Kamil Houska; Zdroj: TV Nova
15. 5. 2024

The news portal TN Live will become TV Nova's main channel for broadcasting ahead of the European Parliament elections. At the same time, the portal itself will shift in content and come up with new programming.

The key pillar of the Nova Group's pre-election coverage of the European Parliament elections will be the main debates on the TN Live web portal. They will take place on 17 May, 24 May, 31 May and 6 June. Each episode will be followed by articles on and a report in Televizní noviny. They will be hosted by Martin Čermák and Háta Sassmannová, who is TV Nova's permanent correspondent to the European Union. The debates will take place in the main building of TV Nova, will be broadcast live from 15:00 and will last 60 minutes.

"We will be inviting parties, movements or coalitions that average at least 3% of the vote in the electoral projections to the election coverage. We have informed the political parties and the public in advance about this key for the selection of guests. We are as transparent as possible," says Kamil Houska, director of TV Nova's newsroom.

Nova invites candidates to the debates based on surveys from Kantar, STEM, Stem/Mark, CVVM, Median, Ipsos and Data Collect published from 7 December 2023 to 30 April 2024.

At the same time, the TN Live portal will undergo a content transformation after three years of operation. Since May, the daily programme "Napřímo" has been included in the daily frequency, and the lifestyle magazine "Talk!" is also appearing more frequently. In June, the World Beyond Borders programme will be expanded and other new features on TN Live are expected to be added in the second half of the year.

We spoke to Kamil Houska, director of news at TV Nova, about the European Parliament elections and the plans for TN Live.

The TN Live website will be TV Nova's main channel this year for broadcasting the debates leading up to the European Parliament elections, which fall on 7 and 8 June. The debates will not be part of TV Nova's linear broadcast. Why?

It is because the European elections are different from the House of Commons elections or the presidential elections. From a TV point of view, what is interesting about the parliamentary elections is the clash of several party presidents. In the case of the euro elections, however, the attention is fragmented because there are no party presidents on the candidates' lists, and then there are the candidates for European Commissioners. We have therefore decided to split the pre-election debates into a larger number of debates and to allow the parties to field a different candidate each time.

Nova has already published a key for inviting candidates to the debates. Is the one you will use for the European elections different from other election events?

We have had a mechanism in place for several years and we still follow it. We draw on several surveys from the major polling agencies each time and average all the published results of each party over a pre-determined period. On the basis of these, we calculate an average value that indicates whether or not they will cross the threshold for election. According to this key, we then invite representatives to the debates.

However, we also know that the situation on the political scene is changing and that several entities are hovering around the 2-3% threshold. Even sociologists admit that a few entities may approach the electability threshold. That is why we have decided that, in addition to the debates to which we are inviting representatives according to the clear key that I have described, we will also open up topics in Television Newspapers to which we will also record the views of the candidates of these smaller parties.

Given that you will be bringing the debates to the webcast, have you considered inviting representatives of all the parties to the debates? This is precisely to avoid possible criticism that participation in the debates is open only to certain entities...

It will never be possible to satisfy everyone, and we must set a limit, because we cannot invite everyone. Someone will always feel aggrieved that they did not get to participate in the debate. We publish our rules clearly and in the long term and do not change them. We go by a clear key and, unfortunately, there is no other parameter than the averages of opinion polls. Yes, we can also stick to the results of the last election, but that is, in my opinion, an even worse option, because in one election period the mood of society can vary quite a lot.

We are going by a clear key and, unfortunately, there is no other parameter than polling averages.

So the backbone of the Euro election coverage will be four debates spread over four weeks of an hour's duration without a super-debate...

Yes. In addition, we will also include the highlights of each debate in the TV news. The superdebate makes sense in parliamentary or presidential elections because in these cases the roles of the debaters are clearly understood. In the case of the European elections, it differs in that someone is a candidate, someone is the leader of a candidate list, and someone is running for Commissioner. The European elections are the most difficult for us to explain to people that they are about them. Half of the people do not know or do not realise what the EU brings to them. The ambition of full-screen commercial television is to explain to people in a concise and clear way the basic things that are decided in Brussels.

