TV Nova's Kotel Programe - a useful propaganda instrument for politicians
(Jan Čulík's letter to Stefan Krause, a member of the OSCE team, monitoring the June 1996 Czech elections)
I have just watched last Wednesday's KOTEL, with Miloš Zeman (broadcast on 27th May).
Basically, I feel that the fuss in the Czech Republic is slightly exaggerated. The agressive format would be fine, if the questions from the audience were intelligent and it the programme were professionally moderated.
As it is, both the moderater (Jílková) and the audience are incredibly primitive. Jilkova is loud and coarse, interrupts both members of the audience when they ask questions and the grilled politician when he is trying to answer. I am not against interrupting politicians, but she does it in all the wrong places.
In my view, the show works on two levels. For primitive viewers who cannot deal with rational, logical arguments, there is a relatively intense emotional charge which gives them a cathartic feeling. The audience howls at the politician, mostly without using rational argumentation. They are emotionally prejudiced, because no matter how courteous and factual the politicians reply, they are not satisfied.
However, certainly, in the case of Miloš Zeman, the show also worked on a rational, intellectual level. Zeman's replies to the primitive howls from the audience were factual, courteous and very professional. I was surprised. He did very well.
In fact, for any viewers who are open to rational argumentation at all, the whole show was one giant party political broadcast for Zeman. On the intellectual level, he spoke almost totally unchallenged. The audience was of course mostly unconvinced, but then the audience was not open to logical argumentation.
To an outside viewer, the show featured a bunch of primitive morons, proud of their idiocy, who were yelling at an eloquent and professional politician who appeared to have perfect facts at his fingertips. For any thinking person, the first impression must have been that Zeman is an outright victor.
I detected a few minor mistakes in Zeman's answers, when he spoke about the British Labour Party. These remained uncorrected and unchallenged. There must have been other mistakes. But whatever he was saying was NOT scrutinised logically. There was no one to challenge Zeman's stamements on a logical, rational level.
Thus, I repeat, the show was a free party political broadcast, with huge viewing figures. Seemingly, this was a politician, grilled by agressive questioning. In fact, all the questioning was ridiculously feeble and extremely easy to push aside.
No wonder politicians are pleased to be invited to Kotel.
I wonder whether Nova deliberately chooses the stupidest and coarsest audience available in the Czech Republic or whether this is a sample of "normal" citizens. If the latter is the case, then, I suppose, the show has a certain amount of democratic legitimacy.
Although, I am sure, when a member of the audience offered Zeman a glass of Becherovka, saying that he had obviously gone rather long without (his customary) alcohol and was "becoming nervous", so here was help, I am sure that man was a deliberate, nasty plant.