Media

Regulatory and institutional structure

Summarise the regulatory framework for the media sector in your jurisdiction.

The key law regarding the media sector in the Czech Republic is Act No. 231/2001, as amended, on the Operation of Radio and Television Broadcasting and Act No. 132/2010 as amended, on On-Demand Audiovisual Media Service.

The Operation of Radio and Television Broadcasting Act governs the state administration in the field of radio and television broadcasting as defined in its section 2, subsection 1, paragraph a, as communication of programmes and another parts of broadcasting, including services directly linked to the programme, to the public through electronic communications networks in unencoded or encoded form for simultaneous viewing of programmes and other parts of broadcasting.

The On-Demand Audiovisual Media Service Act governs provision of audiovisual media services as defined in section 2, subsection 1, paragraph a, as an information society service that is under the editorial responsibility of a media service provider and the principal purpose of which is the provision of programmes to inform, entertain or educate, and that allows viewing of the programmes in the moment chosen by the user and on his or her individual demand based on the catalogue of programmes.

Further laws are as follows:

  • Act No. 127/2005 as amended, on Electronic Communications;
  • Act No. 480/2004 as amended, on Information Society Services;
  • Act No. 348/2005 as amended, on Radio and Television Charges;
  • Act No. 483/1991 as amended, on Czech Television;
  • Act No. 484/1991 as amended, on Czech Radio; and
  • Act No. 40/1995 as amended, on Regulation of Advertisement.

The central state administration body for radio and television broadcasting is the Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting (the Council). The Council supervises and develops the plurality of the programme offers and information in the broadcasting area, grants the licences for broadcasting operation, monitors content of broadcasting, etc.

The CTO supervises the use of radio spectrum. The CTO determines the technical parameters and conditions for the use of the radio spectrum for radio communication services (ie, it is in charge of frequency planning).

Ownership restrictions

Do any foreign ownership restrictions apply to media services? Is the ownership or control of broadcasters otherwise restricted? Are there any regulations in relation to the cross-ownership of media companies, including radio, television and newspapers?

Czech legislation does not contain any restrictions on ownership of media services by a foreign person.

In 2017 an amendment to Act No. 159/2006 on Conflict of Interests was passed. The main change concerns a restriction on ownership of the media. A public office holder is prohibited from being a provider of television or radio broadcasting, being a publisher of periodicals, or being a member or a controlling person of a legal person who is a provider of television or radio broadcasting or publisher of periodicals.

Regarding cross-ownership of media, the Czech legal regulation does not contain any specific rules or prohibition of cross-ownership of printed and online media. There are some regulations regarding cross-ownership of television and radio broadcasting, as follows:

  • A provider of nationwide analogue radio broadcasting shall not hold any ownership interest in another nationwide analogue radio broadcasting provider (the same rule applies to providers of analogue television broadcasting).
  • A provider of nationwide analogue television broadcasting shall not merge with a provider of nationwide analogue television broadcasting in some cases (the same rule applies to providers of radio broadcasting).
  • A provider of nationwide digital television broadcasting shall not hold any ownership interest in another provider of nationwide television broadcasting.
  • A provider of nationwide digital radio broadcasting shall not hold any ownership interest in another provider of nationwide radio broadcasting.
  • A provider of nationwide television broadcasting shall not merge with a provider of nationwide digital television broadcasting in some cases.
  • A provider of nationwide radio broadcasting shall not merge with a provider of nationwide digital radio broadcasting in some cases.
  • A provider of nationwide digital radio broadcasting shall not merge with a provider of nationwide digital radio broadcasting (the same rule applies to providers of digital radio broadcasting).

It should also be noted that the Council evaluates transparency of ownership of applicants in the licensing procedure.

Licensing requirements

What are the licensing requirements for broadcasting, including the fees payable and the timescale for the necessary authorisations?

The licensing requirements for broadcasting are set down in the Operation of Radio and Television Broadcasting Act.

The licensing procedure is initiated upon either the applicant’s or the Council’s incentive. The Council shall request a statement from the CTO prior to initiation of the licensing procedure. The requirements for participation in a licensing procedure, provided the applicant is a legal entity, are as follows: the applicant shall fulfil the conditions for the conduct of business and, if the applicant is a joint-stock company, the shares shall be issued in the form of registered shares. Provided the applicant is a natural person, the applicant shall be endowed with full legal capacity and fulfil the conditions for conduction of business. A business plan and a version of licensing conditions shall be attached to the application by the applicant.

The fees payable for the receipt of an application for granting authorisation for operation of radio or television broadcasting are set in the Annex to Act No. 634/2004, on Administrative Fees. The fee amounts to 90,000 koruna regarding television broadcasting and 25,000 koruna regarding radio broadcasting.

