Media manager Klára Brachtlová has been the head of the Association of Commercial Television (AKTV) for a year. The Association was founded by the Nova, Prima, and Óčko TV groups seven years ago. In an interview, Klára Brachtlová reveals how the Association helps TV stations, how broadcasters are coping with the advent of artificial intelligence, and why commercial media opposed the amendment to the law that increases fees for Česká televize (Czech Television, ČT).

AKTV celebrates its seventh birthday and you have been in office for a year. How would you evaluate this period? What went well? And is there anything that hasn’t worked?

Seven years ago, AKTV was established as a brand-new common platform for commercial television with the aim of becoming a partner to state institutions in the development of legislation and being a unified ‘voice’ for television. We know our sector and are able to assess well and quickly the potential impact of external influences, such as legislation. The second pillar of our activities has been to promote television as an advertising media type.

What was your focus?

Initially, we placed more emphasis on promoting television as an advertising medium, communicating the latest trends from around the world, and educating people on what works best on television. We are members of multinational European industry associations, so we have a lot of global information and bring it to the Czech market. However, over time more and more emphasis is put on the role of AKTV as a partner in legislative and regulatory processes.

Is it because more and more media laws are being prepared?

Quite a lot of media-related legislation is currently being drafted in the Czech Republic and more is coming to us from Brussels where more than two-thirds of the regulations concerning the European region are being prepared. So over time, our activities have shifted a lot towards Brussels so that we could monitor the EU’s media regulation priorities at an early stage, and I think we are successful in this respect. One example is probably the last EU action before the elections, the European Media Freedom Act (EMFA). This is something where we were at the very beginning.

At the very beginning? How exactly? Did you comment on the document?

We have already been to the first consultations and Commissioner Věra Jourová presented us with the initial proposition of the document. Although this is another media regulation that we do not welcome enthusiastically in the already heavily regulated audiovisual media sector, the final version of the EMFA seems to be a reasonable compromise.

Will it have some positive effects?

That remains to be seen. For example, Brussels has recognised that in all areas where effective self-regulation exists in EU Member States, self-regulation can be preferred to regulation in the topics covered by EMFA. This includes topics such as the protection of freedom of the press.

And what about restrictions?

Television and radio have already been highly regulated industries, so we don’t see major changes yet. EMFA is a set of tools that are activated at some point. One example is the purchase of media, which in many cases is a below-the-limit transaction not subject to the approval of the Office for the Protection of Competition. EMFA puts in place mechanisms to prevent, for example, a large group threatening media pluralism in a particular region.

Is it in effect?

Last week (17 April), the EMFA was published in the EU’s Official Journal and will apply from August 2025. Now the Member States have their work cut out for them. They have to look at how they will be affected by EMFA, which laws will have to be amended and how. In the Czech Republic, we do not even know yet who will be responsible for the various parts of the Act.

In seven years, you have managed, for example, to suppress storage sites like Ulož.to and to enforce the protection of Prima and Nova’s works in court. What are you facing now?

Unfortunately, illegal sharing of our content is still a hot topic. As far as legislation is concerned, there are some shifts; last year, an amendment to the Copyright Act came into force, which aims to better protect copyright works. We are also seeing shifts in the rhetoric of state officials. They have finally started to see piracy as a real issue that is causing a huge amount of money to leak out, not only for content creators but also for the state.

What amounts are we talking about?

From hundreds of millions to several billions per year. It should be taken into consideration that economic damage is also caused to institutions such as the Czech Film Fund or the National Film Archive, which exercise and trade the rights to large libraries of Czech films.

Finally, piracy is part of the grey economy and tax evasion can also occur because the operators of so-called storage sites are often based outside the Czech Republic. Nobody denies that, but nobody really wants to meddle in this phenomenon because it is a complex matter. The biggest problem we have is judicial enforcement.

The technical aspects of illegal content distribution are evolving faster than the courts are deciding.

Yes, that is definitely a problem. If we want to protect one TV season and, say, the three most attractive titles in court, we are talking about litigation for several years. But in the meantime, we have other seasons running. So this route is not efficient enough for us at the moment and is difficult to use.

Are you ready for the arrival of artificial intelligence?

Technological development is relentless, and I hardly know anyone who hasn’t tried one of the artificial intelligence (AI) tools. It is undeniable that in all fields, including media, the use of AI offers a huge opportunity. For us, for example, it is in the areas of content editing, analytics tools or content quality control. It can be and has already been used for content creation but in this respect, I would be cautious because these generative models only work with what already exists, what they have “learned” somewhere.

