The economic storm clouds gather over Czech Television

Czech TV regional studio in the Moravian city of Brno
Czech TV regional studio in the Moravian city of Brno. Photo: Czech TV

Czech Television's annual report for 2022 has arrived in Parliament, once again highlighting the unsustainable economic situation of public media. After the summer holidays, politicians are expected to discuss major changes to the media laws, including how and from what resources Czech Television will be funded in the coming years. However, it is uncertain how long the political debate will last or when it will be concluded, if at all.

The Czech Television Council accompanied the approval of the annual report with an urgent call for the public broadcaster's funding problems to be addressed. This is the second time in six months that they have appealed to politicians on the same issue.

"The current level of the TV licence fee, which has not changed since 2009, is insufficient for the current scope of Czech Television's activities. Maintaining the current legal situation with the current television fee will inevitably lead to a significant reduction in production, broadcasting and layoffs of employees by 2024 at the latest, thereby severely limiting the public service provided by Czech Television," the resolution warns.

Seven of the ten councillors present at the meeting signed the appeal. Most of them, incidentally, were elected during the term of the current coalition government.

The outgoing Director General, Petr Dvořák, also addressed the lawmakers with even more urgency in the approved annual report. "The political representation will have to answer the question of what kind of public service in the field of television broadcasting it wants to ensure for citizens and adjust its funding accordingly. At the same time, funding for public media should be distributed among all population groups and reflect their changing viewing habits," said Dvořák.

In 2022, the management had to adopt austerity measures that will affect the public service in 2023 and 2024. The CT3 channel was shut down, the volume of new productions in all genres was reduced, investments in new films and documentaries were cut, layoffs were implemented and investments were limited.

On the other hand, Czech Television has a financial reserve that is much higher than what the Czech Television Council wanted. In the long-term economic plans it was assumed that there would be at least CZK 844 million (€36 million) in the bank accounts at the end of 2022. The actual figure was CZK 1.955 billion (€83 million).

Dvořák's management also managed to reduce last year's costs by CZK 216 million (€9 million) compared to the approved budget. This is partly due to the announced savings and partly to the postponement of the completion of some projects from 2022 to 2023.

How Czech TV spends the licence fee
Expenditure CategoryAmount in CZKAmount in EUR
Content Production984.14
Infrastructure and Production Support150.63
Operating Costs100.42
Signal Distribution70.30
VAT and Costs of Collecting Licence Fee50.21
 CZK 135€5.70

Revenue from television fees in 2022 reached CZK 5.72 billion (€242 million). This is CZK 30 million (€1.3 million) more than planned and an improvement of CZK 13 million (€550 thousand) compared to 2021, mainly due to reminders sent to debtors. Last year, Czech Television reminded overdue licence fee payers more intensively than before, which led to an increase in the collection of fees owed. 

Despite these efforts, the current financial model is proving to be unsustainable. The licence fee, which has remained unchanged since 2009, combined with increasing costs and the evolving needs of the television industry, has put the public broadcaster in a difficult situation. If the legislation governing the financing of Czech Television is not changed, the current financial situation could lead to further cuts in production and broadcasting, as well as further layoffs.

The annual report calls for an urgent review and amendment of media legislation to address the issue of the broadcaster's funding. It is hoped that such changes could provide a more sustainable model for the future, allowing Czech Television to continue to provide a wide range of public services to its viewers.

However, questions remain as to how long the necessary political debate will take and what form any changes to the media laws will take. These will be critical factors in determining the future of Czech Television and its ability to continue to fulfil its public service mission.

Download: Annual report of the Czech Television 2022 (PDF)

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