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Interview with Milan Uhde, chair of the board of directors of Czech Television, about "inadaptables"

Prague, 2.12.2011 18:08, (ROMEA)
Milan Uhde, chair of the board of directors of Czech Television

The case of a complaint filed by Anna Šabatová and Petr Uhl with the Czech Council of Radio and Television Broadcasting (Rada pro rozhlasové a televizní vysílání - RRTV) regarding the use of the term "inadaptables" on television has taken an unexpected turn. Michal Heldenburg, the head of Czech Television's legal department, authored a response to the complaint that makes several generalizations and construes democratic society as a kind of majority rule that takes no account of minorities. The letter also makes irrelevant arguments using a peculiar "legal" vocabulary, such as the following: "Gypsies work at Czech Television. One of them is even a news anchor. Isn't that a concrete example of breaking down such stereotypes?" (For our previous reporting on this issue, see

Anna Šabatová has told news server that Heldenburg's response is "arrogant and offensive and misses the essence of the problem we are raising. It is undignified, Czech Television is a media outlet that influences millions of people daily."

Petr Uhl considers Heldenburg's response incompatible with the fundamental European approach towards different groups of people. "I'm talking about the treatment of any group here, not just of Romani people. I attribute this anti-social, inhuman behavior to the legacy of the 40 years of our history prior to November 1989. The environment here was similar after the Second World War, and intolerance of entire groups of the population at that time led to obvious injustices," Uhl told news server

News server interviewed Milan Uhde, chair of the Czech Television board of directors, about Heldenburg's letter. Uhde does not yet know whether the board will review the letter at its next meeting, as he was unable to participate in the setting of the agenda due to illness. However, he did communicate his personal opinion on the matter to us.

Q: What do you think of this letter by Michal Heldenburg responding to the complaint over the use of the term "inadaptables"?

A: That letter is monstrous. A public broadcasting lawyer has no business engaging in such communications techniques.

Q: Will you be protesting this monstrosity somehow?

A: On Monday I will bring Dr Heldenburg's letter to the attention of the General Director of Czech Television, Petr Dvořák. I will not make any personnel recommendations to him, that's not my purview, but I will give him my opinion, which is that this is simply out of line. I will ask him to read it himself and see what impression it makes on him.

Q: In the letter, Heldenburg defends the use of the term by saying that "Gypsies work at Czech Television"…

A: This is not just a matter of his vocabulary. The letter shows that he hasn't even mastered the basics of elementary logic. Even if a thousand Romani people worked at Czech Television, that has nothing to do with the essence of the matter. It's the same as if he were to write that he has a Romani friend and is therefore not a racist. This kind of argument is also often made by anti-Semites: "Look, I'm not an anti-Semite, because I have lunch with a Jewish guy from time to time." The main thing is that this was not about whether Romani people do or do not work at Czech Television. Anna Šabatová and Petr Uhl complained about the use of the adjective "inadaptable", not about a lack of Romani staff at Czech Television.

Q: Which brings us to the Heldenburg's commentary on that expression...

A: The expression "inadaptables" unequivocally implies that the person so labeled wants to be that way, that he or she intends to be "inadaptable". The term simply does not describe the situation of the people who are being labeled with this term in the media. Socially excluded persons have not chosen their situation, they have been forced into it by circumstances. They have ended up in social exclusion for concrete reasons. An "inadaptable" person would be a criminal who intentionally does not follow the rules, not a socially excluded person.

František Kostlán, Gwendolyn Albert, František Kostlán, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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