Zelezny gains first victory in dispute over TV Nova

The long-standing and complicated dispute over the Czech Republic's most popular commercial television station, TV Nova, saw a landmark decision on Thursday: the High Court in Prague ruled in favour of TV Nova's controversial and enigmatic general director, Vladimir Zelezny. Nick Carey reports:

The dispute over TV Nova is complex to say the least. To cut a long story short, TV Nova, the Czech Republic's first independent television station, began broadcasting in 1994. Funding came from a company called CME, which is majority owned by American businessman Ronald Lauder. The license for TV Nova was controlled by Mr. Zelezny, the Czech partner in the business.

In 1999, CME alleged that Mr. Zelezny had been asset-stripping the company, and dismissed him as general director of TV Nova. Mr. Zelezny responded by pulling the plug on TV Nova and, as the license holder, began broadcasting his own version. CME, and the Czech branch of the company, CNTS, cried foul, and took Mr. Zelezny to court, saying that CME had exclusive rights to provide programming for TV Nova. The High Court in Prague ruled on Thursday that the deal was not exclusive, and that Mr. Zelezny had acted in accordance with the law.

In a very lengthy, extended report on TV Nova's main news programme on Thursday night, Mr. Zelezny delivered a speech, saying that this was a clear victory for him. CME, however, intends to appeal the ruling in the Supreme Court, and there is also a case pending in the International Chamber of Commerce in Amsterdam against Mr. Zelezny. I spoke to Milan Kruml, a media expert at the Czech daily Mlada Fronta Dnes, and asked him first of all for his reaction to the ruling: