The media literacy landscape in the Czech Republic is complex, as further described below. According to the 2020 Handbook of Media Education Research, interest in media and literacy and media education in the Czech Republic has been renewed by the development of the risk of hybrid threats, specifically fake news, disinformation, and subversive influence on public opinion by third countries.
For context, Internet user skills in the Czech Republic are slightly above the EU average, according to the 2022 European Commission DESI index. According to the Reuters Institute’s 2022 Digital News Report, 88% of people access news online, and 53% use social media for news. Trust in news is relatively low, at 34% of those surveyed. The most trusted sources are public broadcasters.
The 2022 Media Pluralism Monitor noted that “The Covid-19 pandemic has confirmed that a significant proportion of citizens struggle with critical approach to the media and information they consume, and that more effort needs to be invested in developing digital literacy skills, both among young and elderly population.” The anti-vaccination movement has been mobilised with the help of hoaxes and conspiracy theories disseminated via social media and chain emails, it added.
EDMO hub membership
The Czech Republic is a member of the Central European Digital Media Observatory (CEDMO) along with Poland and Slovakia.
CEDMO is seeking to become a relevant actor for the media literacy community in Central Europe, providing expertise and educational tools, while conducting campaigns and strengthening the ecosystem to empower media literacy practitioners and others in the fight against disinformation.
CEDMO’s media literacy unit consists of four teams (Czech, Slovak, Polish and AFP) which are preparing various media educational activities aimed at different target groups across the territory of three Central European countries.
AFP: Video tutorials and self-tests about fact-checking
The team from AFP prepared a set of video tutorials that try to explain the basic techniques of fact-checking. You can find out, for example, how to use advanced search on the web or Twitter, how to search for images or videos, or how geolocation works. The videos are available in English, Czech, Slovak, and Polish on the CEDMO project website (different language versions of this webpage). AFP also created two online guides and two self-tests, which test the ability to evaluate information.
Czech team: Interactive lectures for teachers and journalists and handbook for teachers
- The Czech team from Palacký University in Olomouc is organising six lectures for current or future teachers and journalists (in Czech language) during the period from October 2022 to March 2023. The lectures aim to increase the participants’ media literacy and provide inspiration on how to strengthen the media literacy of others. For more information about the lectures click here.
- The Czech team is also writing a handbook for teachers with tips on media-based educational activities that teachers can use at school. The volume will be published in Czech by Palacký University Press.
- To further understand the Czech team’s approach to media literacy education, you can read a brochure in English introduced at the CEDMO annual conference in September 2022.
All current information about these media literacy activities and outputs, along with those of the Slovak and Polish teams, can be found on the CEDMO website here.
Lucie Šťastná, Ph.D., Coordinator of Media Literacy Unit in CEDMO, Charles University
Who is responsible for media literacy at a national level?
The situation is complicated as no single agency has oversight on media literacy development. The responsibilities are divided among several stakeholders and even these stakeholders are not always enthusiastic supporters of it. Their interest in the topic changes over time, so it is important to explain at least the basic responsibilities and activities of individual state institutions in this field.
The 2016 Mapping of Media Literacy Practice and Actions in EU-28 identified three main stakeholders in the Czech Republic that have a statutory responsibility around media literacy, two public authorities (The Ministry of Culture, The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports) and one regulator (The Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting). As the majority of policy developments related to media literacy is focused on formal media education of children and youth, it is mainly the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports who is responsible for media literacy. The ministry is also responsible for informal educational activities (extra-school activities for children and young people), and for this purpose the ministry runs an allowance organization – National Institute for Further Education (NIFE) which arranges and offers the educational opportunities (including media education) for teachers and educators. Many projects developing media literacy in the past several years were also supported by the “Operational program for education and competitiveness” co-funded by the ministry.
But there are more state institutions involved with their own responsibilities partly related to media literacy. For example, the Ministry of Culture unofficially has media literacy under its competence as it has a statutory responsibility for media and culture in general. For example, it prepares draft laws and other legal regulations in this area, including representing the Czech Republic on discussions about the EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive as well as its implementation in Czech legislation. The Ministry also provides funds allocated from the state budget for grants in the area of media education.
The Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting is the authority and regulator for the domain of radio and television broadcasting in the Czech Republic. Its responsibility related to media literacy includes collecting and providing information about the level of media literacy (in relation to new communication technologies) and about the measures to promote media literacy adopted by radio and television broadcasters. In addition to regularly conducting research on the level of media literacy in the Czech Republic, the Council runs a media awareness website for parents, Children and Media, organizes its own lectures or workshops and other events where it focuses on media and developing media literacy.
Then there are other state institutions which partly take care of developing media literacy in the Czech Republic. The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs has been involved in supporting digital literacy of adults since 2015, and the Ministry of Interior supports media literacy across different groups of the Czech population for security reasons. The Czech School Inspectorate, which tried to support media literacy through research and thus pointing out the shortcomings of the current state, remains somewhat on the side-lines. Its research examined conditions, process, and results of media education at primary and secondary schools in the Czech Republic in 2018.
As described in the 2020 Handbook of Media Education Research, interest in media literacy and media education changes over time. Since the white papers “Digital education strategy 2020” (the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, 2014) and “Digital literacy strategy in the Czech Republic from 2015 to 2020” (the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, 2015) were published, the attention of state institutions is beginning to turn away from media literacy and instead the topic of digital literacy is coming to the forefront of their attention. An example of the government’s serious interest in the development of digital literacy was establishing special working groups across state institutions, various associations and private sector as well as launching big projects such as “Support of the digital literacy development” (2018-2020) which involved faculties of education of 9 Czech universities and the National Institute for Education, Education Counselling Centre and Centre for Continuing Education of Teachers in order to build a didactic and methodical support for new and experienced teachers, for the appropriate and natural integration of educational activities into teaching aimed at the development of digital literacy.
This trend was partially reversed by the development of the risk of hybrid threats, specifically fake news and disinformation, and the entry of a new major player into this field – the Ministry of Interior. Within the EU as well as in the Czech Republic, special institutions for the monitoring, detection and analysis of hybrid threats and disinformation were established. Under the Ministry of the Interior, it was the Centre against Terrorism and Hybrid Threats which published the National Security Audit (2016) where the need to develop media literacy for safety reasons is emphasized. Media literacy began to receive more attention within the ministry as its insufficient level poses a risk to internal security.
The Ministry thus began to become more involved in strategic discussions about the development of media literacy in the Czech Republic and, among other things, launched financial support for media awareness projects targeted at various groups (especially adults) of the population through grants.
In the Czech Republic, there is no official document that describes the strategy for the development of media literacy across different population groups, but there are several which partly relate to media literacy:
1. Framework educational programs (RVP)
RVP, available online on the official website, form a generally binding framework for the creation of school educational programs of schools of all fields of education in preschool, elementary, elementary art, language and secondary education. They were introduced into education in the Czech Republic by Act No. 561/2004 Coll.
In 2005–2012, a large-scale curricular reform took place. Media education appeared in the new curriculum as a so-called cross-cutting topic, specifically in the framework educational programs for basic and high school education. In the case of vocational secondary education, it was incorporated into the recommended curriculum within other educational areas (e.g. social sciences).
At the beginning of 2021, the updated Framework Educational Program for Basic Education was published, the revision of which had been ongoing since 2017. Instead of the elaboration of media education and a more comprehensive approach to the development of media-related literacy as suggested by experts, the changes only concerned the expansion of “space” for the area of digital technologies and informatics. So it seems that the trend of dividing education about digital technologies (informatics) and about mass media (media education) continues.
2. Governmental strategic documents supporting the digital literacy
These are the “Digital Education Strategy 2020” (Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, 2014) and “Digital Literacy Strategy in the Czech Republic from 2015 to 2020” (Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, 2015) documents. While the former document is devoted to the development of digital literacy in the formal education of children and adolescents, the latter covers education in the field of digital technologies across age groups and methods of education (although digital literacy is proposed to be developed primarily in the context of increasing the competitiveness of individuals, groups and the entire Czech society).
Although digital literacy largely overlaps with media literacy, both documents look at the content of digital literacy as topics related to ICT literacy and informatics, and media literacy is barely mentioned in the documents.
