Czechs take issue with EC TV quota

PRAGUE — Czech producers and private television reps were surprisingly vocal at a just-concluded meeting with European Commission audiovisual administrators in Prague.

Czech observers described the closed-door session as confrontational. At issue is the EC directive that 50% of television programming time (excluding news and sports) be devoted to European product.

The private Czech stations, now operating under what are considered some of the most liberal television regulations in the region, have built their hopes and success on a diet saturated with U.S. product.

Furthermore, to some in the private sector, quotas carry an unpleasant reminder of Soviet-era decrees.

The EC delegation described Central Europe as “a commercial battleground,” with audiovisual a strategic sector and a rapidly expanding industry. (“Jack Valenti is here oftener than I eat hot meals,” quipped one delegate.)

The delegates were more reserved in their assessment of the talks, the third in a series of meetings held during the past year, and cited the first efforts toward progress on the Czech side. A representative stressed the EC’s willingness to be flexible on the time frame for meeting the quotas, but added, “It is the law. They have to understand that.”

Said one independent observer, “Slowly the Czech neo-liberalists are learning that the Czech Republic is joining the EU, not the EU joining the Czech Republic.”

Following the meeting, a spokesman for the Audiovisual Dept. of the Czech Ministry of Culture told Daily Variety, “We will use the possibility to postpone the 50% quota, introducing the quotas slowly.”

The Czech government already has told the EC delegates that it will meet the quota directive and has begun preparation of a new audiovisual law, which should be ready by early next year.

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