There are two main local agencies in Slovakia. First, there is the News Agency of the Slovak Republic (TASR). This is a public service institution (Act No. 358/2008 on the News Agency of the Slovak Republic). Second, there is a private SITA agency. In addition, there is the Press Agency of Cities and Villages of Slovakia (TAMO). Its focus is on regional events.
There also is a Roma Media Center (ME.CEM). It also monitors other media’s reporting on Roma issues.
TASR has evolved from the former federal news agency after 1992. The director-general of TASR is voted in by a five-strong board. The board is elected by the Parliament. TASR officially claims to release about 250,000 news releases annually. However, its own production (without export and special services such as cooperation with students) is actually only around 100,000 word items. 12,000 audio items, 46,000 photos as well as almost 9,000 videos (data for 2015). TASR employs about 120 editors and correspondents.
TASR gets a lot of money through contracts with the state to fulfill objectives in the public interest as stipulated in the law as well as occasional additional money for specialised projects. For example, TASR received €2.2m from the Ministry of Culture for 2016 year (Contract 68/2015/M). It is clear that regardless of its ability to increase its income (between 30 percent and 175 percent in various segments of its markets) in the 2014-2015 years, TASR could not compete independently on the market. TASR received between €1.2m and 4.3m annually in governmental grants in the 2011-2016 period. This represents a substantial part of its annual income.
Moreover, although in its Annual Report (2016, 37) TASR mentions that “TASR is a consolidated and well-managed institution“, it also mentions (p.10) that it actually runs an outdated and unreliable editorial system. Yet TASR has indeed attempted to catch up with digital technologies in other areas. It manages various online media. Most recently it has launched the first public service news website in English, Newsnow.sk. Within an older publicly accessible news web servers in the Slovak language, teraz.sk, TASR has created an incubator for the monitoring of social media networks. The first results of this monitoring can be seen in sections Politicians on FB and International news on Twitter (Politici na Facebooku, Zahraničie na Twitteri). Moreover, online TV, Tablet.tv, has broadcasted 1,447 programmes and 370 live broadcasts in 2015. Tablet.TV specialises in live broadcasting, production of original programmes and news reporting. Its programme Slovakia 24/7 is the only TV news programmes about Slovakia in English language.
In addition, TASR runs general and specialised web portals such as Webmagazín, Vtedy.sk, Školské noviny, Školský servis, Útulkovo, Vyhrávam and Zamestnaj sa. These portals had 3.739,548 unique visitors in 2014, while in 2015 their total number of unique visitors reached 11.332,938 (based on cookies, Gemius.sk).
SITA was established as a news agency in 1997. It was more a political decision of that time business people close to opposition than just a business decision. At that time, there was a rather difficult internal political situation in Slovakia and the opposition was afraid of freedom of the press. Therefore, one of the key instruments for guaranteeing freedom of speech seemed to be an independent news agency. After the regime change, after parliamentary elections in 1998, SITA introduced specialized services for businesses and institutions in 2001. Since 2004 SITA runs news portal Webnoviny.sk (with subsections focused at health, travel, business, life style and female audiences). In addition, SITA runs the following online accessible specialised projects: Prservis.sk, vEnergetike.sk, voFinanciach.sk and vZdravotnictve.sk. SITA is present on FB too.
SITA has over a hundred full-time reporters, editors, analysts, and dozens of other part-time staff members. SITA reports that it produces over 400 agency news items per day, dozens of sector overviews in various languages and media monitoring services. SITA increasingly specialises to become a provider of “individualized information solutions.“
SITA was the key facilitator when Penta entered into business with publisher of newspaper Sme.
SITA has clearly a disadvantageous position which is caused by state policy and not so much by lack of activity of the Anti-monopoly Authority. However, there are occasional voices among journalism professionals that support subsidies for TASR considering the importance of quality reporting via wire agency for the whole media sector. Other voices, based on critical evidence, questioned TASR’s political impartiality. Specifically, TASR gave undue prominence in its new service to extra-parliamentary Slovak National Party and its leader in 2015. However, after public criticism this biased coverage was stopped.
Finally, it should be mentioned that the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs still registers foreign journalists or local journalists who work for foreign media. As of late 2016, there were eight officially accredited foreign journalists from seven countries.