The Council possesses a discretion when deciding to grant authorisation. Besides the requirements set out above, the Council also evaluates economic, organisational and technical preparedness, transparency of the ownership, contribution of programme schedule, representation of European production, and preparedness to provide subtitles to a particular percentage of broadcasted programmes for persons with hearing impairment. Regarding digital broadcasting, the Council also considers whether the applicant contributes to the development of national, ethnic and other minorities in the Czech Republic.

As regards timing, the Council will firstly request a statement from the CTO on technical matters connected with the licence, which shall be issued within 15 days after accepting the application. The Council shall then initiate the licensing procedure within 30 days of receiving of the statement from the CTO. In the announcement of the licensing procedure, the Council shall determine the period for filing of the application for granting the authorisation. Depending on the specific kind of licence requested, the licensing proceedings shall then take 60 or 90 days.

Foreign programmes and local content requirements

Are there any regulations concerning the broadcasting of foreign-produced programmes? Do the rules require a minimum amount of local content? What types of media fall outside this regime?

A provider of on-demand audiovisual services is obliged to reserve at least 10 per cent out of the total number of catalogued programmes for European works. Alternatively, the provider may fulfil the obligation by dedicating at least 1 per cent of its earnings to the creation of European works or acquiring rights for using European works.

A provider of broadcasting possesses a right to broadcast programmes freely and independently. The broadcaster shall provide objective and balanced information for independent opinion-making. A broadcaster by law (Czech Television and Czech Radio) is obliged to set a programme to offer a balanced range of programmes for the population with regard to their age, gender, skin colour, beliefs and national, ethnic or social origin. Such rule does not apply for other broadcasters. The broadcaster is, if possible, obliged to reserve at least 10 per cent out of the total number of broadcasting time for European works created by independent authors. Alternatively, the broadcaster may fulfil the obligation by dedicating at least 10 per cent of its programme budget to the creation of European works created by independent authors or acquiring rights for using European works created by independent authors.

A provider of both radio and television broadcasting may integrate programmes with regionally different content. However, a provider of nationwide radio and television broadcasting with a licence is obliged to broadcast nationwide without regionally different content for at least 85 per cent of a week’s broadcasting time.

Advertising

How is broadcast media advertising regulated? Is online advertising subject to the same regulation?

Advertising is in general regulated by the Act on Regulation of Advertising. It regulates unfair commercial practices, comparative advertising, advertising of tobacco products, advertising of medical products for human use and veterinary medicinal products, advertising on infant formula and follow-on formula, and general requirements of advertising and transmission include sanctions for breach of the obligations as stated in the Act. The Act also contains a regulation of advertising on alcoholic beverages, on plant protection products, on firearms and ammunition and advertising on funeral services.

The Act specifically regulates advertising diffused by media, which in particular includes the following means of communication: periodicals and non-periodical publications, radio and television broadcasting, on-demand audiovisual media services, audiovisual production, computer sites, carriers of audiovisual works, brochures and posters.

Generally, advertising against legal regulations, advertising in the form of unfair commercial practices, anonymous advertising regarding elections into public bodies in specific time periods is prohibited. Moreover, comparative advertising is allowed only upon fulfilment of conditions set down in the Act. In all cases, advertising shall not be contrary to the principles of morality, shall not support behaviour detrimental to health or endangering the safety of persons, property or environment.

Advertising of tobacco products is not allowed through broadcast media unless the Act states otherwise. The same applies to firearms and ammunition. Advertising of alcoholic beverages is legally restricted with the prohibition of various elements in the advertisement, such as advertisement directed at minors under 18 years or promoting excessive drinking.

The advertiser is obliged to maintain a copy of every advertisement at least for a period of five years after its last transmission.

Broadcasters are obliged to ensure placement of advertisements between programmes. The exceptions to the rule are programmes with compact and separable parts, sport or social occasions’ broadcasts with pauses.

The licence holder is obliged to ensure that an advertisement is incorporated into the film only if it lasts more than 45 minutes with the advertisement included, not more than once in every 45-minute time period; another interruption is allowed only if the film lasts, with the advertisement included, at least about 20 minutes more than two or more 45-minute time periods. As regards other audiovisual works, advertisements may be included only if the programme with the advertisement included lasts at least 30 minutes and not more than once in every 30-minute time period.

Interruption of news, religious programmes or programmes for children is not allowed in any case.

Online advertising is also regulated by the Act on Regulation of Advertising as the subject matter of the law is also advertising diffused by computer sites.

Additionally, Act No. 480/2004, on Information Society Services regulates unsolicited advertising.

