A programming change at the state-run Slovak Television (STV) has reduced the time allotted to Hungarian language programs from one hour per week to half an hour every fortnight. STV officials say the change will allow the station to carry minority programs from Slovakia's other ethnic groups, but the Hungarian community is calling the decision politically motivated.
"Starting from September, STV will finally start broadcasting a new minority program called 'They Live With Us,' which will honor the twelve minorities living in Slovakia," said Martin Petrenko , chief editor of STV's Documentary Section. "This special weekly broadcast will last half an hour each Saturday , and will introduce the various nationalities by their own spoken language with Slovak subtitles."
"This means a loss of broadcasting time by 75% for Hungarians," responded Zoltán Pék, the former editor in chief of the program who lost his job with two of his colleagues on August 17. "This whole change has a political background, to prevent Hungarians from knowing what's going on with their political parties." The new editor is Eva Kamenárová.
But Petrenko said the decision to change the structure had been taken over a year ago, and aimed only to serve Slovakia's minorities more fairly. "I have never been involved in any political activities, and this was a fair decision. Ask the Hungarians why they don't want other nationalities to be allowed to broadcast. An hour every week was too much time for them."
Broadcasting time for each minority on 'They Live With Us'will be based on the percentage of the Slovak population they represent. The featured nationalities will be: Hunga-rian, Croatian, German, Czech, Bulga-rian, Ukrainian, Ruthenian ,Polish, Romanian, Serb, Romany and Jewish.
"The Hungarians, being the most numerous of the minorities at approximately 460,000 willl have the platform every second week, while the others will have to be content with four spots a year, with some exceptions in the case of special holidays or celebrations," said Petrenko.
But Pék explained that "with all due respect to the other nationalities, Slovak Hungarians are more than just another minority group, and should have more privileges than Bulgarians or Serbs, who have such a small presence here."
Hungarian politicians are equally unhappy about the timing of the program changes, having now lost a potential stage just before the election campaign period. "They have chosen this time on purpose, because of the elections," said Kalman Petöcz, vice chairman of the largest Hungarian party, the SMK. "Hungarians need information about politics in their own language, and we will protest this decision."