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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 April, 2004, 10:49 GMT 11:49 UK
The press in the Czech Republic
Czech press graphic
The Czech press scene underwent a rapid transformation in the wake of the Velvet Revolution of 1989. The strictly controlled state press gave way practically overnight to a free and independent media, and several new titles were launched.

The most significant subsequent development was the influx of foreign capital into the sector during the wholesale privatisation of the economy in the early 1990s. Western investors were keen to muscle in on what was obviously an area ripe for expansion, and by 1996 over half the Czech Republic's papers had non-Czech owners, mainly from German-speaking countries.

The Swiss-based group Ringier currently dominates the national dailies market - it owns the mass-circulation Blesk, and 3 million people, or about a third of the entire population, read its titles. The regional press is controlled almost without exception by the German publishing company Passauer Neue Presse through its subsidiary the Vltava-Labe-Press.

Foreign capital enabled many papers to modernise their production processes, improving print quality and layout. But it gave rise to concerns that the Czech press had sold itself into the hands of mighty media conglomerates based in the German-speaking world - traditionally seen as representing a threat to Czech identity.

Successive Czech governments, anxious not to be seen as placing any obstacles in the way of the country's path to EU membership, have defended foreign newspaper ownership as a manifestation of the principle of the free movement of capital.

Main dailies

Blesk

Based: Prague
Founded: 1992
Circulation: 521,000
Owner: Ringier

A colour tabloid that has, since 2002, been the best-selling daily in the country. Blesk readers can feast on a surfeit of celebrity stories, sport and naked female flesh. In the early 1990s it was a startling new phenomenon on the Czech press scene, and has rapidly forged ahead to become the paper of choice for large numbers of Czechs. Once a week, a glossy magazine is published along with the paper.


Hospodarske noviny

Based: Prague
Founded: 1957
Circulation: 68,000
Owner: Economia (allied to the Dow Jones-Handelsblatt group)

The Czech equivalent of Britain's Financial Times, Hospodarske noviny or "Economics News" concentrates on economic issues both at home and abroad.


Lidove noviny

Based: Prague
Founded: 1988
Circulation: 73,000
Owner: Lidove noviny

The title Lidove noviny ("People's News") goes back to the nineteenth century - a paper with this name was founded in 1893 and soon became the leading daily in the Czech Lands. It flourished in independent Czechoslovakia between the wars but was suppressed after the 1948 communist takeover. The title was revived in 1988 for a samizdat publication edited by the prominent dissident Jiri Ruml. After the Velvet Revolution, Lidove noviny was relaunched, with Ruml still at the helm until 1990. It is now an independent daily aimed at a liberally-minded and university-educated readership. The website publishes a few articles in English.


Mlada fronta DNES

Based: Prague
Founded: 1990
Circulation: 308,000
Owner: Mafra

Mlada fronta DNES ("Youth Front Today") was the best-selling daily in the country until it was overtaken in 2002 by the tabloid Blesk. It grew out of a pre-1989 paper catering for the communist party's youth wing, but is now an independent, Western-style daily aimed at a general readership. The website was launched in 1998 and claims that it is visited by more than a million readers every month.


Pravo

Based: Prague
Founded: 1995
Circulation: 188,000
Owner: Borgis

Pravo ("Truth") is the successor to the old communist party Rude Pravo ("Red Truth"), which ruled the roost from 1948 until the fall of communism. Today, the paper is not directly linked to any political party, but maintains a left-wing stance and tends to focus on social issues. It has a clear and relatively uncluttered website.


Influential weekly

Respekt

Based: Prague
Founded: 1990
Circulation: 17,000
Owner: Published by R-Presse, the majority of whose shares are owned by Karl von Schwarzenberg (an adviser to former President Vaclav Havel), the remainder being held by a staff consortium.

Launched by a group of journalists who had previously been active in samizdat publishing, in its early days Respekt could boast of having close contacts with the new movers and shakers in the country. Indeed, several of its founders subsequently moved into politics. A generation change has occurred since then, but it is still regarded as the Czech Republic's leading independent political weekly, and claims to be an influential opinion-former. The website occasionally carries articles in English and German.


BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.




SEE ALSO:
Country profile: Czech Republic
04 Feb 04  |  Country profiles


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