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Czech Republic: Public TV Stops Broadcasts

Prague, 28 December 2000 (RFE/RL) -- Czech public television has now gone off the air, as the crisis at the station -- which pits management against most of the TV's staff -- continues to deepen. For the past 8 days, the staff of Czech public television have called on the network's newly-appointed general director, Jiri Hodac, to step down. Hodac was elected by a parliamentary broadcasting council. But staff say Hodac, who has ties with the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) led by parliament chairman Vaclav Klaus, is a political pawn whose appointment violates Czech media law. TV staff have occupied the newsroom and until yesterday continued to produce their own programming, in defiance of Hodac.

Hodac pulled the plug on all programming yesterday, replacing it with a written announcement saying there would be no broadcasts until the issue is resolved.

Czech President Vaclav Havel is publicly backing the defiant journalists, as are many prominent cultural personalities. Havel said yesterday that Hodac's appointment -- though technically legal -- violates the spirit of the law. Havel reminded political parties their main duty was to represent the people's interests:

"The interests of a party are paramount to everything else and everything is done according to a party's interests -- from boards of banks to television, the party leaderships are supposed to determine which personnel gets what post and project their interests. This is not good. The parties are supposed to serve something, not themselves, not subordinate everything to serving themselves."

The leadership of the ruling Social Democrats has also urged Hodac to step down.