Slovak TV privatization nixed

PRAGUE — In a surprise vote, the Slovak Parliament rejected plans to privatize the second channel of pubcaster Slovak Television late Wednesday.

The vote comes as a blow to the pro-government applicant, PRO TV, which had won the approval of the independent Council of Slovak Radio and Television in a screening process just three weeks earlier.

It also puts into question plans by Slovak TV to broadcast its second channel via satellite, a move originally meant to cut costs at the financially distressed station. Slovak TV hoped to fund the move to satellite by the sale of the new license.

A spokeswoman for Slovak TV told Daily Variety, “Our general director (Igor Kurbis) said we accept the decision of the parliament and we are prepared to continue broadcasting on Channel 2 and also via satellite.” How the pubcaster will manage to add to its broadcasting activities is something that will be discussed over the summer months, but outside observers reckon that Slovak TV will have to drop its satellite plans.

Slovak producer Rudolf Biermann, who had put in an unsuccessful bid with partner Scandinavian Broadcasting System (SBS), said, “Politically, it’s an important decision, and it was done at the right time, before Parliament approved any company. What wasn’t OK was that the council made a decision before Parliament voted upon privatization.”

The biggest winner in the vote is Markiza TV, the Slovak station of the Central European Media Enterprises (CME) stations group. Sylvia Volzova, co-holder of the Markiza license, and another bidder for the license to the Slovak TV2 channel, said, “We’re very happy this happened. This is very good for us. The market in Slovakia is so small.”

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