Hodac's position shaken


It was a spectacular sight. At five pm on Wednesday tens of thousands of people gathered on Prague's Wenceslas Square calling for the controversial new head of Czech Television, Jiri Hodac, to resign. It was a show of solidarity with TV journalists who have refused to acknowledge Mr Hodac's authority describing him as a puppet of political parties.

In the course of Wednesday Czech Television's controversial boss, Jiri Hodac, looked increasingly isolated. His authority was further undermined, as the foundations of his political support began to disintegrate. The Prime Minister Milos Zeman again criticized the journalists who are occupying the TV newsroom in protest against Mr Hodac, saying that they were breaking the law, but on Wednesday evening he also distanced himself from Mr Hodac in no uncertain terms.

"I can fully understand the sentiments of those people who are calling for his resignation," the Prime Minister said, and he condemned a number of Mr Hodac's management decisions, especially a number of controversial appointments in the management, and his decision to switch off all broadcasts for 24 hours last week.

It became clear that the new TV boss could no longer count on support from the ruling Social Democrats. On Wedneday morning the government unanimously agreed on the wording of a new bill that - if it becomes law - will completely change the way the TV's director is appointed, a further snub to Mr Hodac's authority. Under the bill the supervisory board of Czech TV that appointed Mr Hodac - amid claims of political bias - will be replaced, with a new board to be nominated on a principle designed to limit the influence of political parties. Instead of being nominated directly by parliament, candidates for the board will be put forward by a broad spectrum of cultural, social, trade-union and religious organizations. The chairman of the lower house of parliament, Vaclav Klaus on Thursday morning declared a state of legislative emergency, which will makes it possible for the bill to go through parliament without delay. This means that following Friday's special parliamentary session the bill could be passed by the end of next week.

The upper house of parliament, the Senate, also held an impassioned debate to discuss the situation in Czech TV. The majority of Senators approved a call for Mr Hodac to go, with only eleven Senators from the opposition Civic Democratic Party voting in his favour. The Civic Democrats of former Prime Minister Klaus were isolated as the only significant political party with a majority in support of Mr Hodac remaining in office.