Prague TV Going Digital

The Zizkov Television Tower has, in many ways, become a symbol of the whole quarter. Not that it would fit in with its architecture, it does fit in with its essence: it’s very high (216 meters) and plain, somewhat arrogant and reckless. And it’s also humorous, since David Černý placed those bizarre crawling babies on its body. As such it is not completely out of place in Žižkov, which is known for its very high density of pubs, old houses and slightly hazardous atmosphere, a bit harder than other parts of Prague (if we don´t count Karlín).

This summer, there was a festival called Žižkov sobě, a series of cultural events with the purpose of promoting the city quarter’s qualities. It’s no coincidence that it began and ended with two events taking place under the Žižkov TV Tower.

And on 6th of October, as the Czech TV networks took further steps towards digitization of the television signal. The antenna on the tower had to be replaced by a more up- to –date model. The new antenna weighs about nine tons, so in order to move it safely, it had to be separated into two parts and a special helicopter had was used. The Russian Kamov Ka-32 is a double-motor, heavyweight machine, able to maintain a position in the air and to carry as much as five tons of weight at once. This power gave it its „flying crane“ call sign.

The park under the tower was temporarily declared a no- go area. Since Prague parks are not separated by walls from their surroundings, this was mostly up to the police. People in nearby streets were able to enjoy the unusual sight and some say they enjoyed the minor spectacle.

The most difficult part was finished in three hours. The operation was a success, though it wasn’t cheap: it cost many millions of crowns. The organizers praised fair weather and reliable equipment. A similar operation, using similar equipment, will soon take place in Pilsen.

The digitalising of Czech TV networks is a long- running process. It was halted once, as some commercial subjects, mainly TV Nova, objected to the way licenses were given to contenders. A license- related dispute is somewhat piquant in relation to this particular TV station, the most popular one in the republic. When Nova acquired its license in 1993 it did so under conditions it didn’t really follow: promising a program concerned with education and feature films, including the European ones, it quickly moved to endless American series and soaps, which were later replaced by the very fruitful South American soap production. Anyway that doesn’t mean they couldn’t have been right in this case.
Now it goes on quite slowly, as people need to get accustomed to the changes and, mainly, to be thoroughly informed.

Not everyone welcomes the process. Yes, there will be more channels and better picture quality, but many people don’t need that. Czech TV viewers are thought to be quite conservative, content with Czech soap operas and sitcoms, weather old or new. And as the signal goes digital, the analogue one has to be terminated. Which means everyone has to get a receiver, whether they like it or not.

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