News Friday, DECEMBER 29th, 2000

By Daniela Lazarova

Council for Radio and TV broadcasting supports new management

The Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting which on Thursday met to decide who should by right control the signal of the nation's public television station has issued a verdict in favour of the station's controversial new management.

As a result of an internal crisis, following the appointment of a controversial new general director , Czech Television had been putting out two rival news programmes, one compiled by a group of over 100 rebel journalists and technical staff , the other by a small group of employees loyal to the new management. After four days of this dual broadcasting the station's general director Jiri Hodac cut off all terrestrial broadcasts, demanding that the Council for Radio and Television arbitrate in the matter. On Thursday night the Council issued a statement confirming that only the management controlled news broadcasts are authorized and legal. The Council said the law on Czech Television had been violated in that the station's general director had lost control over broadcasting. The statement has failed to end the weeklong crisis. Although broadcasting on both channels of Czech Public Television was renewed at 6.40 pm CET, there are still frequent disruptions in the programme . The rebel Czech TV employees said they were disappointed by the verdict but did not consider it final. "There is too much at stake for us not to fight on," one of them told the CTK news agency. Czech Television's Supervisory Board, the body which appointed Hodac general director, is to meet on Friday to discuss the crisis.

Hodac says he fears for his life

Meanwhile, Czech Television's controversial new director Jiri Hodac has asked for police protection. Mr. Hodac said that since taking office he had received numerous anonymous letters and threats. These are not to be taken lightly, Hodac told the CTK news agency, adding that the daily crowd of demonstrators outside Czech TV's main headquarters made it difficult for him to go about his business. A police spokeswoman issued a polite refusal, saying Mr. Hodac could not get police protection since there was no reason to believe his life was in danger. "We are not a private security agency" she added. Jana Bobosikova, the news director appointed by Mr. Hodac, is already going about her daily tasks flanked by security guards. In spite of this, Mrs. Bobosikova suffered rough treatment at the hands of the crowd when she attempted to walk to her car on Thursday evening. Angry demonstrators reportedly hurled insults, spittle and kicked her car in anger. According to a CTK report she left the Czech TV headquarters physically unharmed but badly shaken.

Firms say break in broadcasting will be costly

Firms which have commissioned ads on Czech Public Television say they will demand compensation for their losses. This may represent a considerable sum since the Xmas ad-slots on both Czech TV channels are considered highly lucrative. The Association of Czech Advertising agencies has put the losses at an estimated 7 million crowns a day. The Czech Television management's decision to cut off all terrestrial broadcasts on Wednesday evening affected 80% of Czech households.

Austrian anti-nuclear activists will see the New Year in at the border

Austrian anti-nuclear activists who have been camping out at the Wullowitz-Dolni Dvoriste Czech-Austrian border crossing in protest at the activation of the Temelin nuclear power plant in south Bohemia say they will remain at their posts on New Year's eve. Josef Neumuller, one of the organizers of the protest action told the CTK news agency that the group considered this a fitting way to see the New Year in. "We will be among friends fighting for a good cause" Neumuller said, adding that the locals were giving them both moral and material support. The group is to disperse on January 1st.

New Year goodwill messages

Meanwhile, in an effort to improve Czech-Austrian relations, soured by the Temelin controversy, the Czech and Austrian presidents have agreed to use the media for a special New Year message to the people of the neighboring state.

President Klestil's message will appear in the most popular Czech daily Mlada Fronta Dnes, while President Havel's greeting to Austrians will appear in the Austrian daily Standard.

Elephants love Xmas trees

What do you do with your Xmas tree once the holidays are over? You may have come up with a number of ideas - but none stranger than turning it into a tasty feast. Who would eat a fir tree? Believe it or not, elephants. According to a CTK report three African elephants at the Dvur Kralove Zoo feasted on a number of fir trees -and the prickly branches deterred them not a bit. The zoo's director Dana Holeckova told the CTK news agency that fir trees are on the menu just once a year as a special treat. At the same time she has appealed on the public not to bring their Xmas trees over once they have no use for them. Bits of left-over decorations might seriously harm the animals.

And finally, a look at the weather:

Friday should bring partly cloudy to overcast skies with scattered sleet or snow-showers. Day temperatures between 3 and minus 1 degrees C. Nighttime lows five degrees below zero.