A separate issue is the so-called deep fake, where an existing person is exploited, in the field of both photography and video, and we don’t even know about it. The media is already starting to face this, not only in the textual use of AI but also in image misuse. One such case is now being dealt with by colleagues at Prima. They have had a CNN Prima News story misused.

Television is probably affected a lot as anything can be remade there. On the other hand, on Prima, for example, AI has started subtitling programmes for the audience with visual and hearing impairments.

The use of artificial intelligence for the preparation of audio descriptions is a very effective way to make broadcasts accessible to as many disabled viewers as possible. Colleagues at Nova use AI to create additional sports content, such as highlights.

Is it supported by legislation?

In the EU, the so-called AI Act is being finalised, which deals with AI in a rather general way and does not yet address the issue of copyright. The European representation is saying: yes, we will complete this law and, in the period ahead, we will look at how AI will affect other areas and, if necessary, give it more precise rules.

How is the media perceiving this?

From the media’s point of view, it is primarily a matter of self-regulation and ethical use of these tools. That is, if we use AI to create content, it should be clearly labelled from the perspective of the user or viewer.

The UK’s BBC, for example, goes even further and says that the viewer or user should know why AI was used in a given case. This is a huge challenge and opportunity for the whole world, including the media, but we need to be very careful how, at what point in time, and for what purpose we use these tools.

Won’t AI move to a different level long before the legislative process begins?

Of course, legislation cannot keep up with this rapid development; self-regulation is and will be crucial.

The trend in television viewing is changing, time-shifted viewing is on the rise, people no longer wait in front of the TV in the evening but watch their favourite shows when they have time. How are commercial TV stations reacting to this?

Yes, it is a global trend, television is undergoing a long-term transformation as the way we watch content changes. Audiences are less with traditional linear TV, which they tend to use to watch live content, such as news and sports. They are more likely to watch other content at a time they choose and on devices other than the traditional TV screen.

Is TV changing then?

Television is actually a very modern and flexible medium; in addition to classic linear broadcasting, we can get content to viewers through services such as VOYO or prima+, which extends our reach to include younger target groups for whom the TV screen is no longer the centre of the living room and family entertainment.

So linear TV is not going to disappear, is it?

Definitely not. In the United States, we are even seeing a kind of over-saturation and fatigue with the plethora of content on hundreds of VOD platforms and a return of viewers to traditional television. However, it is clear that linear TV is gradually being replaced by other ways of watching content, and commercial broadcasters are adapting their distribution mix accordingly.

This is a trend, and it is going faster in Western Europe than, for example, in the regions of Central and Eastern Europe. Over time, the target group that will consume the content is also changing. But its charm, broadcasting now and here, will remain.

The way we watch TV is changing. Are there any changes for advertising or advertisers as well?

Television still offers the biggest reach to advertisers, it is an effective branding tool. The best proof of this is the fact that even e-commerce brands are among the biggest TV advertisers because online presence and communication are not enough for them. We have recently completed a study in AKTV under our ScreenVoice brand on the attention viewers pay to advertising.

It is proven that the more attention a message can attract, the better it is remembered. And that in turn has a secondary effect on your purchasing decisions. Television advertising came out best in the comparison because, unlike internet advertising, people cannot skip it and they see it much more often on the big TV screen, so they get a good perception of the brand.

Now everything is speeding up. Is there a move away from 30-second ads to shorter sponsor messages? Are the ad blocks getting shorter?

Television is narrative, in a longer spot you tell a story perfectly and convey emotion, moving or entertaining the audience. In addition, viewers see the advertising message alongside their favourite content, which is also a big advantage. This is much harder to do in a shorter spot or sponsorship message. But of course, it depends on what the advertiser wants to achieve in a particular campaign.

At the beginning of September, the Minister of Culture introduced an amendment to the Czech Television and Czech Radio Act, which regulates the amount of fees. AKTV demands its withdrawal. Why? Have AKTV’s representatives had any talks with the Minister of Culture or other politicians? What specific changes have they put forward? How successful have they been?

The Ministry of Culture held a press conference to present an amendment that no one had any idea about. Together with other colleagues from the commercial media, we objected to the proposal because it would be good if such a fundamental amendment was discussed with all the market players concerned.

It may look like this only applies to public service media, but it doesn’t. Public service media are part of a fragile ecosystem, a dual system, which also includes commercial media. The dual system is important for maintaining media pluralism. For the media sector to be sustainable and predictable for all players, the implications of the changes under consideration need to be well thought out.

Is that why you are asking the ministry to open a discussion?

Yes, that is why we have asked the Ministry of Culture to put the legislative process on hold and to start an expert discussion. This happened, and working groups were set up, one for television and one for radio.

