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Regional TV station makes a go of it in Košice

KOŠICE - A new commercial television station operating on a shoe-string budget and offering a rough and ready brand of local programming arrived in Košice on May 2. TV Naša, or "Our TV" has situated itself in many ways at the other end of the broadcast spectrum from Markíza TV, another private commercial TV venture which aims to cover virtually all of Slovakia once it begins airing on August 31. However, "this was the niche in Košice," explained Marcel Dekanovský, the director of Mac TV, a video production company that formed and operates TV Naša. "We were sure that once we started filling this gap, people would watch loyally."


"I personally think that regional television was missing here, to bring what's going on right into the homes of the people."

Vladimír Špinner, Senior editor of Korzo


KOŠICE - A new commercial television station operating on a shoe-string budget and offering a rough and ready brand of local programming arrived in Košice on May 2.

TV Naša, or "Our TV" has situated itself in many ways at the other end of the broadcast spectrum from Markíza TV, another private commercial TV venture which aims to cover virtually all of Slovakia once it begins airing on August 31.

However, "this was the niche in Košice," explained Marcel Dekanovský, the director of Mac TV, a video production company that formed and operates TV Naša. "We were sure that once we started filling this gap, people would watch loyally."

While having been on the air only two months, TV Naša has already gained an audience. "We watch it intensively in our news room, where we have it turned on the whole time," said Vladimír Špinner, senior editor of the Košice daily Korzo. "I personally think that regional television was missing here, to bring what's going on right into the homes of the people."

This factor has shaped the 20-member staff's core vision. "To compete with existing media, we realized that we had to provide news as quickly as possible, not just verbally but also visually," Dekanovský said, adding that the station introduced "video-couriers," who go out at a moment's notice to record a breaking news event, then return to edit and do voice-overs on the piece.

Alongside the full-time staff, the station employs 20 freelance reporters, cameramen and technicians, almost all of whom are young and more hungry for experience than cash. This inexperienced enthusiasm, Dekanovský said, makes the station higher-energy and less expensive, but often results in an unpolished presentation.

1.5 million Sk buys a TV station

It's amazing the station started at all. Dekanovský said he and other local investors sank a meager 1.5 million Sk to start TV Naša, a subsidiary of Mac TV. The station's monthly operating costs are 1 million Sk, 40 percent of which is paid to use the TA-3 public channel transmitter in Košice.

TV Naša pulled in revenue in its first month of operation from selling 30-second commercial spots for 3,000 Sk to approximately 50 local advertisers, Dekanovský said. It has also reeled in what Dekanovský called "hidden advertising" by ingeniously recruiting local businesses to sponsor regularly aired shows.

While it is local advertisers that pay TV Naša's bills now, the station's directors are setting their sights on larger national and international prospects. This is one of the driving forces behind TV Naša's initiation of the Association of Regional Television Broadcasters, both in Slovakia and outside.

By a special agreement, the sponsor of a program produced by one association member will get exposure in all member cities. "We hope to bring in big advertisers in this way," said Eva Dekanovská, president of the association and public relations manager for TV Naša. "Most of those who participated in our first annual festival in October are interested in exchanging programs."

That potential for growth in advertising revenue plays some part in management's plans for TV Naša. Dekanovský, a veteran of nearly 20 years in Slovak and Czech television and film, said that the station will expand its programming in late July, when it will reprise the previous day's programming in the morning and maybe add one to two hours of live broadcasts. Looking further, Dekanovský wants TV Naša to be on the air for 18 hours daily, though he had no timetable for when that could occur.

While that may sound risky, Dekanovský is no stranger to going out on a limb for an idea he believes in strongly. In 1993, Mac TV fought for the tender to broadcast on the state-owned Slovak Television's second channel (STV2). Mac TV went head-to-head with an international consortium led by Cable News Network (CNN) for the license and won. But though their proposal was supported by Slovakia's Radio and TV Council, it was eventually grounded in Parliament in 1994. But Dekanovský's dream to broadcast did not die; instead, it was massaged into a regional focus, the manifestation of which appears in the four hours that TV Naša broadcasts each day.

Beyond local roots

TV Naša's programming has a quite bit in common with morning network television in the United States. Every day on TV Naša, an anchorman greets the viewers at home and gives a taste of the day's highlights.

Then follows a mix of videotaped "on-the-spot" news, live studio interviews, "how to" features and hourly bulletins of news and sports. An old television stand-by, the "man in the street" interview, is also a regular feature.

A 50-minute daily music video show departs from the local format, though it is hosted by local video jockeys. Clips from Slovak artists like Peter Nagy appear alongside Madonna's, though local bands are encouraged to participate. Interviews with celebrities visiting Košice play a key part in the video show as well. For now, though, TV Naša struggles with what cannot even be described yet as growing pains. The station is still in its infancy, and the actual situation is quite chaotic.

But already TV Naša has attracted attention. The City of Košice, which is helping the station by not charging it rent for space, has offered to purchase 34 percent of the business. Mac TV management has not taken the city up on the offer, sources familiar with the proposal said, because of fear that it could impinge on the independence of what is aired.

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