News Wednesday, JANUARY 10th, 2001

By: Daniela Lazarova

Czech TV programming no longer disrupted

Czech Public TV programming is no longer being disrupted by rival news coverage and blackouts. The controversial head of news at Czech Television Jana Bobosikova, on Tuesday gave up her attempts to produce rival news coverage with a small team of employees loyal to management. Instead Czech TV viewers will see uninterrupted programming, including news-coverage and live programmes put out by the rebel journalists at Czech TV headquarters. The management of Czech Television has appealed to the rebel staff not to abuse the situation and to put out objective, balanced programmes. The decision was made after a particularly bad prime time news show by the management's team and a few hours after Senators Michael Zantovsky and Oldrich Kuzilek of the right-of-centre four party coalition called on Czech Telecommunications not to comply with orders from Czech TV management regarding future blackouts. The Senators described this as "unacceptable censorship" which was, moreover, in violation of a contract which Czech Public Television has with Czech Telecommunications.

Head of production at Czech TV resigns

In what is regarded as another victory for the rebel journalists, Jan Novak, the new head of production appointed by Mr. Hodac, on Tuesday resigned. Mr Novak said he was taking responsibility for having failed to secure normal broadcasting on both channels of Czech TV.

Politicians seek way of ending crisis at Czech TV

Meanwhile, Czech political parties are discussing ways to sack Jiri Hodac, the general director of Czech Television whose appointment sparked a staff strike and massive protests over alleged political bias. After Czech Television's Supervisory Board on Monday ignored a call from the lower house to dismiss the controversial general director as the only means of ending the deadlock, plans are now being made for Parliament to dismiss the Supervisory Board itself. Its powers would automatically be transferred to the lower house, which could then take effective measures to end the three-week-old crisis. These measures include dismissing the general director and electing a temporary replacement. In the meantime the lower house is to debate a new law on public broadcasting that would guarantee Czech Radio and Television full independence. The Civic Democratic Party has said it will not support the plans. As an alternative solution, the Parliament based Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting has offered to take over the powers of the Supervisory Board of Czech Television on a temporary basis.

EU commission – statement

The European Commission said on Tuesday it regretted disruption to Czech Public Television broadcasting and voiced hope for a prompt solution to the conflict.

At the same time EC spokesman Jean Christophe Filori was careful not to side with either party to the dispute, calling it "an internal matter of the Czech Republic".

IFJ offers know-how

The International Federation of Journalists, which represents over 450, 000 journalists in some 100 countries, has offered to help resolve the crisis at Czech TV. The IFJ's Secretary General Aiden White, who met with both the management and rebels at Czech Television, as well as with leading Czech top officials, said that there were various viable models in the EU on which the Czech Republic could mould its own public broadcasting law.

Czech foreign ministry warns against trips to the Philippines

The Czech foreign ministry has warned Czech citizens against travelling to the Philippines, especially the southern Philippines where Moslem separatist rebels are reported to have intensified attacks against government troops. The foreign ministry statement says the capital Manila cannot be considered safe either. 24 people died and over 120 were injured in a wave of bombings less than a fortnight ago.

Czech pub owner fined for racial discrimination

A Czech pub owner has been fined 8,000 crowns for refusing to serve Romanies. A Pilsen court found Ivo Blahout guilty of racial discrimination and inciting racial hatred by giving his staff orders never to serve Romanies in his pub. Romanies have not been admitted to the pub in Rokycany for the last six years. Mr. Blahout says the verdict is unfair. He told reporters he would not pay the fine and would take his case to the European Court of Human Rights.

CEZ to upgrade Dukovany power plant

The Czech power utility CEZ has announced that between now and the year 2010 it plans to spend 15 to 20 billion crowns on modernizing the nuclear power plant at Dukovany. According to the Dukovany management this includes regular maintenance as well as upgrading outdated technology. The management stressed that none of this is related to immediate problems, just the need to keep abreast of nuclear power technology in Europe.

And finally, a quick look at the weather: Wednesday should bring partly cloudy to overcast skies with some sleet or snow showers, especially in the higher altitudes. Day temperatures between plus 2 and minus 2 degs C. Nighttime lows may drop to minus 7 degs.