NEWS BRIEFS

Publishers are preparing for alternative distribution of the press

In a meeting with Slovak Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda March 19, the chairman of the Periodic Press Publishers Association said the financial situation of publishers of periodic press in Slovakia is becoming so serious that they have begun considering the possibility of alternative distribution of their newspapers.

The problem stems from the fact that the largest press distributor, Prvá Novinová Služba, (PNS), is not paying publishers back for the periodicals it is selling, Chairman Miloš Nemeček said. On most accounts, PNS payments are about 60 days late, he added.

The government is in the process of deciding whether the ownership of PNS by media giant Danubiaprint is fair, and if the 1998 sale of PNS to Danubiaprint was conducted under proper privatisation procedures.

More than a year ago, the state privatisation agency (FNM) sold a 97% stake in PNS to Danubiaprint, which prints most of the periodical press in Slovakia and several newspapers, for 410 million crowns. The privatization of PNS was criticized by publishers and the then opposition because of fears it could be politically misused to harass other media. In addition, only 190 million crowns was actually paid.

In last week's meeting, Dzurinda said that the government understands the urgency of the problem, but said he did not want to specify the steps the government was taking to remedy it.

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