News Sunday, DECEMBER 31st, 2000

By: Daniela Lazarova

Embattled General Director gets ultimatum

The embattled new general director of Czech Television, Jiri Hodac, has been given until January 2nd to resume regular broadcasting on both channels of Czech Public TV. Following a stormy ten-hour marathon session on Friday, the Supervisory Board of Czech Public Television called on Mr. Hodac to use all legal means at his disposal to resume regular broadcasting. The board is to meet on January 2nd to assess the situation anew. The board's chairman Miroslav Mares indicated that the board would recall the new general director if he failed to meet the set ultimatum. "We expect to see immediate action" Mares said.

Resuming broadcasts will not be easy

Meanwhile, the embattled general director is reportedly trying to meet the legal requirements which would enable him to fulfill the ultimatum. This means getting a court order on the grounds of which police could evict the rebel journalists from the news studios. Police have so far refused to carry out Mr. Hodac's orders, saying that they consider the dispute at Czech Public TV an internal affair. Hodac's head of news Jana Bobosikova has said she would be able to guarantee full news coverage 48 hours after gaining access to studios and technical facilities.

Public support for the rebel employees grows

In the meantime, the rebel journalists who say they are fighting for the independence of Czech Public Television, continue to put out full news coverage and all scheduled programmes. These can be seen on cable and satellite, but only twenty per cent of Czech households have access to them. As support for the rebel journalists grows, huge screens are being set up on city and town squares and people are taking to the streets to watch the rebel news there. It is also available via the Internet. Ninety thousand people have now signed a petition in support of the rebel Czech TV employees. Close to two thousand of the station's three thousand employees are demanding the removal of the newly appointed general director on the grounds that he had in the past proved vulnerable to political pressure. Thousands of people have been braving the cold day after day, to attend the evening demonstrations outside Czech TV headquarters. A large demonstration has also been called for January 3rd, on Wenceslas Square.

More police officers on duty on New Years eve

Police are expected to be out in force to prevent possible violations of the law during the New Year's eve celebrations. The celebrations of the new millenium are expected to be more boisterous than usual and many people will take to the streets to celebrate the New Year on one of Prague's main squares. There are to be numerous attractions including fireworks and laser shows. Doctors have cautioned the public about the hazards of fireworks and home-made explosives. Children are the most frequent victims and the police say one of the most dangerous games teenagers engage in is stuffing explosives into empty champagne bottles for added effect.

Snow at last!

Ski enthusiasts can finally rejoice. The past 24 hours brought 10 to 15 cm of fresh snow across the country and most mountain resorts report adequate to good skiing conditions. Although most roads have been cleared, drivers are being cautioned to use winter tires and chains in the higher altitudes.

And finally a look at the weather forecast for the last day of this millenium: Meteorologists predict more snow showers with day temps between 0 and minus 4 degs C. Nighttime lows 8 to 10 degs below O.