Czech journalists urge government to expedite public media funding law

Czech TV
The illustrative photograph from 2023 shows an exhibition commemorating the 70th anniversary of television broadcasting in the Czech Republic. Photo: Czech TV

The Czech branch of the International Press Institute (IPI) has called on the government to accelerate the preparation of a law that would increase television and radio license fees. The Ministry of Culture introduced an amendment last autumn, proposing a raise in fees, and working groups, including representatives from commercial media, have been discussing the law since January to more precisely define the roles of Czech Television and Czech Radio in the modern media landscape.

"Given the planned effective date of January 1, 2025, the upcoming parliamentary elections, and expected opposition obstructions, the government should introduce the amendments to parliament promptly," said Robert Čásenský, Chairman of the Board of the Czech IPI. While acknowledging the relevance of some objections from private media, the journalist organization maintains that the debate should not delay the currently planned fee increase.

Čásenský pointed out that the one-time fee increase is primarily a correction of the situation from recent years, as fees were last raised in 2008 for Czech Television and 2005 for Czech Radio. The immediate increase is a crucial first step in finding a sustainable funding model for public service media, which the government has committed to in its policy statement and is obligated by the newly adopted European Media Freedom Act.

The journalism institute stressed that increasing fees is a necessary but insufficient step towards sustainable public media financing. Čásenský highlighted the real threat to the independence of public service media, citing the example of Slovakia, where the new government limited state contributions, putting public media in serious financial jeopardy.

The Czech IPI urges the government to take swift action in increasing fees without succumbing to time and political pressures that may intensify towards the end of the electoral term. Simultaneously, they encourage continued discussions with private media regarding the long-term financing of public service media and maintaining a balanced relationship between public and private media. Čásenský acknowledged the relevance of private operators' objections concerning the scope of public service media activities in the online space.

The proposed amendment is set to be discussed further in the coming months, with the government aiming to implement the changes by the beginning of 2025. The outcome of these discussions will have significant implications for the future of public service media in the Czech Republic and its ability to maintain independence and financial stability in an increasingly competitive media environment.

Full statement of the CZ IPI is available on its website.

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