Czech culture czar backs gov't tv, radio merger

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LONDON -- The Czech Republic's new culture minister, Vaclav Jehlicka, is backing proposals to merge public service broadcasters Czech Television and Czech Radio.

Jehlicka said Sunday that a single organization will have greater power to negotiate rights to broadcast popular subjects such as sporting events.

A member of the right-of-center Christian Democrats, Jehlicka was appointed Saturday after the sudden resignation of documentary filmmaker Helena Trestikova, who had been in office just two weeks.

His comments on a Czech Television political show followed a suggestion made by Vitezslav Jandak of the opposition Social Democrat party.

Jandak -- a former culture minister who once headed the Zlin youth film festival -- said a merger will significantly cut the costs of the broadcasters, which are currently supported both by advertising and a license fee.

"It would at least reduce their spending on Czech post office services by half," Jandak said.

The new culture minister agreed, adding, "His arguments are similar to mine."

Czech Television and Czech Radio said the idea was not new and will need extensive consultations if it is to work.

"We have been hearing about this idea (of a merger) for eight years but have not been able to find out who would benefit from such a merger," Czech Radio spokesman Ladislav Pavlik told Czech news agency CTK.

Martin Krafl, a Czech Television spokesman, said a merger could only go ahead if both broadcasters were treated as equal partners.

Jehlicka took over from Trestikova after she resigned Wednesday following sustained political pressure to appoint former deputy minister Frantisek Formanek as her deputy against her wishes.

Trestikova, who had emerged as culture minister after six months of political deadlock following June's hung parliamentary elections, said she was "too decent" to be a politician.

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