Must-carry obligations

Are there regulations specifying a basic package of programmes that must be carried by operators’ broadcasting distribution networks? Is there a mechanism for financing the costs of such obligations?

Act No. 46/2000, the Press Act, establishes an obligation on a publisher of periodicals to publish public service announcements.

An entrepreneur providing a publicly accessible service of electronic communications is obliged to provide such service without any interruptions every day (with some exceptions stipulated by law).

Provided there is a public interest, the CTO holds a discretion to assign an obligation to broadcast certain radio or television programmes to an entrepreneur who provides a radio and television broadcasting service that is used by end users as the main means of broadcast reception. The service is provided upon a written contract that shall include a proposal of prices.

Regulation of new media content

Is new media content and its delivery regulated differently from traditional broadcast media? How?

New media content is regulated in the same way as traditional broadcast media (ie, by the Act on On-Demand Audiovisual Media Services) provided it qualifies as an audiovisual media service. There are no regulations, which would be applicable specifically to new media content. The Act establishes an independent list of obligations for providers of on-demand audiovisual media services and establishes a requirement of minimum content of European works.

Digital switchover

When is the switchover from analogue to digital broadcasting required or when did it occur? How will radio frequencies freed up by the switchover be reallocated?

The beginning of digital switchover dates back to 2008 when the first of the ATV transmitters was switched off. The switchover from analogue to digital broadcasting lasted over four years, when in February 2012 operation of the very last high-power ATV transmitter was discontinued.

The CTO issued a general measure that set down a technical plan for the digital switchover. The measure included a plan of reallocation of radio frequencies.

Generally, a plan of relocation of radio frequencies (national radio frequencies table) is set in the regulation published by the Ministry of Industry and Trade. The CTO then determines the parameters and conditions for the use of the radio spectrum under the radio spectrum utilisation plan.

Digital formats

Does regulation restrict how broadcasters can use their spectrum?

An entrepreneur securing a public communication network, through which digital television services are transmitted, is obliged to operate the network to allow the diffusion of services and programmes of widescreen (16:9) format. An entrepreneur who receives and broadcasts programmes or services of widescreen format is obliged to retain the format.

The CTO issues parts of the radio spectrum utilisation plan as measures of a general nature. That plan includes a general part of the radio spectrum utilisation plan and also parts of the radio utilisation plan focused on dedicated frequency bands determined by the lower and upper frequency limits.

Media plurality

Is there any process for assessing or regulating media plurality (or a similar concept) in your jurisdiction? May the authorities require companies to take any steps as a result of such an assessment?

The main regulatory authority guarding the media plurality in the Czech Republic is the Council. The main purposes of the Council are:

  • supervising adherence to and development of plurality of the programme offers and information in the area of broadcasting and rebroadcasting;
  • attending to independence of broadcasting and rebroadcasting with respect to its content;
  • supervising observance of legal regulations in the area of broadcasting and conditions stipulated in the decision on granting a licence or in decisions on registration;
  • granting, changing and withdrawing licences for broadcasting operation; or
  • issuing, changing and cancelling decisions about registration for the operation of rebroadcasting.

In terms of the steps the authorities may require companies to take as a result of a media plurality assessment, the Council advises the broadcasting operators and operators of rebroadcasting on infringement of their duties stipulated by the Act on Radio and Television Broadcasting or conditions of granted licence, and grants them a term by which to remedy any potential breaches of the law.

As regards the media ownership and related issues, the current legislation regulating the ownership relations of radio and television broadcasters is laid down by the Act on Radio and Television Broadcasting and by the Act on the Protection of Competition. The Act on Radio and Television Broadcasting sets out the rules for ensuring the plurality of information in radio and television broadcasting. It sets out the limits for the cross-ownership of radio and television stations for both analogue and digital broadcasting and under this Act a single legal or natural person may not simultaneously be the owner of more than two licences for the operation of a nationwide digital broadcasting service entitled to broadcast full-format programmes. The Act on the Protection of Competition further deals with agreements between competitors, abuses of dominant market positions and mergers of competitors. Under this Act the merger of competitors is allowed, but in certain circumstances it requires the approval of the Office for the Protection of Competition.

Key trends and expected changes

Provide a summary of key emerging trends and hot topics in media regulation in your country.

A switch of the technical standard of DTT broadcasting from DVB-T to DVB-T2/HEVC.265 is currently underway. The transition is regulated by a technical plan issued by the Czech Government as Decree 199/2018 of 29 August 2018. The technical plan provides for deadlines, conditions and the terms for switching off the DVB-T broadcasting. The shutting down of the DVB-T broadcast will commence in November 2019 and finish by June 2020.