22-12-2000

The battle over the future of the country's public television network, Czech Television, has stirred the tranquil waters of the Xmas season. At a time when front pages usually carry Xmas sales-reports, advice on how to decorate your house or fry your Xmas carp to perfection, there is a storm of controversy over the status of Czech Television. Civic Democrat leader Vaclav Klaus' unexpected suggestion that Czech Public Television should be privatized, since in its present state it was neither fish nor fowl, has evoked plenty of negative comment.

Pavel Verner of Pravo calls the statement "a full-frontal attack on Czech democracy", saying he's amazed that Vaclav Klaus had the gall to voice the thought openly. Senators Michael Zantovsky and Jan Ruml of the right-of-centre four party coalition are of the opinion that Klaus' reaction spells anger, in other words "if we can't control it, let it go". The results of an opinion poll carried by Mlada Fronta Dnes show that the majority of the population appears to sympathize with the television employees and over 86% respondents said Czech Public Television needed a new law that would guarantee its independence.

In sharp contrast to that story, is the smiling face of javelin thrower Jan Zelezny. The Olympic champion has won the prestigious Czech Sportsman of the Year Award for the third time in succession. Apart from a 250,000 prize, Zelezny also won the chance to sing a duet with Lucie Bila, the uncontested queen of the Czech music scene. As with Lucie, Jan's victory no longer comes as a surprise, Pravo says. They are both firmly enthroned at the top. Asked how he'd spent the million crown award for his Olympic victory, Zelezny said he hadn't, it would help to "cushion his retirement."

Looking forward to Xmas? Not everyone is. According to Lidove Noviny, one in five people are stressed out or anxious about the festive season. One in ten people said they "hated Xmas". People who have been widowed, divorced or separated are likely to have a hard time, the paper says. But it is not only adults who are under pressure, children, who should enjoy Xmas the most, are also vulnerable to feelings of loneliness and depression. Zuzana Baudysove, wife of the former Czech defense minister, who set up a 24 hour Children's Hot Line says there are plenty of calls from lonely or frightened children over the Xmas season.

For the most part these calls are related to family violence, heated arguments that frighten children or excessive drinking. Children who live in one-parent families and seem quite happy with the arrangement throughout the year, also secretly hope that the other parent will appear at Xmas, no matter what, Baudysova says. So, even if you're up to your neck in hectic preparations for Xmas remember there are some things children need more than presents.

Not everyone does. All the papers report on the fate of a newborn baby girl abandoned on a deserted parking lot in the freezing cold. She would have died had it not been for a Polish truck driver who discovered the baby in one of the huge rubbish containers. The baby survived the temperature shock and is now in hospital, doing well. She's been named Mary and will need adoptive parents.

22-12-2000