Czech TV staff on strike

Regulators don't back rebels or pubcaster

Updated January 1, 2001

PRAGUE — Czech TV’s 3,000 employees came out on strike today after state broadcasting regulators failed to resolve a standoff with the TV station’s new director.

The regulators voted not to support either the rebel staff’s pirate transmission or the pubcaster’s output.

But one member resigned after the others backed the controversial appointment of director general Jiri Hodac, who Czech TV staff members claim is politically biased.

In the battle for control, the reporters have earned mass public support, including that of President Vaclav Havel, threatening the country’s coalition government.

A rally is planned for Wednesday in Wenceslas Square, where a giant TV screen is showing the rebels’ broadcasts via satellite.

The lower house of Parliament announced Thursday that it will debate the crisis Jan. 5.

Hodac pulled the plug on the station’s terrestrial link Wednesday night in the battle for control of airwaves with reporters who have taken over the newsroom to broadcast their own shows. However, he restarted the programming on Friday.

The protesters have dug in at the newsroom, producing their own news bulletins — with significant time devoted to their struggle. The signal is being beamed out to the 10% of viewers with satellite or cable connections.

Clearing the air

Hodac’s news director, Jana Bobosikova, said Wednesday’s decision to cut all programs and air a note saying unauthorized people occupy the studios was a necessary step after the rebels began cutting into non-news programming. They did so after Bobosikova cut them off during regular newscasts, airing their own from rented studios.

“The leadership … cannot be responsible (for what is on the screens) when someone occupies the studio in a completely pirate way,” Bobosikova told the public Czech Radio.

Hodac was appointed by the Czech Television Council, whose members are dominated by nominees of the Civic Democrats (ODS) and the ruling Social Democrats (CSSD). The two parties have a power-sharing pact in Parliament.

President Havel, an arch rival of ODS leader Vaclav Klaus, has backed the rebels.

The Social Democrat leadership also has called on Hodac to resign to create room for negotiations.

(Reuters contributed to this report.)

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