Czech TV station rejects criticism of its portrayal of Romani people
Last Tuesday, the Czech Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting (Rada pro rozhlasové a televizní vysílání - RRTV) criticized private television station TV NOVA for broadcasting what it found to have been prejudicial and tendentious news reporting on the Romani minority in the context of crime. According to the RRTV, the station has violated several regulations of Law No. 231/2001 Coll. which ban the inclusion of programs that confirm stereotypical prejudices concerning ethnic or racial minorities and establish the obligation to determine whether the broadcasting of such programs incites hatred on the basis of skin color or membership in an ethnic or national minority.
TV NOVA has thoroughly rejected the RRTV findings and disagrees with their conclusions. The station has issued a statement saying it considers all of the charges against them to be ungrounded and unjustified and is determined to defend itself through legal action. TV NOVA believes that the protection of minorities and rights has always been one of the basic pillars and principles of its news reporting.
In its analysis, RRTV evaluated the issue of the media image of Romani people as broadcast by TV NOVA between 1 January 2012 and 20 February 2012. The analysis lists concrete cases covered by the station as news and points out various errors in its coverage.
For example, during the period under consideration, the station depicted practically exclusively negative information in connection with ethnic Romani people, predominantly from the area of crime, and unlike its reporting on crimes committed by members of the majority population, the station identified perpetrators' ethnicity when that ethnicity was Romani. The news reporting showed Romani people exclusively as a troubled minority from a criminal or social point of view, and also labeled dark-skinned individuals "Romani" irrespective of whether they actually were Romani, or rather, irrespective of whether they identify as Romani. Verbal collocations were used which resulted in an automatic linkage between problematic localities or situations and Romani people ("Romani residential hotel", etc.) irrespective of the actual state of affairs. During the news reporting on the anti-Romani demonstrations in North Bohemia, the news program gave room exclusively to extremists and their sympathizers attending the demonstrations to express their views.
The program reported on an assault committed against a family, repeatedly stating that the perpetrators of the assault had been Romani. When reporting on the subsequent demonstrations in Varnsdorf, the program labeled Romani people as being to blame for the tense situation in North Bohemia. The program gave no room to members of the Romani minority to express their views. All of the room devoted to statements by local residents was exclusively devoted to representatives of the majority society who expressed their fears of ethnic Romani people.
The program repeatedly advertised when the demonstrations would take place, calling them anti-Romani. The authors of the reporting also used information about the death of the woman assaulted in a manipulative way for an ulterior motive, repeatedly directly linking her death to the "Romani attack" even though the fact of the matter was that the woman did not die until several days after the assault. Her death was from natural causes as the result of a long-term, severe illness.
Full translation of the statement by TV NOVA on the RRTV's ruling:
On 4 September 2012, the Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting (Rada pro rozhlasové a televizní vysílání - hereinafter "RRTV") issued a warning to the licensed operator of TV NOVA, the CET 21 company, warning of possible violations of several regulations of Law No. 231/2001 Coll., which ban the inclusion of programs that confirm stereotypical prejudices concerning ethnic or racial minorities and establish the obligation to determine whether the broadcasting of such programs incites hatred on the basis of skin color or membership in an ethnic or national minority. In the opinion of RRTV, the alleged legal violations occurred through the broadcasting of news reporting containing information about members of the Romani minority. Such reporting was said to have been broadcast during the "Television News" (Televizní noviny) program from 1 January 2012 until 20 February 2012.
TV NOVA thoroughly rejects the RRTV's statement and disagrees with the RRTV's conclusions. The protection of the rights of minorities is part of its programming and always has been. Any charges that TV NOVA has incited hatred on the basis of skin color or membership in an ethnic or national minority through its programming, as well as any charges that programs have been included in our broadcasting that might confirm stereotypical prejudices concerning ethnic and racial minorities, are considered by TV NOVA to be completely ungrounded and unjustified. As soon as we officially receive a written copy of RRTV's ruling, we will use all legal means to refute these ungrounded accusations and misleading conclusions and to protect the good name of TV NOVA.
TV NOVA considers it to be quite non-standard that it was not invited to the RRTV meeting on this topic, received no opportunity to express its opinion of the allegedly analytical output of the RRTV, and received no opportunity to submit arguments and proofs in its defense. TV NOVA was unaware of the RRTV's ruling until it was reported in the media through the RRTV's press release.
TV NOVA's news reporting does its best to inform its viewers about all topics touching on the lives of ordinary citizens. Such topics are always treated in such a way as to preserve the principles of balance and objectivity, as well as to give room to those involved in an event to express their views on it, as well as room to those who are competent to express themselves on a particular matter.
Josef Koukolíček, PR manager, TV NOVA
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