"Joj won't beat Markíza by knockout. It will be a long fight lasting many rounds." Joj owner Vladimír Želený
Emerging victorious from a recent dispute over Joj's broadcast frequency, the station's representatives have pledged to bring tough competition to the Slovak media market while aiming for journalistic professionalism balanced with entertainment.
"Our news will be a flag ship in this country. It will be objective, non-partisan, apolitical, dealing with real people's problems - news that the Slovak TV audience hasn't yet had the chance to watch," said Joj director Richard Rybníček on February 25.
The station will be based in Košice and will broadcast 24 hours a day, promoting regional rather than Bratislava-centred news coverage.
One of the station's launch slogans is "Joj doesn't run as a candidate - Joj entertains", a dig at their main rival, TV Markíza, and its politically ambitious co-owner Pavol Rusko.
Rusko, who also heads the political party Ano, has recently attracted criticism from media watchdogs for using his popular station to promote his party.
Markíza also made a last-minute attempt to have Joj cut off before its launch. On February 15 the Supreme Court suspended an October 2001 ruling by the television license council (RVR) allowing Joj TV to broadcast on a northern Slovakia frequency which represents 30 per cent of the station's coverage.
Three days later the Court overturned its own ruling. Justice Eva Babiaková explained that the original decision had been motivated by a damages suit filed by Markíza. Last year Markíza was one of five companies interested in winning the frequency awarded to Joj.
By giving the frequency to Joj, Rusko argued, "Markíza's piece of the advertising pie could shrink, causing damage to us. Our share of the Slovak advertising market is Sk1.6 billion, and we think that Joj plans to take around 10 per cent of the total ad market." Rusko added that Markíza experts estimated the total damages at Sk40-60 million.
Babiaková, however, reversed her earlier decision on February 20 after RVR and Joj representatives gave her proof that Joj has already invested Sk100 million ($2.1 million) into advertising and has made Sk340 million in project commitments.
Rusko then accused Babiaková of acting under pressure, but refused to be specific. Markíza's nightly news programme suggested that Babiaková had been urged to change her decision by Supreme Court Chief Justice Štefan Harabin and Justice Minister Ján Čarnogurský.
The officials as well as Babiaková dismissed the accusations.
Rusko maintained, however, that the RVR had put Slovakia "at risk of fines and damages" for awarding the license to Joj.
"If it proves that Mac TV [the company which holds the Joj TV license] will be using the frequency illegally, Markíza has every right to sue this country, not because it fears competition but because somebody has made a mistake," Rusko said.
Joj's board chairman, Jiří Šmejc, said that if his station lost its northern frequency it would "threaten our investment".
"We stated clearly before that we would make the investment provided the TV had three frequencies," Šmejc said.
Apart from the northern Slovakia frequency, Joj was awarded a Bratislava and a central Slovakia frequency which collectively give the TV around 65 per cent coverage of Slovak territory.
Without the northern frequency, Šmejc explained, the project wouldn't be economically viable for any investor.
The RVR will meet to discuss the Supreme Court verdict on March 12.
Joj owner Vladimír Železný said he hoped the matter had been laid to rest, and that in the future "the only arena of competition will be the TV screen.
"Joj won't beat Markíza by knockout. It will be a long fight lasting many rounds," he added.
4. Mar 2002 at 0:00 | Martina Pisárová