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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 was the first to enter the ring and 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.

Ringier's main rival is the German group Rheinisch-Bergische Verlagsgesellschaft (RBVG), which has a controlling stake in the up-market Lidove noviny and the middle-brow Mlada front DNES.

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 has enabled many papers to modernise their production processes, improving print quality and layout. But it has given rise to concerns that the Czech press has 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: 561,700 (2005)
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: 63,000 (2005)
Owner: Published by Economia (77% owned by 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: 70,700 (2005)
Owner: Published by Pressinvest (100% owned by Rheinisch-Bergische Verlagsgesellschaft)

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 occasionally reproduces articles from the English and German press, in the original languages.


Mlada fronta DNES

Based: Prague
Founded: 1990
Circulation: 303,400 (2005)
Owner: Published by Mafra (74% owned by Rheinisch-Bergische Verlagsgesellschaft)

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 1.3 million readers every month.


Pravo

Based: Prague
Founded: 1990
Circulation: 169,500 (2005)
Owner: Published by Borgis (91% owned by the paper's editor-in-chief, Zdenek Porybny)

Pravo ("Right") is the successor to the old communist party Rude Pravo ("Red Right"), 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 is the only Czech national daily that is not owned by a foreign company.


Influential weekly

Respekt

Based: Prague
Founded: 1990
Circulation: 16,800 (2005)
Owner: Published by R-Presse, the majority of whose shares are owned by Czech senator Karel Schwarzenberg, 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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