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LN: Czech Television must be more independent, not state-run

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Prague, May 17 (CTK) – The public Czech Television (CT) should not become a state institution, which President Milos Zeman has proposed, but, on the contrary, it should get even more independent of the state, Hana Marvanova writes in daily Lidove noviny (LN) on Tuesday.

Zeman claims that CT is a mouthpiece of one political party, Marvanova, a lawyer and former MP, writes, hinting at the right-wing opposition TOP 09.

Last week, Zeman said CT should be a state institution rather than a public corporation. He repeatedly said CT distorted facts. This opinion was shared by Finance Minister Andrej Babis (ANO). Zeman and Babis also argue that the state-run CT and CRo would save people’s money.

At present, people who have a TV set or a radio receiver pay monthly fees for the broadcasting of CT and the public Czech Radio (CRo).

Marvanova says Zeman is not the first politician to demand that CT be subordinate to the state and the government because he is angry about its broadcasting. No democratic politician should make such a proposal, however, she writes.

The public broadcasting is supervised by the CT Council and the CRo Council whose members are elected by parliament. Though the members should be nominated by associations representing various interests, they are in fact selected by the strongest political parties, Marvanova writes.

The council members should be directly nominated by widely respected organisations, like in Germany, and the councils should have more powers to control the financing of CT and CRo, she says.

The present trend towards the growing concentration of the ownership of private media in the Czech Republic can be hardly stopped. As the operation of the private media is not profitable, entrepreneurs often own media not to make money, but to push through their interests, Marvanova writes.

It is noteworthy that the independence of the media and the unbiased reporting is guaranteed merely by the good will of the owners, she says. This is one of the biggest threats to democracy in the country because most people do not realise that they make decisions under the media influence just as they buy goods under the influence of advertising, she adds.

The idea of putting CT and CRo under state control is very dangerous for the democratic development in the Czech Republic, Marvanova writes.

In Poland, the new government has recently yielded to the temptation of making personnel changes in the public media to make them more loyal. Any government would like to have loyal public media, but the citizens should not allow it, Marvanova writes.

The weeklies Tyden and Respekt deal with Zeman’s proposal for making CT state-run in their latest issues out on Monday, too.

In Tyden, Ondrej Fer says a state-run CT would become a communication channel that further spreads the messages of the Government Office press section, which is what happened for example in Poland.

CT reporting and investigative journalism would need much more money than it has, Fer writes. CT should prefer investments in them to financial participation in the making of new Czech films, he says.

The public CT should neither generate profit nor compete with private television channels and the CT Council should be composed of strong, independent personalities, Fer writes.

In Respekt, Ondrej Kundra writes that Zeman wants CT not to be financed from the government-controlled budget rather than fees paid by the TV viewers. Zeman claims that this is the only way to make CT stop promoting the right-wing opposition and making biased reports on the developments in Ukraine and Russia, Kundra writes.

Zeman’s wish to make the public CT subject to political power is shared by Babis and alternative Czech websites that seem to be financed from Russia and whose representatives planned the launching of a big campaign against CT in early summer at their meeting behind closed doors in Prague last week, Kundra writes.

The CT Council recently received a 500-page complaint that thoroughly criticises the allegedly biased reporting about the war in Ukraine, Kundra writes.

He says the public CT has been a successful project since its start in the 1990s. CT defended its independence even in the turbulent early 2000s when the two strongest parties, the right-wing Civic Democrats (ODS) and the Social Democrats (CSSD) led by Zeman, joined forces in an effort to get it under political control, Kundra writes.

CT revealed various attacks against public interests, such as the theft of public finances, judicial failures and abuse of power by the police. It can also do this thanks to its public status, Kundra says.

CT also reported about a putsch in the CSSD that Zeman masterminded shortly after the general election in late 2013 in order to form a government of his favourites. This plan failed also due to CT, Kundra writes.

Zeman realised how dangerous a strong independent television may be and he knows that he needs CT to be as weak and loyal to him as possible before the 2018 direct presidential election in which he wants to defend his post, Kundra writes.

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