Gordan Franić Futa, television enthusiast best known as the founder of first private TV station in former Yugoslavia, has died in Split after long bout with cancer.
Futa was, according to most testimonies, an extraordinary man, always ready to do things most of Split people couldn't or wouldn't dare to do. He was avid car racer and once took part in rock climbing expedition in Himalayas. However, his best known achievement was TV Marjan, TV station named after famous Marjan Hill over the city where its transmitter was set in 1984.
For the most part of its existence, TV Marjan was nothing more than convenient way for Split people to watch TV programme other than two channels of state-owned Radiotelevizija Zagreb (future Croatian Television). Until that time, some of those lucky enough to have dwellings on proper locations had special antenna amplifiers that allowed them to watch dozens of Italian TV stations, often with atrocious picture quality and sometimes even worse content.
Futa provided alternative by airing satellite programmes. That way, generations of Split citizens were for the first time accustomed to worldviews different to the official ideology of former Yugoslavia. Among satellite channels being aired were Super Channel, Sky Channel and MTV, an in 1980s Futa aired film channels like Swiss Teleclub (with US films dubbed in German) and Dutch FilmNet (with Dutch subtitles).
Futa, however, had to justify its brave experiment and prevent authorities from shutting TV station down (which they, occasionally, did). He did that by interrupting satellite channels with public service announcements, including calls for elections. During holidays there were also basic attempts of original programming made in improvised studios.
TV Marjan began with something resembling regular programming on February 20th 1990, few months before first democratic elections. It was, therefore, the very first TV station to air interview with future president Franjo Tuđman.
Futa's enthiusiasm and technical know-how, like in case in many great pioneers, weren't matched by his business and political skills. Transition between two socio-economic systems also didn't help and by Summer of 1991 Futa was involved in increasingly nasty dispute with his former associates who briefly managed to run new TV station without him. Futa used escalation of war as an opportunity to get back into saddle; with the help of new Croatian government and its emergency powers, he simply took over TV station. Thus he took part in TV Marjan's most glorious moment - providing Croatian Television signal via satellite after the regular transmitters were knocked out by JNA air force in Autumn 1991.
TV Marjan continued to air during the war, later operating as a regular local TV station. In 1993 it got first competition in the form of CATV, cable television that would later become TV Jadran. In 1996 this pushed TV Marjan to ally itself with TV Mreža, first Croatian private TV network. On the surface, this move made sense. However, TV Marjan was run by Miroslav Kutle, infamous and controversial tycoon responsible for ruining dozens of big business during 1990s privatisation. TV Mreža didn't fare any better - it folded, and TV Marjan with it. Futa's life work thus went off the air, and great chapter of Croatian cultural history thus ended.
Futa outlived his TV Marjan for a decade. New generations - with no clips of TV Marjan at YouTube - probably won't understand how his work was so important. But Croatia still needs people like him - those with enthusiasm, courage and ability to bring new and exciting things.