3. Governmental strategy of education
Probably the most important strategic documents in recent years are Strategy 2020 and Strategy 2030. In Strategy 2020 (“Strategy of the Czech Republic’s educational policy until 2020”), media literacy is not directly discussed, rather it implies the importance of paying attention to digital education (see following the two strategic documents mentioned above in point 2).
Strategy 2030 (“Strategy for the Education Policy of the Czech Republic up to 2030+”) first explains in general how the content, methods and evaluation of education should change, then attention is paid to some particularly important topics. Media literacy as a separate “important” topic is not presented, but it can be found in the part about digital and civic education. Therefore, although media literacy is perceived in the text of the strategic document more as an important subtopic of civic education and civic literacy, separate from the ability to meaningfully use digital technologies, it seems that its development will be supported in the Czech educational system in the next decade as well.
The status of media literacy in the national school curriculum
Media literacy has been taught in Czech primary and secondary schools as a cross-curricular subject called “Media education” since 2007. Although media education was made a compulsory subject by the Czech Ministry of Education, it has been up to individual schools and teachers to decide how to implement it, and they have received little guidance and resources according to a researcher from the University of New York in Prague.
Here it is important to add the context of the Czech education system, which underwent a curricular reform between 2005 and 2012. Fixed curricula and a system based on the assessment of students’ learning rates were abolished and replaced by framework educational programs, which, in addition to the subject areas of the curriculum, also determine the expected outputs and results of the student’s education. However, to what extent and in what form they will be taught, is now a matter for the school to decide, and for specific teachers, taking into account the composition of the pupils to create a thematic plan of the subject. This also affected the teaching of media education, which has become a cross-curricular topic. The teachers and the school have the opportunity to choose how they will implement it – either as a separate subject, by implementing it through one or more projects, or by spreading it to other educational areas with similar content such as the Czech language or Social sciences (that is, each teacher works it out in his subject a little bit according to his it fits into his thematic plan). Unfortunately, however, there are no official state statistics on the extent to which media education is really taught within these lessons.
According to the ‘Czech teachers in the world of media’ report, media literacy teaching tends to take place during ‘Informatics’, ‘civics’ or Czech language lessons. Teachers surveyed for this report said that the most common media education topic taught in their school was working with the internet, including searching for information, followed by computer safety and communication tools. Teachers expressed a desire to focus more on critical thinking skills that would allow children to detect disinformation, identify relevant sources of information and understand how the media functions. The report also found that most teachers had not completed any kind of media education during their studies.
According to the non-public document “Prospects for the development of media education in the Czech Republic. Output from experts’ seminars on media literacy held in the Senate” (Šťastná, Jirák, Zezulková, 2018) which identified the main problems in developing media literacy in the Czech Republic on the basis of experts’ round tables with various stakeholders in the Senate (Parliament of the Czech Republic), the current form of the cross-curricular topic media education does not correspond to the current technological development of society, the development of theories and practice of media education and education, and the growing connection of media literacy with concepts of related literacies. However, as can be seen from the new form of the RVP after the recent revision (see above), the recommendation of experts to include these necessary changes in the curriculum documents has unfortunately remained unheeded.
The position of initiatives targeted at those not in formal education
The Media Pluralism Monitor recommends “Implementing a programme to increase digital skills and media literacy of the population across different sociodemographic categories, including the elderly.”
As mentioned above, from 2017 to 2018, experts’ round tables with various stakeholders and one public hearing was organised in the Senate with a goal to invite all stakeholders and experts, together identify the main problems and their possible solutions in the area, to recommend what next has to be done for developing media literacy in the Czech Republic and to start to implement the recommendations.
The output from the first two round tables in the Senate (Šťastná, Jirák, Zezulková, 2018) stated that the problems differ according to the perspectives of individual stakeholders – state, schools, organisations of interest education, universities, NGOs, media organisations and the public.
Concerning the challenges of organisations in non-formal education, there are mainly:
- Organisations of interest-based education. Whether it is interest-based education at school (school groups, school clubs, leisure centers) or outside school (e.g. in libraries, youth organizations), many smaller and larger projects take place in this area, thanks to people’s enthusiasm. In particular, there is a lack of methodological and educational support for educators in this type of organisations – most programs target school teachers.
