Czech commercial TV stations changing approach with big investment in home-grown drama


The Czech Republic's commercial television stations - founded since the Velvet Revolution - have traditionally relied on imported soap operas, many of them from South America. But now, however, the commercial channels are investing heavily in domestically produced drama, and the autumn schedules are - for the first time - full of Czech-produced serials.

Postcard advertising 'Insuring Happiness'
Family Bonds, the first ever serial made by Czech commercial station Prima, has already proved a big success. This week the country's most popular station, Nova, launched a huge publicity campaign for its new flagship drama, sending postcards to four million Czech households. But why now? Jan Jirak lectures in media studies in Prague.

Jan Jirak: "The regularity, the periodicity of programmes is one of the sources of the high fidelity, the high loyalty of viewers. And the second reason is the structure of ownership of Czech commercial television stations is stabilised enough to allow the owners to invest in the long term perspective."

Marek Dobes: "I think that for every culture it's important to have something which is based on their own history, or the way of thinking of the people in any country, small or big."

Marek Dobes has written a serial for the public service Czech Television. Does he think there is a difference in the kind of drama created by the state broadcaster and the commercial channels?

"Absolutely. The one big difference is that Czech Television series are reality based. They are about real life. Or Czech TV tries to do series about real life. Nova TV and Prima TV are working on series which are more entertaining."

'Family Bonds'
But how high is the standard of modern Czech serials? The state channel's most ambitious drama in many years was a 2003 update of Hospital on the Edge of Town, which was also very popular in other countries in the region two decades ago. The modern version didn't have so much impact, and lecturer Jan Jirak says the golden days of Czech TV could be in the past.

"I'm a little bit afraid that the TV series of the '70s and '80s somehow represent the top of the genre, in a sense. Especially in terms of plot and characters."

But even if he's right, Czech viewers are still enjoying the richest season in domestic drama for a very long time.