News Saturday, DECEMBER 30th, 2000

By: Rob Cameron

CT Board: Hodac to use 'all legal means' to restore normal service

The supervisory board of the country's public television network, Czech Television, has called on the station's newly-appointed Director General to use all legal means at his disposal to resume regular broadcasting, as the crisis over control of the station entered its tenth day. It was the first time the board had met since appointing Jiri Hodac, a move which has plunged Czech Television into crisis. News journalists say Mr Hodac will allow politicians to interfere with their editorial independence, and have occupied the news room in protest. They are supported by most of Czech Television's management and staff, and thousands of people have gathered outside the building to express their solidarity.

CT back on air, but watchdog chairman complains about news blackout

The chairman of the country's media watchdog, the Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting, has said Czech Television has not fully complied with Thursday's ruling which called on the station to immediately resume all broadcasts, including news programmes. Mr Hodac shut down both of Czech Television's channels on Wednesday evening as he and the rebel journalists fought for control of the station's output. Czech Television is now back on the air, but regular news broadcasts are still replaced with a message from Mr Hodac, saying the disruption is due to the presence of unauthorised persons in the news building. The rebel journalists continue to broadcast news bulletins by cable and satellite.

Political battle drags on

Meanwhile the political battle over Czech Television continued on Friday, with the right-of-centre Civic Democrats calling on unnamed political figures to stop interfering in the dispute. The statement refers to several politicians who have openly expressed their sympathy with the journalists occupying the building. The journalists themselves say Mr Hodac and the new Head of News, Jana Bobosikova, both have close ties to the Civic Democrats, charges which both they and the party deny. The Civic Democrat leader Vaclav Klaus, who is the speaker of the lower house of parliament, will host cross-party talks on the crisis on January 2nd.

Hodac denied police protection

A police spokeswoman said there was no reason to believe Mr Hodac's life was in danger, rejecting his request for police protection. Mr Hodac claimed he had received several threats since his appointment, and was having difficulty accessing some areas of Czech Television because of demonstrators on the premises. Mrs Bobosikova is already being accompanied by several security guards. Mr Hodac spent seven hours talking to the police on Friday, explaining the criminal complaints he has brought against the journalists. The police have so far indicated they will refuse calls to evacuate the newsroom by force, saying the dispute is an internal matter.

Dispute costing millions in lost ad revenues

The company which sells airtime for Czech Television said on Friday that the dispute was costing the station millions of crowns in lost advertising revenues. Michael Richter, director of the Arbo Media company, estimated that Czech Television had lost some 12 million crowns during the 24-hour shut down of the station alone. Firms which commissioned adverts have said they will demand compensation.

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

And turning to other news now, Austrian anti-nuclear activists who have been camping out on the Czech-Austrian border in protest at the launch of the Temelin nuclear power plant say they will remain there on New Year's Eve. Josef Neumuller, one of the organisers of the protest, told reporters that the group considered this a fitting way to see in the New Year. Mr Neumuller said that local people were providing both moral and material support. The group is to disperse on January 1st.

Havel, Klestil to issue cross-border New Year messages of goodwill

Meanwhile, in an effort to improve Czech-Austrian relations, which have been soured by the Temelin dispute, the Czech and Austrian presidents have agreed to issue a special New Year message to the citizens of each other's countries. President Klestil's message will appear in the popular Czech daily Mlada Fronta Dnes, while President Havel's greeting to Austrians will appear in the Austrian daily Der Standard.


And finally, a look at the weather: Saturday will be cold and overcast throughout the country, with snow in places. Sunday will be brighter, with the possibility of snow in mountain areas. Temperatures on both days won't climb above 1 degree Celsius.