Protest mushrooms on Czech TV

Artists hijack airwaves

PRAGUE — Czech Television is recovering from a nuclear strike of sorts — a group of artists, that is, who set out to bolster skepticism about what’s seen in the media by hacking into a video feed and airing footage of a mushroom cloud.

The pubcaster’s “Panorama” program, which broadcasts live morning footage of Czech landscapes around the country, along with temperature and weather conditions, had audiences stunned Sunday when, instead of viewing the placid Krkonose Mountains, in East Bohemia, they saw footage of an atomic bomb blast.

Czech TV, pointing out that the feeds are supplied by external contractors, has announced it will take action against the company that allowed the shadowy Ztohoven group of artists and social critics to hack into its camera cables. The station is also attempting to sue the group if members responsible for the action can be tracked down.

Ztohoven is known for its public parodies of national issues: When Czech President Vaclav Havel stepped down from office in 2003, Ztohoven changed an enormous neon heart that adorned Prague Castle into a question mark by covering half of it.

In 2003 they covered 800 billboards in Prague’s underground metro system with white posters featuring a large black question mark and a link to their Internet page.

An anonymous member of the group said the mushroom cloud stunt was intended to show how advertisements “abuse our innermost desires, ideas and feelings in order to sell goods.”

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