Czech Republic: TV Prima defends its anti-refugee newscasts by referring to a non-existent broadcast regulator "decision"
The FTV Prima company issued a press release last week reacting to information published by news server Hlídacípes.org ("Watchdog") that the station management instructed newsroom producers to present refugees as a crisis, problem, and threat. In its own main news broadcasts on the issue, Prima has told its viewers that the station has been facing a campaign based on what they are calling a "manipulated" audio recording of the meeting where the instructions were given.
Prima is also asserting in its own news reporting on the scandal that the Czech broadcast regulator, the Council on Radio and Television Broadcasting (RRTV), has confirmed that the stations newscasts are "balanced", referencing an analysis of its output published on 15 December 2015 and a "decision" supposedly taken on 19 April 2016. According to the officially published minutes of RRTV, however, no such decision exists, while its analysis last year actually confirmed that Prima is broadcasting an anti-refugee bias to the Czech public.
"The newsroom of TV Prima works with an editorial approach based on an independent description of events. On 7 September 2015 there was an editorial meeting, the aim of which was to establish for our viewers an comprehensible, consistent editorial approach to the issue of the ongoing refugee question. At that meeting, various opinions were heard within the framework of a standard discussion. Luboš Jetmar, a member of the FTV Prima board, was invited by news director Jitka Obzinová solely as a person with personal experience of living for several years in the Arab world," the station's press release on the scandal reads.
"After this meeting, the newsroom of TV Prima continued its everyday editorial work, in which one of the topics was the so-called refugee question. The balanced nature of its work has been confirmed by the Council on Radio and Television Broadcasting through an analysis of a press monitoring of our output published in 15 December 2015 and subsequently through its decision dated 19 April 2016 regarding our reportage about Iraqi refugees," the press release reads.
However, according to the head of the RRTV, Ivan Krejčí, the Council found problems when it monitored Prima's broadcasts. "We must base our analysis on press monitoring and an analytical assessment of both feature segments and news reporting. Recently we have familiarized ourselves with the results of an in-depth monitoring that was not just about individual programs, but about broadcasts as a whole over a broader chunk of time. In the case of Prima, it was confirmed that there are problematic tendencies there. For that reason, another long-term monitoring was commissioned so we can verify our findings. That will be ready at some point in September," Krejčí said in an interview for news server iHNed.cz last week.
The RRTV analysis that Prima has told its viewers is "proof" of its alleged "balanced" reporting includes the following statement: "The broadcasting as a whole did not pay much attention to the perspectives of the refugees themselves and depicted them rather a s a source of problems for Europeans. This markedly Eurocentric perspective can implicitly bolster an attitude of rejection (against refugees) among the Czech public."
Prima has also referred to an RRTV decision dated 19 April 2016. As news server Romea.cz previously reported, RRTV reviewed a complaint that day regarding a Prima reportage about Christian refugees from Iraq.
According to the complaint, Prima committed manipulation in that reportage. In the vote on a motion to find the station had committed wrongdoing, only six members of the Council cast their votes, which meant there was no quorum for that agenda item, even though the agenda items preceding it and following it involved all 10 members of the Council present casting votes, as that many votes were cast for most of the 59 other rulings in the record of that session.
The vote to find that the station was in error was, therefore, not counted because there was no quorum when it was taken. The Swedish media group MTG, which owns 50 % of the stock in FTV Prima Holding, has since issued a brief statement on the scandal.
"We have clear regulations regarding editorial independence of the press and objective news reporting," a representative of the MTG media group told the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, which has reported on the scandal on the basis of an English translation of news server Romea.cz's reporting on the issue. "We are in a dialogue with the local management of TV Prima in the Czech Republic in order to better comprehend what actually happened."
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