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HZDS GOAL OF FRIENDLY TV STATION PUT ON HOLD

STV2 privatization stopped in Parliament

The Movement for a Democratic Slovakia's (HZDS) plans to privatize STV-2 to a company with close party ties suffered a setback, as Parliament on June 26 passed a law halting the privatization of STV2, the second nationwide terrestrial channel of Slovenská Televízia (STV).
Out of 135 deputies in the chamber, 75 supported the legal initiative of Milan Ftáčnik, a deputy for the Party of the Democratic Left, who proposed it with a group of opposition deputies. Both junior partners in Vladimír Mečiar's coalition partly supported the bill, as nine deputies from the Association of Slovak Workers (ZRS) and four from the Slovak National Party (SNS) voted in favor of the proposal.
"For the moment, the HZDS plans are dammed," said Ftáčnik. "The HZDS has learned that narrow partisan interests don't have the green light here and don't enjoy support even within the ruling coalition."


Thumbs up. Milan Ftáčnik spearheaded the defeat of STV-2's privatization.
Ján Kuchta

The Movement for a Democratic Slovakia's (HZDS) plans to privatize STV-2 to a company with close party ties suffered a setback, as Parliament on June 26 passed a law halting the privatization of STV2, the second nationwide terrestrial channel of Slovenská Televízia (STV).

Out of 135 deputies in the chamber, 75 supported the legal initiative of Milan Ftáčnik, a deputy for the Party of the Democratic Left, who proposed it with a group of opposition deputies. Both junior partners in Vladimír Mečiar's coalition partly supported the bill, as nine deputies from the Association of Slovak Workers (ZRS) and four from the Slovak National Party (SNS) voted in favor of the proposal.

"For the moment, the HZDS plans are dammed," said Ftáčnik. "The HZDS has learned that narrow partisan interests don't have the green light here and don't enjoy support even within the ruling coalition."

In the end, 53 HZDS deputies were the only ones to vote in favor of STV2 privatization, as the rest of ZRS and SNS deputies abstained along with four HZDS members.

"The opposition has won the battle over this channel," said Arpád Matejka, a HZDS deputy. But Ftáčnik emphatically rejected speculations that his motivation was primarily political. "It was the HZDS who brought politics into this matter, and was left alone, while everybody else has realized that something more important is at stake here," said Ftáčnik. "I believe that in the long run it will become clear that the standpoint of the ZRS and SNS was not politically motivated."

"The national interest is most important for us, and that interest says 'no' to privatization," said Anna Malíková, the SNS vice-chairwoman. "Everybody understands that if something is private, profits rule, while spiritual values are pushed aside."

Ftáčnik said his primary goal was to strengthen STV's position as a public station in the long run. "I believe we have set up a framework for the functioning of STV for some years ahead," he said. "[STV] needs stability and direction, because I don't think people are satisfied with what they see on their screens."

The project of STV2 privatization was viewed by opposition leaders as the second HZDS shot given to conquering the Slovak TV market without having to abuse public STV. The legislative process was launched last September by Ľudmila Mušková, a HZDS deputy. The ruling coalition-controlled Council for Radio and TV Broadcasting granted the licence last June to ProTV, supervised by HZDS officials and fertilized by HZDS capital.

Pro TV is partially controled by the HZDS. Vladimír Poór, regional HZDS chief in Trnava and a senior party official, is one of its owners as is Rudolf Trella who sits on the supervisory board of Nafta-Gbely, the company that was privatized last sumer under controversial circumstances by Mečiar's cabinet.

When asked directly whether the new TV will support his party, Dušan Macuška, a HZDS deputy, answered: "Of course, I believe that whoever wants to support Slovakia, must support HZDS in the first place." HZDS will have to settle for support from the current STV2 as it stands now. "STV itself doesn't behave impartially and supports the ruling coalition," according to Ftáčnik.

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