Arrests stall Prima TV sale

PRAGUE — The arrest of the director and deputy director of IPB bank in Prague is holding up the sale of Prima TV.

An announcement expected at the beginning of May was squelched by the April 30 arrests. IPB, which holds a 45% stake in Prima TV, was to sell off all but 10% to 15%, according to the bank’s spokesman. Conflicting reports have been circulating regarding the status of the sale.

The sale has drawn heated speculation, since it was announced that Nova TV, the successful CME-affiliated private broadcaster, wanted to buy Prima TV, which is the only other private terrestrial station in the Czech Republic. Speaking with Daily Variety, Nova TV’s general director Vladimir Zelezny said, “Nova is not a bidder and is not interested in buying Prima.”

Instead, he said, IPB was one of several banks offered the opportunity to buy shares in CNTS, the entity which broadcasts Nova TV; however, they were still undecided before the arrests of the bank’s directors. “Neither CET21 (the Nova license holder) nor CNTS is interested in buying Prima. I was very angry when this was reported in the Czech press,” Zelezny said. “It’s a misunderstanding.”

However, the “misunderstanding” arose from Mr. Zelezny’s own statement before a parliamentary committee, which has drawn differing interpretations. Of two members of the Council of Radio and Television interviewed, one described it as “a joke that some people didn’t understand” while another called it “a test balloon” that drew a negative reaction.

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