The Czech government was this week ordered to pay $353m of damages and interest to Central European Media Enterprises (CME) in a case concerning control of commercial broadcaster TV Nova.

The ruling by an international arbitration court is less than the $527m that CME had sought, but is big enough to give the financially troubled Czech government a real headache. The fine will rise if it is not paid quickly. CME intends to use the money to pay down some of its own debts.

The dispute began in 1999 when CME, which was the principal financier of TV Nova, lost control of the hugely successful channel to its station manager Vladimir Zelezny, who set up a duplicate station.

CME has now successfully sued both the government - for failing to protect its licence and investment - and Zelezny. He has since been investigated for tax evasion and fraud and was elected to the Czech Senate last June.