To broadcast the election results, you are preparing the Our Europe programme, which will start on Monday 10 June instead of Breakfast five minutes before 6:00 and will last about three hours. This is a different style of presenting the results than in the parliamentary or presidential elections.

The Euro elections are atypical in that they wait until the last polling stations have closed. This is an advantage and a disadvantage at the same time - the disadvantage is that you cannot continuously count the results and report on how everyone is doing. The advantage, on the other hand, is that by the time we can report, the results for the Czech Republic will have been counted and we can tell the audience the result straight away. For this reason, there is no point in preparing an extraordinary continuous broadcast on Saturday, because we could just say that the elections are over. The results will be known on the night of Sunday to Monday, so we will offer a special three-hour broadcast on Monday morning to analyse them.

You are not planning a special magazine dedicated to the European elections in the linear TV Nova broadcast?

We have considered it, but we think it would be better to use our existing programmes and spread the topics evenly. They will appear in the programmes Televizní noviny, Střepiny or Za pět minut 12áct.

How important are the European elections for Nova in terms of news priorities? Is their importance growing?

It depends on your point of view. It is no secret that voters are not that interested in the Euro elections. But it is an important election for journalists and broadcasters because we want people to understand that by participating in the elections they can influence the running of the European Union. We often hear that people complain about the European Union, but if they can express their opinion in the elections, they will stay at home. That is why we want to focus on elections. We want to explain to the audience that many things are no longer decided at national level, but are decided at European level.

The European elections are the most difficult for us to explain to people that they concern them.

The debates on the occasion of the European Parliament elections are now one of the most visible projects of TN Live. But alongside that, you're also expanding the coverage of some of your existing weekday shows - specifically, Straight Talk and Talk. What do you hope to get out of this?

We intend to modify the functioning of the TN Live portal. We see that traffic to the site is high when there are major events that can attract tens to hundreds of thousands of people. However, when nothing extraordinary happens, traffic logically drops. It turns out that programmes that are clearly defined work well, so that the audience knows what to associate with such a programme. Because in this case they often search for it retrospectively and do not necessarily watch it live. That's the case with the show Straight - it has eight to 10 thousand viewers live and tens of thousands more watching it in the next 48 hours in additional viewing. The implication is that TN Live can work in a "podcast" way, so to speak, in the time not devoted to live coverage of important events. Therefore, we decided to create a plethora of shows exclusively for TN Live on a daily basis. Each show will have a regular place in the schedule. The show Straight will focus on 20-30 minute interviews with politicians every weekday. The Talk show is showbiz oriented. But we are also preparing other programmes. We also want to expand the distribution of content to other platforms and not just keep it on the TN Live website. (TN Live is also available on the HbbTV app and Voyo, ed.)

What other shows are you preparing for TN Live?

In addition to the aforementioned Straight and Talk shows, we are planning daily sports shows where we will focus on a different sport every day. The Nova Group holds a number of broadcasting rights to sports programmes, and we want to take advantage of this. We are also planning programmes on a weekly basis, for example a programme focusing on literature or also programmes targeting certain groups. For example, topics related to the police, the army or the fire brigade are quite varied and are of interest to a large group.

We want to expand the distribution of content to other platforms and not just keep it on the TN Live website. So we will involve YouTube and podcast platforms in the distribution.

A new feature of TV Nova's journalistic programmes this year was the programme Na vaší strane, but after a month of broadcasting it has moved from Saturday evenings to Mondays at 22:30. What do you think of the change in airtime?

It turned out that the Thursday slot is more convenient than the weekend one. The show highlights injustices and for this reason the weekend time has not worked well for us, as viewers seem to have a harder time accepting shows that are less relaxing on the weekend. The move has helped and we are pleased with the results of the show. We are also getting a large number of tips each week from viewers on topics we can open up on the show. And we're proud that we've already been able to help several people actually solve their difficult problems. That the show isn't just about highlighting the problem, about warning other people, but that it can actually help those particular people.

We've had a similar experience of shifting to a different time slot with Weekend. We used to air Weekend on Tuesdays, and because it didn't work as much at that time, we moved it to Weekend Breakfast, and last May we brought it back as a stand-alone show on Monday nights at 10:30. In this new time, it's doing great numbers, with a share in excess of 23% and working better than before. But it's also true that we've changed its programming, producer and it has new editors.