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The Battle For Bulgarian TV

By Maxim Behar

Sofia, April 24 (RFE/RL) - The chief of Bulgaria's national television, Ivan Granitsky, is apparently to be removed. Leaders of Bulgaria's governing Socialist Party last week voted to remove Granitsky, but the decision must be made by Parliament. And our Sofia correspondent reports Parliament is expected to vote to remove Granitsky as early as today.

The TV chief was appointed less then a year ago by the Socialists, after parliamentary deputies decided to change the ruling body of the National Television, and withdrew their support of the former chief Hacho Bojadzhiev. Bojadzhiev is one of Bulgaria's most famous TV movie directors.

Bojadzhiev tells our correspondent that, at the time, he characterized Granitsky's appointment as "strange." Bojadzhiev went on to describe Granitsky as an "amateur" in the tv business.

At the moment, observers say Bulgarian TV is the most powerful media in the country. There are a lot of private newspapers and magazines on the market. But our correspondent quotes a saying in Bulgaria about the print media as: there is a free press, but there is not free printing, because all the papers are printed in one and the same Printing House - and it is state owned.

Last year, Parliament blocked granting a license for a nation-wide private TV. Two more TV channels - Nova TV and 7-Days TV - already have their local license for the region of Sofia, but their influence is viewed as minimal.

The battle for control of Bulgarian TV comes just several months before presidential elections, due to be held in late November.

A high-ranking official of the Socialist Party tells our correspondent - quote: "We can not allow the state television to support President Zhelju Zhelev. We simply must win the elections this year, and for this reason powerful media like the national television is the most important detail of the pre-election campaign."

Supporters of Granitsky at the tv, including other high-ranking officials, have threaten to resign if he is removed.

And the tv management denies a "pro-Zhelev" bias, as charged by some leaders of the Socialists. The managment cites statistics, over the several months, indicating the most-shown person on the screen is Parliament Chairman Blagovest Sendov. Sendov has been mentioned as a possible Socialist Party challenger to Zhelev, although Foreign Minister Pirinski is also said among those being considered. The tv management statistics also indicated that Socialist Prime Minsiter Zhan Videnov is the second-most shown person on the screen, while President Zhelev ranks third.

Granitsky himself is a member of the Socialist Party.

But one of Prime Minister Videnov's top advisers and Socialist Party leader Vladimir Topencharov this week said, "The problem is not if Granitsky is more red or less red. The main problem is that Granitsky is totally unpredictable. Nobody knows how he will react at the final stage of the elections. We can not afford to take a risk, that is why he must leave as soon as possible."