Vachler in the midst of contest scandal

PRAGUE — It’s television awards season again in the Czech Republic, and that can mean only one thing: scandal.

Producer Petr Vachler, creator of the Elsa, the Czech equivalent tothe Emmy, stands accused of running a contest that lacks credibility — two days before the Elsas are presented and air live on pubcaster Czech TV.

TV Nova, the country’s leading terrestrial station, threw down the gauntlet Thursday, releasing a blistering statement, signed by topper Petr Dvorak, accusing Vachler of running a contest whose “criteria are not clear.”

Announcing it will “distance itself” and “not support” the Elsas, TV Nova said the awards “do not respect the development of the television market.” Neither TV Nova nor its rival terrestrial, Prima TV, won a single Elsa last year, with 11 of the 12 awards given going to the show’s host, Czech TV, several for Vachler productions.

TV Nova’s statement is getting major play in the Czech press.

Vachler, who also created the Czech version of the Oscar in 1993 — the Czech Lion — has responded with a statement of his own, referring people to the official Elsa rules posted on the Web site of the Czech Film & Television Academy, a body he created years ago.

Regs call for TV programs to be nominated by a committee of at least 25 industry professionals and academics, with noms then voted on by the academy’s 150-plus members.

“The results of voting are, of course, checked according to law by a notary and should not create any suspicion,” Vachler said.

One American TV producer with relationships at both Nova and Prima was perplexed by Nova’s attack: “That one is out of the blue,” he said. “It’s really surprising.”

The battle may just come down to market forces.

“The TV world has been turned upside down in the last three months, with Prima obviously dominating Nova with ‘The Chosen.’ It just comes down to people really having to compete with each other,” the producer said.

Prima, which has remained silent on the Elsa issue, has for the first time dominated ratings with its “Big Brother”-like original skein, passing up Nova and its officially licensed version of “Big Brother.”

Some say the pressure may be behind Nova’s public venting. That theory certainly jibes with Nova’s outrage that its hit talent search show has never won an Elsa: “Is it right if Elsa neglects licensed and very modern programs and shows such as ‘Czechs Seek a Superstar?,’ ” the station asked in the statement.

The Elsas are presented live on Saturday.

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