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Politicians want more Slovak music

RADIO stations should play more Slovak music and give more airtime to Slovak music producers and the work of young Slovak musicians, so suggests a member of the parliamentary media and culture committee, who has already submitted a draft law to pursue this idea. While Culture Minister Marek Maďarič has lent a sympathetic ear to the initiative, he pointed to some of the challenges in the technicalities of such legislation, such as the definition of ‘Slovak music’, the Sme daily reported. Nevertheless, Eva Babitzová, the head of the Association of Independent Radio and Television Channels (ANRTS), the broadcasters’ association, sees much bigger problems with the idea than just technicalities: she says such legislation could be fatal for radio stations since people would stop listening to them.

Jozef Viskupič(Source: SME)

RADIO stations should play more Slovak music and give more airtime to Slovak music producers and the work of young Slovak musicians, so suggests a member of the parliamentary media and culture committee, who has already submitted a draft law to pursue this idea. While Culture Minister Marek Maďarič has lent a sympathetic ear to the initiative, he pointed to some of the challenges in the technicalities of such legislation, such as the definition of ‘Slovak music’, the Sme daily reported. Nevertheless, Eva Babitzová, the head of the Association of Independent Radio and Television Channels (ANRTS), the broadcasters’ association, sees much bigger problems with the idea than just technicalities: she says such legislation could be fatal for radio stations since people would stop listening to them.

Jozef Viskupič of the opposition Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OĽaNO), in his draft revision to the Law on Broadcasting and Retransmission, which he submitted on February 5, suggests that the volume of Slovak music broadcast by radio stations should fill up 30 percent of airtime between the hours of 6:00 and 22:00 by 2016, according to the SITA newswire.

Slovak radio stations in general devote 12 percent of their airtime to domestic music, while stations under RTVS, the public broadcasting service, probably already fulfil the highest quota, Viskupič claims, referring to available data.

He proposed that Slovak radio stations should gradually increase the amount of Slovak music they air, starting at 10 percent in 2014, 20 percent in 2015 and reaching 30 percent in 2016, according to SITA. For instance, in 2014, ten out of 100 songs should be Slovak while four of them should be new and at least one of them should be from a new artist, according to the TASR newswire. Viskupič also wants the Council for Broadcasting and Retransmission (RVR), the Slovak licensing authority, to run statistics on the amount of Slovak music that is currently broadcast, since otherwise it would be difficult to implement his proposed changes, SITA reported.

“We think that as the parameters of collective copyright currently function, a huge amount of money is leaking out of Slovakia which could be used for Slovak artists and artists who produce in the Slovak language,” Viskupič said as quoted by TASR.

“Private broadcasters play just as much [Slovak] music today as Slovak listeners want to hear,” Babitzová told The Slovak Spectator, adding that it can be easily monitored through surveys the broadcasters are conducting. “Moreover, it varies over time, when we are in a season when Slovak musicians succeed in producing more hits, which fits our format and what our listeners want, then the share of Slovak music automatically increases.”

Babitzová stressed that the private broadcasters are happy to play Slovak music but what they refuse to do is to impose on the listeners music they simply do not want to hear.

“It is impossible after all; they would stop listening to us,” Babitzová said.

The debate over Slovak music occurred after Maťo Ďurinda, the leader of Slovak rock music band Tublatanka, Jožo Ráž, the frontman of the rock band Elán, singer and composer Peter Lipa and Forza Music Company Director Július Kinček came to parliament to lobby Speaker of Parliament Pavol Paška for more domestic music on the radio, Sme reported.

Ministry points to complications

While drafting the legislation Viskupič communicated with Slovak music performers and authors as well as with the RVR. The proposal is based on the regulations of 12 countries from the European Union and the rest of the world, where there are specific rules for broadcasting original music that is native to the country, Viskupič said, as quoted by SITA, adding that he has already initiated discussions over the draft with members of the ruling party Smer. The party supports the discussion, but it is working on its own plan for dealing with the issue, according to TASR.

“To implement the obligation to transmit a certain percentage of Slovak music into the law is a valid and understandable demand,” Maďarič told Sme.

“I think we should prepare something like this.”

The Culture Ministry has recently begun to discuss the issue with some of the initiators of the amendment as well as radio station representatives, spokesperson Jozef Bednár told The Slovak Spectator.

It is too early to specify the exact amount of Slovak music to be played on the radio, since the percentage should lead to a higher amount of Slovak music broadcast in Slovakia, and nowadays, there is a lack of exact data about it, Maďarič told Sme.

He also pointed to the need to distinguish between full service or variety radio formats and music oriented radio stations.

It is not even clear what really constitutes Slovak music; for instance, could it be considered Slovak if only one Slovak artist participated on a particular song, or can a song sung in English by a Slovak artist also be considered Slovak, according to Maďarič, as Sme reported.

“It is a more complicated problem than Viskupič realises,” Bednár said.

Yet according to Babitzová, coming up with a definition of Slovak music is the least problematic part of the draft legislation. She added that the legislation is very unfortunate.

As for how to increase the percentage of Slovak music on the radio, Babitzová responded that if part of the law that forbids one broadcaster from owning several stations is repealed, it would help the case. She says that this rule has long been outdated and unfair: “if a publisher is good it can introduce as many new publications to the market as it wishes and the television stations, since digitalisation, are launching new channels one after another”.

“We can have only one station and thus, each one of us is trying to set our feet in the mainstream since that provides the greatest chance of sustaining a radio station,” Babitzová said.

She adds that if private broadcasters could have more stations she can very well imagine an oldies station as an additional format where Slovak music could be given more airtime.

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