29-12-2000

For over a week now the papers have been dominated by news of the battle for control of the country's public television network, Czech Television. And with every passing day the headlines become more dramatic. "Hodac Holds TV Audience Hostage," says Pravo. "Million-Crown Losses For Czech TV," reads Lidove Noviny. Controversial News Chief Attacked By Crowd" reports Mlada Fronta Dnes.

One thing commentators agree on. Only a new law on Czech Television can permanently resolve this damaging crisis. As for the immediate problem, Mlada Fronta Dnes believes that parliament should dismiss the present Supervisory Board of Czech Television and elect a new team of experts who would then fire the controversial new General Director. "The public's patience is at an end and politicians would do well to read that warning signal," the paper says.

Hospodarske Noviny says that in this battle there are only losers. Czech Television has lost a great deal and stands to lose much more before the situation returns to normal. Politicians have lost credit by electing a radio and television watchdog body made up of obedient puppets rather than a team of experts who would command respect. And finally, the Czech TV audience has also lost out since inevitably they will end up footing the bill.

Pravo wants to know why the Supervisory Board of Czech Television failed to meet for an emergency session the minute Hodac pulled the plug on both Czech TV channels. That was a gross violation of the law and certainly reason enough to recall Jiri Hodac then and there, Pravo says. The fact that the Supervisory Board failed to take this course of action makes it co-responsible for all financial losses linked to the 24 hour blackout.

Zemske Noviny slams the country's politicians saying " Until Czech politicians learn to play by the rules and stop trying to pull strings whenever and wherever it suits them, democracy in the Czech Republic will remain lame". The last thing Czech Television needs is to be dragged into political skirmishes and power struggles, the paper adds. What Czech Television needs is a Supervisory Board and management that are professional and unbiased, and will always work in the best interests of both Czech TV and its audience.

Such a board and management cannot be elected on the grounds of the existing legislation, says Slovo. At best, this Supervisory Board could offer a temporary solution. Then it will be up to politicians to give us a better legislation. By all means, let Parliament elect the members of a new supervisory board, but let it do so from a list of candidates which has been compiled by someone more competent in the field and which is politically unbiased.

29-12-2000