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Czechs check chief

Media watchdogs try to topple Nova topper

PRAGUE — U.S. cosmetics heir Ronald Lauder’s Central European Media Enterprises will be waiting to see whether media watchdogs can do what it failed to do in 1999: Oust Nova TV topper Vladimir Zelezny.

The Czech Broadcasting Council met Tuesday to consider Nova’s request to nix Zelezny’s right to sign legal documents for the Republic’s No. 1 station, effectively ousting him. The council could make a ruling when it meets again Thursday.

Zelezny was voted out of his position by the station’s license holders earlier this month, but he refused to leave, saying the move was illegal.

The action hinges on who owns the majority of Nova’s license. Zelezny, once the 66% shareholder, has seen his power dwindle after a capital increase in the company two years ago cut his share to 13%.

Local reports indicate Zelezny’s internal opponents are giving him a chance to voluntarily step down. But so far, he is refusing to take the hint.

Program to get hook

Service provider Czech Production 2000 intends to pull his weekly program, “Call the Director,” in which Zelezny answers viewers’ written questions. Critics complain he uses it as a platform for his own agenda.

This is the second time Zelezny has been fired from Nova and refused to leave.

CME, the station’s original investors, tried to remove Zelezny in 1999. But CME found itself without a station when Zelezny used the TV license to attract local backers and relaunch Nova himself.

CME filed a series of lawsuits and won one case against Zelezny and a second against the Czech Republic for failing to protect CME’s investment. A judgment in the latter case is expected in September, with CME asking in excess of $500 million.

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