Czech prime minister calls for media ownership ceilings
Czech prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka has said the country should set limits on the proportion of the local media market that one or a handful of owners can corner. The call comes as European public broadcasting bosses are gathered in Prague to set goals and share insights into how they can keep and raise their profile in an ever more fragmented and competitive media market.
The Social Democrat leader suggested the new tougher rules should deal with cross ownership, where one media magnate has stakes, for example, in newspapers, radio, and television, so that media monopolies do not take shape. Inspiration, Sobotka said, could be taken from developed countries.
Where exactly the future new ownership ceilings might be set and whether they would also set limits for individual sections of the market, such as newspapers, is not too clear at the moment. The prime minister did however that ownership of two national daily papers might still come under the likely limits.
Potential abuse of media ownership and the threat it could present to democracy and public life is not a new theme for the prime minister. This is what he had to say at the Social Democrat’s party congress in mid-March, which also took aim at Babiš. “For a social state to exist there must be a free and democratic society and that requires and important role for Social Democrats. We must be a guarantee of freedom in the country, a guarantee of freedom of speech, parliamentary democracy, and we must be able to uphold the existence and independence of public service broadcasters and defend a fair electoral system.”
There is little doubt that the Social Democrats and other political parties feel that Babiš’ media ownership influences the stories that are or and are not covered in his papers and radio station. ANO consistently tops the poll ratings as the most popular political party in the country. But Babiš insists that he has a hands off approach as regards his media assets. Self censorship is, however, a fairly well known phenomenon in the media.