Czech Television (Česká televize, CT) is the public television broadcaster in Czechia. It was part of the Czechoslovak Television, the state television of former Czechoslovakia founded in 1953, until the country’s break-up in 1993 when Czechia and Slovakia went separate ways. Today, the broadcaster airs seven channels, including a generalist one (CT1), a sports station (CT Sport) and an all-news channel (CT24).
State Media Matrix Typology: Independent Public (IP)
Ownership and governance
Czech Television was established through the Czech Television Act of 1991 as a public corporation providing a public television service, independent from the state and accountable to the public. The main governance structure at Czech Television is the Czech Television Council, which consists of 15 members appointed by the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of the Czech Parliament, from nominations submitted by civil society organizations. Politicians and public office holders are barred from being appointed. To ensure its independence and prevent political pressures, a third of the Council members are replaced every two years (they each serve a six-year mandate). This staggered appointment procedure is meant to avoid control of the board by the political party in power, and hence by the state.
The station also has a Supervisory Commission, consisting of five members elected by the Council from among people with expertise in management and finances. The Supervisory Commission’s main job is to monitor the financial performance of the broadcaster to ensure it operates effectively and efficiently. The commission informs the council about its findings (especially problems that need to be remedied).
The Director General of the station is appointed by the Council.
Source of funding and budget
According to the Czech Television Act, Czech Television is financed through a combination of license fees (fee for public television paid by all the households in the country). The level of the fee is set at CZK 135 (US$ 6) a month.
In 2021, the broadcaster operated with a budget of CZK 6.93bn (US$ 315m), according to the latest annual report. License fees accounted for some 87% of that. The rest came from commercial activities (ad sales, sponsorships, etc.). The law imposes strict limits on the amount of advertising the station can carry. The current model of financing, with a license fee paid by households, is aimed at insulating the broadcaster from government pressures.
In 2022, Czech Television had a total budget of CZK 7.17bn (US$ 290m), the license fees generating roughly CZK 6.23bn (US$ 252m) of that, according to a report issued by the broadcaster.
There are no obligations imposed by the government on Czech Television that would encroach upon its editorial independence. Evidence of attempts to control the station by promoting to the Czech Television Council people close to the government emerges from time to time. However, in spite of these politicization attempts, the balance of power in the council has remained stable, not giving politicians sufficient room to exert control of the station’s editorial policies.
After his party was removed from power in the latest election held in October 2021, the former prime minister Andrej Babis began to accuse Czech Television of censorship. However, these accusations have so far proven groundless. In a speech in the Czech Parliament in early July 2022, Babis said that Czech Television failed to broadcast interventions in Parliament by opposition MPs, which in his opinion amounted to censorship. Yet, he didn’t offer any concrete examples. Moreover, he made those accusations as his own speech was broadcast live by Czech Television.
The work of the Czech Television is governed by the Czech Television Code, a document that has been drafted in line with legal provisions put forward by the Czech Television Act. The code lays down principles of public service provision in the area of television broadcasting that are binding on Czech Television and its staff. According to the law, “failure to comply with the provisions of the Code should be qualified as a breach of discipline under the Labour Code as the relevant special law.” The code puts forward a comprehensive list of principles guiding the news coverage of the station that ensures its independence, encouraging its journalists to work without any constraints or restrictions.
Czech Television established in 2014 an Editorial Panel that is charged with handling problems related to the editorial independence of the station. The panel consists of staff from the station’s News Department who work independently from the General Director.
The station also has an Ethics Panel that has five members appointed by the General Director in consultation with the CT Council. The general director has to implement changes proposed through the recommendations of the Editorial Panel. If the director disagrees with some of those recommendations, he/she has to submit the issue to the Ethics Panel for analysis.
Czech Television also has an Ombudsman office in charge of handling viewer complaints about the station’s programs. The office was established in 2018. The same year the director general Petr Dvorak established the Audience Council, an advisory body consisting of representatives of 60 bodies, including trade unions, professional associations, cultural institutions and NGOs, whose main mission is to identify the needs of the citizens not yet fulfilled by Czech Television programs.