Thursday 11 January 2001

Made-for-TV Revolution

The Guardian ran this on 11 January 2001, picking up a piece I'd published in Central Europe Review. At issue was how most of the Western media were getting a story very wrong: simply seeing what they wanted to see.


On 12 December 2000, the Council for Czech Television, the oversight board of governors for Czech public service Television, recalled Executive Director Dušan Chmelícek. Eight days later, on 20 December, Jirí Hodac, formerly head of news at Czech TV and a man with 11 years experience working for the BBC's Czech Service, was chosen to replace him.

It was a hasty move, and many were shocked that the Council had not asked potential candidates to submit project proposals and had not gone through a rigorous selection process. The Council took just eight days to perform its most important function: choosing the head of the most important media outlet in the country.

They had their reasons, of course, but those reasons seem bitterly ironic now. Their intent had been to avoid the outside political pressure that they felt would mount upon them with each passing day a decision was not made. Make a quick decision just before the holiday, and hope the political parties don't notice.

To say it backfired would be the understatement of the year; the snap decision triggered a labour dispute that quickly boiled over into a national political crisis. So much for the holidays.