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Bosnia's 'IN TV' Sows Seeds of Democracy

From slick TV news magazines to "Geraldo," the American media is much maligned.

But it does play a role as a vehicle for the free exchange of ideas - a role that most accept as an essential building block of democracy.

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As part of its effort to piece war-torn Bosnia back together, the international community is trying to create a Bosnia-based independent television network that will beam a free marketplace of ideas into homes.

Composed of five existing independent local television stations, Independent Network Television - or IN TV - aims to provide objectivity in news, including equal air-time for all political parties.

Currently, Bosnians have a selection of one-sided provincial newscasts that largely have ignored atrocities committed by their side in the war. Such news is interrupted only occasionally by World War II-era imported movies.

Locals have dubbed the new network "Bildt TV" after international mediator Carl Bildt, who has spearheaded its creation.

He has rounded up $13 million in grants from the United States, other Western nations, and the Soros Foundation, a US-based funding organization.

However, observers here doubt IN TV will begin operating in time to help inform voters in the nationwide elections scheduled for Sept. 14.

"[IN TV] will do nothing in regard to elections. It's too late, and it doesn't get to the heart of the problem here. You can't make a democracy with war criminals running around, directing the show," says Hrvoje Bakaric of the Soros Foundation.

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Problems already abound at the fledgling network, which plans to broadcast to roughly half the country by mid-August.

No programs have yet been developed. And while IN TV purports to be a multiethnic network, it has yet to hire any journalists or link up with any local stations from the Croatian or Serb parts of Bosnia.

IN TV may not have much immediate effect, but observers say its long-term impact may be to jump-start competition.

By offering entertainment, sports, and movies, it's likely to attract viewers and force existing state-owned networks to improve.

Ideally, from this competition an entire garden of divergent opinions and ideas will spring up and, its supporters hope, help to sow the seeds of democracy.

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