Time running out for TV Nova?


In just a few days parliament is due to appoint a new Council for TV and Radio Broadcasting, to replace the previous Council which was sacked over the TV Nova arbitration affair. But the government appears to be putting pressure on the new body even before it's come into existence: Culture Minister Pavel Dostal was quoted as saying on Monday there were clear grounds for the Council to revoke TV Nova's licence - something the previous Council stubbornly refused to do. With such a politically sensitive appointment just days away Mr Dostal's comments certainly appear to be ill-timed, but commentator Jiri Pehe believes there are grounds for pulling Nova off the air.

Logo TV Nova
"I think there are certainly serious reasons why this should be considered, simply because TV Nova's director - Vladimir Zelezny - has, in my opinion, repeatedly misused this private television station for his own political agenda. He has addressed the nation every Saturday in a programme that, in my opinion, violates the terms of Nova's licence. And also TV Nova is seriously violating the principle of political impartiality in its news programmes, which was one of the conditions of granting the licence."

If moves are put in place to revoke the licence now, won't this been seen as a simple act of revenge against Vladimir Zelezny for saddling the country with a 350 million dollar debt, following the recent international arbitration verdict?

"No time will be good enough to start proceedings against Nova, there will always be a reason why not to do it, and the question of timing will also be sensitive. I guess at this point Culture Minister Pavel Dostal could have waited a few days; announcing just a few days before a new Council for TV and Radio Broadcasting is elected that he wants the Council to take away Nova's licence, that was probably not a very smart move. But on the other hand, as I have said, I don't think any time is good, and Mr Dostal has made clear what he thinks of TV Nova for a long time."

But the Czech Republic has often been criticised for the way politicians attempt to put pressure on the media, both the public media and the private media. Isn't this a prime example of a politician putting pressure on what's supposed to be an independent body?

"To some extent yes, but on the other hand if I understand properly what Mr Dostal is saying, he basically says he will submit to the Council his request for considering taking away the licence. He's not saying the Council has to do it: I think he understands very well that the Council is an independent institution and it doesn't have to go along with his proposal."