Czech TV Council fails to elect new general director

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The Czech Television Council on Wednesday failed to elect a new general director for the country's public television network. Apart from prolonging instability at Czech Television, this development has evoked grave doubts regarding the competence of the Council itself and the existing law on public broadcasting.

If finding a president for the Czech Republic appears to be a daunting task, it is nothing to finding a general director for Czech Public Television. Although the mandate to run Czech TV is for six years, four directors have come and gone in the last five. The last in line, Jiri Balvin was dismissed in November for poor management, poor programming and a lack of transparency in financing.

In the past three months the council interviewed over thirty applicants, seeking a personality who would command respect, stand up to political pressure and give Czech TV a new breath of life. Of the six finalists who took part in Wednesday's vote none appeared to meet these requirements. Why is it proving so hard to find a new general director for Czech TV - a question I put to political analyst Jiri Pehe.

"I don't think it should be difficult to find the right person for the job - there are a lot of qualified people who would be suitable. The problem I think rests with the TV Council. That institution is quite obviously under the influence of political parties, it is appointed along party lines and there are all kinds of interests and lobby pressures that play a role in selecting a new director. As long as we do not have an impartial TV council - a council protected from political pressure - we will not have a good general director of Czech Television."

So what do you suggest would help the situation at this point - a new law?

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"I think that the only real solution is to adopt a new law on Czech Television that would allow Parliament or some other institution to elect a truly independent TV council and such a council. Such a council would be more or less free from political pressures and lobbying interests and could select a director who is independent."

We've seen a lot of general directors come and go at Czech public TV, we've also heard a lot of criticism against it - how would you assess its qualities, is it really as bad as some people say?

"No, I don't think that Czech Television is bad. I think that if you compare it with other public television stations in Europe it is a good average. However electing a new director every year makes this institution rather unstable and I think that the only way to stability is to have a director who will preside over this institution for several years and have time to implement some of his visions."