Last updated on November 21st, 2021 at 06:59 pm
Czech Republic Government and Media
Government Type: Parliamentary Representative Democracy
Head of State: President Miloš Zeman (populist center-right)
Head of Government: Prime Minister Andrej Babiš
Political Party: ANO 2011
Political Position: Populist Center-Right
World Press Freedom Rank: Czech Republic 40/180
According to Reporters Without Borders 2021 Freedom Index, the Czech Republic ranked 40th out of 180 countries. The report states there are growing threats to public broadcasting and journalists. The report also points out a concentration of ownership in the hands of a few oligarchs, more specifically, the acquisition of the CME media group by Petr Kellner, the wealthiest Czech billionaire businessman in the country.
Government Influence on Media: Government, directly and indirectly, subsidizes most media in the Czech Republic. For example, media is offered a reduction in the VAT rate on newspapers, magazines, bulletins, and other periodicals. When it comes to public advertising, there are no clear rules on the distribution of advertising from public institutions to the media. Furthermore, according to the Center for Media Pluralism and Media freedom, “there is a problem concerning the lack of rules on distribution of state advertising to media outlets; also, there are no publicly available data for the amount of state advertising.” In another example, the government recently announced a state-funded public health advertising campaign “of around CZK 50 million (€1.9 million)” The International Press Institute (IPI), together with Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), sent an open letter to the government of the Czech Republic “raising concerns about its side-lining of critical media during press conferences.”
TV and radio broadcasters include private sector organizations and public broadcasters such as Česká televize (ČT), which broadcasts seven public channels. Public broadcasting is regulated through Broadcasting Councils for both public service TV and radio, which “lies in the hands of the Parliament.” Further, “there have been increasing concerns about alleged political influences over certain management and editorial decisions at the Czech Radio.”
In recent years there has been an increase in the concentration of major newspapers and media companies in the hands of a few oligarchs. For example, private broadcasters such as CME media group owned by Petr Kellner (owner of PPF Group N.V.) operates the country’s main private TV channels such as Nova, Nova 2, Nova Cinema, Nova Sport 1, Nova Sport 2, Nova International, Nova Action, Nova Gold and TV Nova. Therefore, all the top TV channels are held by one owner. Another example is the current Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, the owner of one of the largest Czech companies, Agrofert. He is also the owner of the Czech Republic’s largest media group Mafra, which publishes the dailies Mladá fronta Dnes and Lidové noviny and web portals iDnes lidovky.cz. According to Reuters, he is “the second richest Czech, who has been compared to other tycoons-turned political leaders Donald Trump and Silvio Berlusconi – to become prime minister.” Another politician that often targets journalists is Czech Republic president Miloš Zeman. For example, he supposedly “joked” that “I love journalists, that’s why I may organize a special banquet for them this evening at the Saudi embassy.” RFS condemned his remark calling it an “appalling provocation towards journalist and reports Zeman was “alluding to Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi’s death at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, which triggered an international outcry against Saudi Arabia.”
In conclusion, the structure of the Czech media sector has changed dramatically, especially during the most recent years, due to the rise of Czech populism and the populist right in Europe. Czech Media faces several challenges, such as the concentration of media ownership and lack of transparency of media funding, which causes concern regarding media pluralism in the country. Although the press is mostly free in the Czech Republic, it faces pressures from the government that has the potential to see increased influence on the media and decreased press freedom.
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