Over 80 percent of Czech newspapers now foreign owned

01-08-2003

While foreign investment has made an impact on many areas of business in this country since 1989, few sectors have been as affected as the print media, with over 80 percent of Czech newspapers now in the hands of foreign media groups, mostly from Germany and Switzerland. Perhaps unsurprisingly, some Czechs find this situation disquieting. I discussed the issue of foreign ownership with Marius Dragomir, who covers the media for the Prague Business Journal.

"I think foreign capital was very important for the development of the print media here; without foreign capital, print media couldn't develop in this country. On the other hand, there is a problem, because the key word in the print media market here is market share. Everybody thought that these companies would bring to the Czech Republic more know how and more ethics, but they ended up by asking their managers to bring them market share whatever they write.

I had some signals from some owners when they entered the Czech market that they asked their managers here to improve the quality of the newspapers but in the end they just...many of them they cannot read Czech, and I had some discussions with some media managers here who told me off the record that their foreign owners don't care what's in the newspaper - they just want market share, whatever is there."

Have some of the newspapers have lost their personality in a way? I know for example they all look more similar now than they used to five years ago.

"Yes, that's true, because they fight for the market share, they start to look more or less the same. And what I've noticed is that many newspapers are getting more tabloid. I think the danger of the fact that the Czech media is owned by foreign companies in the end what American observers call the corporatisation of the media will occur. The most affected in all the print media is the news department, it's the department which doesn't bring any revenues, basically. So I think this is the danger in the end. Now we cannot speak about the corporatisation of the media in Eastern Europe, and the Czech Republic in particular. I think this phenomenon is in the US and Western Europe, but it's coming here."

Would you say it's a good investment for a German company, say, to invest in this country's press?

"It was a good investment. I don't know if there is a good investment now. The German companies who came to the Czech Republic and invested in the print media made a very good choice. Once they established their print media here, they actually controlled the advertising flow in this country. A company which would like to enter the Czech media now would have many problems."

01-08-2003