03-01-2001

The continuing crisis at Czech Television was the dominant feature on all the front pages this morning, in anticipation of public rallies on Prague's Wenceslas Square, and in Brno and Ostrava, on Wednesday afternoon. All papers note that the leaders of four non-communist parties failed to find a way on Tuesday to end a two-week-old battle for control of the public television station, which pits rebel journalists against a new director, whom they accuse of political bias.

MLADA FRONTA DNES carries a truly amazing story. The newly appointed news director, Jana Bobosikova, and her small team of newcomer presenters, collectively known as "Bobovision", yesterday repeated a newscast that was aired the day before. "The first day of the new millennium is coming to its end but primetime news has only just begun," a youthful female announcer intoned to the astonishment of TV viewers. The date was January 2, the time was 4 p.m. - and something evidently had gone wrong.

As it turned out, a handful of presenters loyal to the hapless new director Jiri Hodac had used the wrong tape, and the rebellious staff barricaded in the Czech TV newsroom were quick to point out that Hodac and his people had disgraced themselves by revealing that their amateurish newscasts, produced in a commercial TV studio, are always taped in advance. The Hodac team feebly defended themselves saying they were short of video tapes. Surely, there has been some mistake, quips MLADA FRONTA DNES.

On the same topic, Czech Television's popular news presenter Jolana Voldanova told LIDOVE NOVINY that her days in the strike-bound newsroom were over. After a week of picketing and working in the isolated newsroom, she was eager to be reunited with her small son Vojta.

ZEMSKE NOVINY points out that the hullabaloo about Czech Television has effectively obscured an important anniversary. On January 1 eight years ago, the Czech people, represented by their democratically elected parliament, established an independent state. Doesn't the present crisis illustrate the situation in the Czech Republic? the paper asks. Indeed, we Czechs really cannot emulate Americans by saying, yes, our founding fathers were wise and they bestowed a good state upon us. Some American rules have been in force ever since the Declaration of Independence and there was never the need to change or amend them.

Not so in this country, the paper notes. We have a bill of basic rights and liberties. We have a constitution and other laws. Some of these laws even have spirit - but what good is all of this? Americans, true to the letter and spirit of their Declaration of Independence, would say: If this government is indecent, let's topple it. But we Czechs tend to mask political interests in every conceivable way, such as, in this case, by the need to defend Czech Television and freedom of speech. Are Mr Klaus and Mr Zeman curtailing our freedom? Then let's demote them instead of asking them how the future of public-service Czech TV should be decided. Yet, instead of fighting Klaus and Zeman, Czech freedom fighters are waging a war on the hapless Mr Hodac. They are doing so in a political environment that can best be described as fuzzy, concludes HOSPODARSKE NOVINY.

Away from politics, and on a brighter note, the same paper reports that according to experts, last year was the best in ten years for the country's tourist trade. The paper ascribes record-high sales to an improved economical situation in the United States and throughout Western Europe, and a stabilised economic environment in the Czech Republic. Experts also note that Czech catering and accommodation facilities can now be compared to economically advanced countries. The Czech Statistical Office was quoted as saying that the number of overnight stays in Czech hotels in the year 2000 rose by over 18 percent compared to 1999. And the paper says almost 90 million foreign tourists visited the country from January to October 2000.

And finally, on a rather irreverent note, who's the Biggest Mouth of the year 2000? And the winner is... Prime Minister Milos Zeman, MLADA FRONTA DNES announces proudly. The prize, literally translated as the Snout of the Year, is awarded by an Internet chat group to the politician who has committed the highest number of gaffes over a given period. Mr Zeman collected over 4,000 votes and he can claim his coveted prize - a boiled pig's head complete with a snout. The runners-up are lower house speaker Vaclav Klaus with 400 electronic votes, and President Vaclav Havel, who collected a meagre 200 votes.

03-01-2001