TV crisis continues following aborted Falbr meeting

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The never-ending Czech Television saga continues - the chairman of the largest Czech Trade Union organisation, Richard Falbr, is not a happy man: a meeting between striking employees and the new management ended in failure on Monday - for the simple reason that one of the sides didn't turn up. Vladimir Tax takes a look at the latest developments in this bitter dispute.

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The struggle over Czech Television is beginning to look more like a soap opera - with heroic staff on one side battling evil managers on the other. In the latest instalment on Monday, the management refused an offer of dialogue, producing a serious deadlock which no one seems to be able to resolve. The only way out of this dispute is if parliament promptly passes a new law on Czech Television, elects a new TV Council which will in turn appoint a new director.

On Monday, representatives of the rebel staff and the controversial management installed by former director Jiri Hodac were meant to be meeting to try to reach a compromise which would open the way for ending the strike. The negotiations were to be mediated by the chairman of the Czech Chamber of Trade Unions, Richard Falbr, who had prepared his own proposal for a solution. But to Mr Falbr's considerable surprise, Vera Valterova, who is in charge of running the station after Jiri Hodac was forced to leave, announced that she would not attend the meeting because she could see no signs of goodwill on the other side.

But Valterova did make one, rather relevant point. She reminded journalists that the rebel staff had always considered her as an incompetent person who had not been delegated any official powers. What, then, could they possibly want to talk to me for? she asked.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Milos Zeman gave the go-ahead to a plan by Mrs Valterova and her colleagues to hire an audit firm for an in-depth probe into Czech TV's finances since 1992. At the same time, they want to call a public tender for new newsroom staff to replace twenty or thirty of the most active rebels who the management have, they claim, dismissed. The rebel journalists, however, enjoy legal protection against being sacked while on strike. They say the tender will be a waste of money and effort because they are going to take the case to court.