Czech TV station to be probed

Prez calls Council to discuss Nova's national influence

PRAGUE — An announcement by Nova TV general manager Vladimir Zelezny that the station has been cleared of legal questions concerning its operations may have been premature.

Now President Vaclav Havel has entered the fray, calling a meeting between the Czech Council of Radio and Television Broadcasting and the parliamentary commission overseeing media affairs to discuss the influence of Nova TV on Czech society and politicians. The meeting will examine to what extent Zelezny is behaving fairly toward TV viewers and state regulators.

Members of the radio and TV council, a regulatory body that grants licenses, complain that they no longer have any real power over Nova, because the management has successfully maneuvered its way through legal loopholes.

Possible irregularities in the licensing procedure are also under scrutiny.

Although Nova’s share of viewers has dropped from more than 70% to near 50%, there is still fear that Nova will trounce its competition.

A key point of interest is Beseda Holding, a company whose ownership remains unclear. Zelezny has denied that there is a connection between Beseda Holding and Nova owner Central European Media Enterprises (CME).

Publicly available information shows that Beseda purchased a majority stake in Prima Plus, the company that manages rival commercial broadcaster Prima TV, and that Beseda Holding sister companies provide services to both Nova and Prima, as well as to other broadcasters.

A related source of friction is Zelezny’s regularly skedded “Ask the Director,” with complaints that Zelezny has unfairly used it as a format to attack rival stations, particularly public broadcaster Czech TV.

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