Czech TV – Under fire again
As with most major publicized disputes in the Czech Republic, the CTV one will ultimately follow along typical Czech guidelines: the major points will gradually be diluted by less significant ones, ultimately diffusing into oblivion. All that will remain, will be the recollection of the month-long “strike” by CTV workers, and the fact that after the station started broadcasting again, nothing really changed. Least of all the fact that even though everyone with a TV pays a “public TV user tax” to the government, no mention of any sort of refund to taxpayers was ever made.
History repeats itself, particularly on Wenceslas Square in Prague, where people have been gathering to demonstrate for over 100 years. It was there that several months ago 100,000 people gathered to voice concern over the government-appointed TV council’s attempts at controlling CTV. Just as they did in 1989, the people came, sang songs, jingled their keys, returned to their homes and taverns, and congratulated themselves on a fine showing. And then they waited for something to happen. It did. Parliament media committee chairman Ivan Langer (ODS) has now launched another full-fledged attack at CTV, by pushing a bill to severely limit its paid advertising revenue.
There are three reasons why the issues around CTV won’t be solved for some time to come.
The first is the unbridled legislative power of parliament and its media committee. For example, the Senate substantially modified parliament’s bill concerning CTV reforms, only to have its modifications thrown out and the bill passed by simple majority on its return to parliament. Except for a few specific instances, the Czech Republic does not follow the rule of other democracies, where a higher percentage of votes is needed to override vetoes. Thus, the Senate is left with so-called “moral authority”, something that stands up poorly to legislative railroading. Second, we allow our parliamentarians to do as they please. In the Czech Republic, traditional “watchdog” organizations that function effectively as civic sector safeguards of democracy have yet to become effective. In the case of CTV, the Czech Syndicate of Journalists failed miserably in unifying journalists and to focus the debate, and instead remained in the background without any constructive suggestions or attempts at a leadership role.
In young democracies, it’s particularly easy to cloud the big picture by smaller details. The ultimate solution regarding CTV lies not in examining Czech public television, but rather TV in the Czech Republic as a whole. As opposed to Czech radio which has over 80 registered stations (and where therefore no similar crisis exists), in the Czech Republic there are only four all-state TV stations. Of these,TV NOVA has a monopoly that dwarfs any possible conception of balance. As long as CTV is placed in the position as being the only reasonable alternative to NOVA’s standard fare of sex, blood, and car wrecks, the problems at CTV shall continue. The time is ripe to explore this imbalance and the facts behind NOVA’s continued TV monopoly, such as its relationship with the past government of Václav Klaus’ ODS, as well as the now-failed Czech banking giant IPB.
Examples of possible solutions already exist. A mere glance across our borders to Germany can provide inspiration. There, numerous alternative programming stations have been allowed to spring up, bringing needed competition to the market place. At the same time, if a station garners more than a certain percentage of viewers, it is fined. But in the Czech Republic, political interference media and the big money associated with it, along with reinventing the wheel, remain the order of the day.
|The New Presence||winter 2001|
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