We started working at the end of January when we basically exchanged arguments on what we consider essential for the functional coexistence of public and commercial media. We are still waiting for feedback, the Ministry of Culture is obviously working on something but unfortunately, we don’t know the current situation.

Why are you protesting? What is this all about?

As I said, public and commercial media stand side by side. And each has a different mission. The mission of public service media should be enshrined in a proper definition of public service, and we say: let us look at the definition of public service.

Can you be a little more specific?

In our opinion, it is appropriate to ask whether ČT should invest huge sums of money in, for example, very expensive sports competitions that are usually broadcast abroad by commercial sports channels. It is understandable that if viewers have become accustomed to such free content available on ČT4, it would be very unpopular to stop broadcasting it.

This takes us back to the public service and its definition. And the second key issue for us is the sustainable financing of all entities in the media ecosystem. Commercial media are dependent on advertising revenue for their livelihood. That is why we believe that public service media should be funded either by licence fees or by the state budget and should not have the tendency or the possibility to profit and generate revenues from advertising.

Are you waiting for a response from the ministry?

Yes, at the moment, we are waiting for the Ministry of Culture to give us an update. We are still hoping to reach a compromise result that will ultimately ensure the sustainable functioning of both commercial and public media. This is also a topical issue with regard to the EMFA we have talked about. One part of it concerns the functioning of public service media and the sustainability of their funding. So it needs comprehensive consideration and honest effort.

Are there representatives of ČT in the working group?

Of course, there are Czech Television and Czech Radio and also representatives of other commercial media there. We are there together.

From a layman’s point of view, you seem to work to remove advertising from ČT and cut its profits.

We are asked whether we want to eliminate the public media. That is certainly not our goal. For us, coexistence with them is very important, especially in today’s complex geopolitical situation. We have been saying the same thing from the beginning. Let’s look at this conceptually, let’s define the role of the public service media, and then we will work out how much money they need.

Not the other way around, we will add two billion and you will tell us what you will do for it. We don’t want to weaken ČT by taking away advertising, that is only a small part of it. In terms of commercial messages, the bigger issue for us is sponsorship. The sponsorship messages on ČT are now almost interchangeable with the advertising block. Although the law is not breached, it is de facto being circumvented in this way, and we do not think that this is how it was originally intended.

Your next topic is the transformation of the Czech Film Fund. What stage is the process at? And are you also working with the Ministry of Culture on it?

Yes, this process was exactly the opposite. For the transformation of the Audiovisual Fund, the Ministry invited us to a debate and a working group was formed before it was officially established. Negotiations continued for almost a year, and on some points, a fairly reasonable compromise was found.

However, in our opinion, for some others, the discussion was not completed, and the ministry suddenly came up with a proposal which it has already sent to the legislative process. But there are problematic points in the amendment that I would call almost discriminatory.

Can you give us an example?

The fund is financed by contributions from commercial entities, TV stations, operators, cinema operators and, in the future, VOD platform operators. Until now, the biggest contributor has been commercial TV, and our fee has been defined as a percentage of advertising revenue for traditional linear TV and also a minimum collection of CZK 150 million.

This means that if that percentage of advertising revenue didn’t add up to 150 million, the commercial TV stations had to pay 150 million. For example, in the COVID period when the commercial TV stations were really in trouble because of the outflow of advertising revenue, we also paid 150 million.

Will this change?

Commercial TV is the only one that has that minimum threshold. We have sincerely hoped that when the whole system of support for audiovisual content is being reconfigured this would be an ideal opportunity to level the playing field and not discriminate one media type against another or one type of taxpayer against another. The Ministry of Culture understands this but unfortunately, this discriminatory principle is still enshrined in the law.

What will the law change?

In the proposal, we appreciate that under the new system of operation, foreign VOD operators should also contribute to the fund. Until now, we were the only ones to pay for VOYO and prima+. On the other hand, services such as YouTube or Facebook, which do not meet the legal definition but which undoubtedly contain a large amount of audiovisual content, are not subject to the levy.

So that is another discriminatory element, local players have to make contributions from advertising revenue on web platforms while the big multinational players are not affected. It is probably also food for thought that not all the players who draw incentives and benefit from the state support system for audio-visual content are contributing to the system. On the positive side, however, the amendment should finally make it possible for us as the largest investors in audiovisual content in the Czech Republic to draw support for television formats.

Officials understand that sharing illegal content also leads to the leakage of government money. With the rapid development of artificial intelligence, legislation cannot keep up.

Author: Jitka Venturová