical equipment.
Holan contends that these changes are necessary to bring Slovenský Rozhlas up-to-date. "It is clear that these changes are a question of survival," he said.

Slovakia's state-run radio station, Slovenský Rozhlas, is embarking on a major restructuring of its organization that will result in layoffs of at least 100 of its staff in the station's technical department, a top representative at the station told The Slovak Spectator.

According to Vladimir Holan, Slovenský Rozhlas's deputy director and program manager, the station's directors are making recommendations to their supervisory committee, the Council for Radio Broadcasting, involving program restructuring and major outlays for administrative and technical equipment.

Holan contends that these changes are necessary to bring Slovenský Rozhlas up-to-date. "It is clear that these changes are a question of survival," he said.

The changes were deemed necessary, Holan said, after the directors compared the station's staff numbers to those of other public broadcasting organizations. What they found was that leading stations such as the Austrian radio channel ORF and the British public station BBC employ many fewer people to do more work than does Slovenský Rozhlas.

"Productivity is very low," says Holan, attributing this to outdated equipment and an inefficient bureaucracy. ORF employs just 125 technicians to Slovenský Rozhlas's 225. Likewise, the BBC claims to use one technician for each broadcast, whereas Slovenský Rozhlas uses two.

For this reason, Holan said, the currently overstaffed administrative and technical areas will be reducing staff as efficiency increases. He estimated that 100-200 jobs are expected to be eliminated over the course of one to one-and-a-half years, with new technical and administrative equipment making these positions redundant.

"Slovenský Rozhlas has not invested any money in improvements for the last three years, as it took all of the organization's funds to keep it running, [albeit] inefficiently," Holan said.

For instance, Slovenský Rozhlas plans very soon to spend 50 million Sk on a computer system that should eliminate about twenty-five jobs in economic operations alone. Improved records keeping, an internal communication network, Internet, and even programs that will automatically air pre-recorded broadcasts will be part of the new system.

Holan predicts another 80 million Sk will be invested in broadcasting technology.

While lay-offs have not started yet, some staff changes are already underway. Newly-hired technicians are no longer given contracts for full-time work, regardless of demand for their services.

Now, technicians' contracts are limited to a set of hours actually worked, thus phasing out a system which allowed many technicians "down time" after working just a few hours a day in the broadcasting booth when there are not many shows to record. In addition, when people retire from administrative posts they are not being replaced. People will not be forced into early retirement, however.

On the other hand, with the new savings the directors want to increase editors' salaries, as their salaries are known to be some of the lowest in the field. It is hoped that the salary increases will halt the flight of talent to better-paying private radio stations.

The organization is the Slovak Republic's public broadcasting medium and has listeners in 104 countries, with a reported 3.5 million listeners in Slovakia and international broadcasts in English, French, German, Hungarian, and Russian. An estimated 900 employees work in the station's office in downtown Bratislava. The organization has seen many big changes in recent years, with frequent programming and leadership shake-ups (there has been no director since June) along with increased competition from private radio stations.

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