Journalists probe Vatican TV

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VATICAN CITY -- Monsignor Guido Todeschini, network director at the Vatican's TelePace television, has been summoned to appear before the Council of Italian Journalists to answer charges that it has treated its employees badly.

Todeschini will be called on to answer reports that the network -- it's name is Italian for "Peace Television" -- may have required employees to work in demeaning conditions, paid illegally low wages and even held staff meetings to determine whether some unmarried female employees were virgins.

TelePace declined to comment on the charges when contacted Thursday. But an official with the Council of Italian Journalists confirmed that the Rev. Todeschini has been summoned and would likely appear next week.

The Vatican press office would not comment on the developments, calling it "an internal matter" between TelePace and the Council of Italian Journalists.

TelePace broadcasts 24 hours a day within Italy, and with a more limited schedule elsewhere in Europe , Australia, New Zealand and North America. The network's format includes a mix of news, features, liturgical celebrations, interviews and concerts of sacred music. But the network reported in October that by mid-November it will scale back its coverage to eliminate broadcasts related to current events aside from some mentions that may take place as part of broadcasted liturgies.

In a statement at the time, the Rev. Todeschini said the change in programming was due to a drop in revenue and called it a "painful decision."

Once that change takes place, it will eliminate the final television network regularly broadcasting news from the seat of the world's 1.1 billion Catholics. The Vatican does own its own television outfit -- CTV -- but that organization relays programming to regional broadcasters rather than acting as a network itself.

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