THE ‘BARBARISATION’ of the nation: this is how Culture Minister Marek Maďarič characterised the effect that he believes the third season of a TV reality show – in which women bid for the hearts of single Slovak farmers – is having on Slovakia.
After watching an episode of the reality show in question, which is broadcast in prime-time by TV JOJ, Maďarič called a press conference on September 11 to announce that his department will seek to regulate broadcasting time limits for programmes that include what he called vulgarities and which he said “dishonour” human dignity. The regulation would ban the broadcasting of programmes judged unsuitable for audiences under 15 years of age until after 20:00.
Slovak private broadcasters, of which TV JOJ is one, were quick to respond that such a regulation would put their channels at a disadvantage in the regional media market.
Maďarič also called on media professionals to initiate an open debate over programmes like Farmer Seeks a Wife, which he had seen on Saturday, September 8.
“I watched all of it and I was staring in silent awe. I have never seen such a high rate of vulgarity and a total degradation of a person on our nationwide stations in prime-time,” Maďarič said, as quoted by the TASR newswire.
The episode seen by Maďarič included sexually explicit behaviour and the use of vulgar language by its intoxicated ‘stars’.
Maďarič added that his ministry would initiate a round-table discussion addressing the question of where the limits of tolerance lie for programmes “lacking culture” that are broadcast by national commercial television stations, according to the SITA newswire.
TV JOJ insists that broadcast time limits would disadvantage private broadcasters, and suggested that Maďarič should focus his attention on the penetration of foreign television broadcasts into Slovak territory, mainly those in Czech, which are understandable to Slovaks and which are not subject to any regulation, TASR reported.
TV JOJ spokesman Jozef Gogola claimed that such regulation would be unprecedented in Europe and suggested that the Culture Ministry’s criticism was part of an attempt to justify an increase in so-called concessionaire fees that Slovak citizens pay on a monthly basis to public broadcaster Radio and Television of Slovakia (RTVS).
“Markíza is definitely standing behind its range of programmes, which according to surveys responds to viewers’ demands,” TV Markíza spokeswoman Oľga Dúbravská responded, as quoted by the Sme daily.
The vice-president of the Slovak Movie and Television Academy, Zuzana Mistríková, told Sme that the state should not regulate television broadcasts more strictly.
“It is another thing, however, to discuss how regulation currently occurs in practice, how it fulfils what the law says, and what the public expects from a regulator,” Mistríková said, as quoted by Sme.
In fact, on September 11, the very same day that he spoke out against the reality show, Maďarič also announced that the monthly concessionaire fee paid via electricity bills by each household to RTVS, which currently stands at €4.64 per month, would have to be increased. Maďarič was responding to statements by RTVS general director Václav Mika, who said that he was ready to fight for higher licence fees while offering some extra value in return, SITA reported.
While speaking to the parliamentary committee for culture and media on September 11, Mika said that the fees that viewers and listeners pay are the lowest in the European Union and have not been increased in line with inflation for a decade. Mika said that the fees are the only legitimate source of income for the public broadcaster.
Income from advertising carried by RTVS now makes up only 2-3 percent of its total income, Mika said. He suggested that next year, due to regulatory changes, advertising will make up only 0.5 percent of broadcast time and will generate only €2-3 million of revenue.
“I am stressing that only stretching out our hands and saying ‘give us more’ without having to do something more, that is not my topic,” said Mika, as quoted by SITA, adding that he wants to make the operating model of the public broadcaster more effective.
Maďarič expressed appreciation for the way in which Mika had broached the idea of upping the fee.
“It used to be along the lines of ‘give it to us, because we need it’. This is the first time that the general director is trying to offer something, trying to say what viewers would get in return,” Maďarič said, as quoted by TASR.