Newsview NOVA & TV3


There seems to be no end in sight to scandal within the Czech Republic's private television stations: earlier in the week Czech police intensified their criminal investigation into the business activities of media magnate Vladimir Zelezny, the general director of the country's largest private commercial station, TV NOVA, and on Wednesday the Czech Republic's newest commercial station, TV3, went off the air, leaving viewers staring at blank screens. By Jan Velinger and Nicole Klement.

Moving technical equipment from the station's Hradec Kralove studios,  photo: CTK
TV3 licence holder Martin Kindernay confirmed on Tuesday that he had ordered TV3's service organisation to stop broadcasting or face immediate legal action; Mr Kindernay cited "technical reasons" for the cutting off of broadcasting, but the move is evidently part of an ongoing struggle for control of the station, involving Mr Kindernay versus the station's foreign investors.

Mr Kindernaj, the holder of the terrestrial broadcasting licence, got into conflict with TV3 after he transferred the broadcasting licence to his own private company, RTV Galaxie.

On Monday investors, represented by Luxembourg-based company European Media Ventures, moved technical equipment from the station's Hradec Kralove studios to TV3's Prague headquarters, telling the media that the TV3 would continue broadcasting via cable and satellite. So far, the Council for Radio and TV Broadcasting have refused to step in, claiming it is a business dispute.

Political commentator Vaclav Pinkava believes that the ongoing disputes in the commercial media sector stems from insufficient legislation and that investors should therefore expect to have problems. At the same time, Mr Pinkava sees a problem in the fact that many foreign investors have tried to take advantage of the developing market to make a quick profit and engaged themselves in dubious business deals.

"And I really have no particular sympathy with people who, in the interests in making pots of money, make mistakes with the partners they chose, or even the countries they choose to operate in, because those are the risks they have chosen to incur, to get rich later."

TV3 licence holder Martin Kindernay
There are suggestions that Martin Kindernay's company is somehow associated with the general director of TV NOVA, Mr Zelezny who himself is in the midst of a complicated legal battle with American media company CME. And observers say the way Kindernay is dealing with his business partners very much resembles Mr. Zelezny's ways. However, developments in the past days, including the arrest of Mr. Zelezny's lawyer, indicate that although slow, justice does work. Furthermore, Mr Pinkava sees the Czech Republic's EU accession as a factor which will substantially improve the business practices within the media sector.

"I think the whole thing is going to stabilise progressively faster and faster, I think the whole thing is a sort of non-linear process, there are enough causes for concern coming through the media, matters are coming to a head, I think really the watershed for me is joining the EU, because a lot of what is going on here is being done frantically while it's still possible to live on the outskirts of Europe, in a kind of quasi-commercial, quasi-democratic society, and the normalisation, to use that horrible word, that will come with being part of this awfully boring thing called the EU, will be for the good of this country, and I think that's when everything will finally sort itself out because a lot of these loopholes in law, and in the way it is applied, will be closed for us by the accepted practices of the European Union and that's why I think it's a very good thing for this country to be in the EU."

Authors: Nicole Klement , Jan Velinger
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