IN EARLY August Matica Slovenská, a state-funded organisation focusing on the preservation of traditional Slovak culture and customs, sent Culture Minister Rudolf Chmel and public service Slovak Television (STV) director Richard Rybníček an open letter, asking them to stop the broadcasting of a Hungarian-language TV advertisement for weekly Vasárnap. STV ran the ad with Slovak subtitles.
That wish has since been fulfilled, although perhaps only temporarily.
"The law on the state language says that radio and TV broadcasting on Slovak territory has to be in the state language," reads the protest prepared by Matica. The state language is Slovak.
"The only exceptions are foreign programs and broadcasting in the languages of ethnic minorities. An advertisement is not included among the statutory exemptions," the statement continues.
"STV is convinced that the advertisement for Vasárnap meets the requirements for broadcasting," said STV in its initial reaction. STV representatives argued that nothing is wrong with the spot, which had Slovak subtitles including a translation of the entire text.
Nevertheless, the director of STV decided to take the advert off the air for the time being. "I wanted to prevent it from becoming a political issue," said Rybníček, who sees the ad as a "business matter".
On August 5, Rybníček received two conflicting opinions on the legality of the advert, after which he agreed with the publishing company Petit Press which owns Vasárnap (and The Slovak Spectator) that the advertisement be changed until the Council for broadcasting and retransmission (RVR) announces its verdict on its permissibility.
The RVR is set to debate the issue on August 26.
The Culture Ministry has declined to deal with the issue, as representatives claim they have no authority to give the public television company orders.
"The only one who can issue warnings or forbid a television station from doing something is the RVR," Zuzana Mistríková, head of the media section at the Culture Ministry, told daily SME.
Mistríková also pointed out that an English-language advert for The Slovak Spectator run by the STV in May did not seem to concern Matica. The point has since been repeated by various media, often to illustrate that Matica is only concerned about language purity when it comes to the Hungarians.
A Matica representative claims that lingual purity has always been a top priority for them, and they had a simple explanation for why The Slovak Spectator ad escaped their criticism.
"I have not seen it," the director of Matica's information centre told SME.
18. Aug 2003 at 0:00 | Lukáš Fila