Representatives of commercial media outlets have heavily criticized the so-called “media novel” proposed by the Ministry of Culture, which is currently in the public consultation phase. The bill increases concession fees for public service media and expands the range of those required to pay them. Publishers argue that the bill would significantly harm the media market and urge Culture Minister Martin Baxa (ODS) to withdraw the proposal.
“This novel will affect all commercial media in this country. Some more, some less, but all will feel it. It will have a very negative impact on the entire media market in the Czech Republic,” stated Marek Singer, the CEO of FTV Prima.
According to Singer, the draft of the novel was not consulted with commercial television providers. Representatives of other commercial television and radio stations also expressed concerns that increasing the budget of public service media would damage them.
“There is concern about destabilizing the entire audiovisual market. Any increase in the budget for public service media means preventing production capacity in the market and raising the prices for production activities for commercial entities,” said Daniel Grunt, the CEO of TV Nova.
Commercial broadcasters are resisting the plan to increase concession fees
“An increase is proposed that would yield 1.3 to 1.5 billion for Czech Television without specifying what the money could be used for. Suddenly, a blank check is issued, and we must figure out what to do with that money. It’s either a fundamental misunderstanding of market dynamics or an absolute power arrogance,” Singer added.
“We don’t question the fees, but the blank check for what will be done with them,” added Libuše Šmuclerová, Chairwoman of the Administrative Board of the Union of Publishers and Director of Czech News Center.
Publishers also object to the provision in the novel that would require all mobile phone owners to pay concession fees, which they consider a hidden tax on mobile phones. They are also against public service media continuing to use advertising and sponsorship. They do not rule out turning directly to Prime Minister Petr Fiala (ODS).
“At this moment, the income of Czech Radio is double compared to the rest of the private radio market. While 27 percent of the audience belongs to Czech Radio, 73 percent belong to commercial radio,” pointed out Jiří Hrabák, CEO of Radio Impuls and Chairman of the Association of Private Broadcasting Operators (APSV).
He reminded that Minister Baxa had previously rejected an increase in concession fees. “According to him, there was no reason for it. A year passed, and suddenly we hear that there is a reason, but no one told us what it is,” said Hrabák, emphasizing the need to reopen the discussion on the role of public service media.
The Ministry of Culture, according to spokeswoman Jana Malíková, is not opposed to discussion. “The current proposal is undergoing interdepartmental consultation, and there will certainly be ongoing discussions, which the ministry welcomes. The proposed change is based on the reality of the declining value of fees over time, almost halving,” said Malíková. The private sector has long criticized public television for airing detective series and sports broadcasts competing with commercial entities.