- NGOs. There are a number of smaller and larger non-profits that try to develop media literacy programmes. Given that they are financially dependent on external contributions, they usually adjust their educational offer thematically according to the topics on which a specific grant call is focused. Although some are financed from paid courses or materials, or sponsorship donations, the majority of funds are provided by projects. It would therefore be appropriate to expand grant options so that they cover the widest possible spectrum of topics and target groups.
- Media organisations. The media is not regulated or instructed in any way how to media educate, so each media organisation approaches it in its own way. Some do nothing, others or individual journalists participate in discussions, lectures, conferences, or allow excursions or open days in newsrooms for the public or schools. Some media organizations even create their own media education content (e.g. educational series for kids “Pirate broadcasting” from the public broadcaster Czech Television) or courses to educate the public about the media (e.g. Czech Television, Czech Radio, Czech News Agency). The risk of these activities lies primarily in the marketing purpose of such events – it may be more about self-promotion of the media organization than education, therefore, it is important for participants in such educational events to maintain their critical thinking towards educators from the media as well.
- Public. There is an insufficient focus of state as well as other stakeholders on media education of the adult population, which may not be able to keep up with technological developments and may thus simply become a “media-excluded” group. In addition, socio-economic, educational, cultural, health and other disadvantages of certain population groups are an obstacle to applying themselves in society as in the case of better “equipped” individuals. This is manifested in easier manipulation, inefficient use of available media, etc. There is a lack of a number of educational opportunities targeted at parents (who can significantly influence the media literacy of their children), the elderly, ethnic minorities, and the medically disadvantaged.
There are many players involved in media literacy in the Czech Republic: those listed here are a few examples.
A group of students from Masaryk University developed several games that aims to help its players identify fake news and develop media literacy and critical thinking in a fun environment. Each game is targeted at different groups, some at primary school pupils, some at high school students and they offer a special game for adults as well (for example as a form of training in a private company).
Zvol si info, founded by a group of students from Masaryk University, created a manual, the Surfer’s Guide to the Internet, which aims to help young people navigate the overwhelming quantity of information available online. The manual served as the foundation for workshops conducted mainly at high schools which focused on information verification and developing critical thinking skills. It has since produced an updated version of Surfer’s Guide focused on social media, and a mobile game which included quizzes related to social networks and conspiracy theories.
Runs the JSNS Educational Programme, which provides educational resources, including media literacy resources, for teachers. JSNS provides free online teaching resources with supporting materials such as documentary films, and a teacher training course on media literacy. They organises conferences focused on topics related to media literacy (mainly for teachers) as well as Media Educational Weeks – an event that gives teachers the chance to arrange a lecture by a specific journalist or expert in the media (the organization arranges cooperation with specific people from media organizations, NGOs and universities).
The national news agency ČTK offers a news academy (“Akademie ČTK”) that is open to the public. Their courses are professionally designed, focused on creating news, multimedia content, photo editing, but also acting in front of the camera or PR and marketing. They are mainly intended for novice journalists and workers in the field of PR and marketing, less so for media education teachers. However, their courses are paid.
The O2 Smart School grant program offers a support mainly for schools, focusing on teaching digital, computer and media literacy and internet safety, with a portal offering a wide range of resources for teaching media literacy.
Search engine provider Seznam.cz previously focused on online safety topics aimed at schools and teachers. In 2019, they established the project Seznam se s médii (Get to Know Media), focused on long-term media literacy education for teachers. They have created methodologies and produced teaching materials to be used by teachers during lessons with their pupils and students. They also target seniors with media education, in particular through the program Sherlock Senior. They regularly organize media schools at Seznam’s Prague headquarters and travel to meet seniors in regions several times a year.
The project of experts from the Palacký University in Olomouc called E-Bezpečí (E-Safety) focused originally mainly on topic of internet safety, but gradually grew to provide more and more media education materials and opportunities to media educate others. Most recently, its authors have created a teacher’s guide on Internet safety for children (free to download here) or a series of videos called The Media Alphabet, in which they also address disinformation and related phenomena (free to watch here).
Elpida, an NGO focused on the education of seniors, and Transitions, an NGO strengthening the independence and professionalism of investigative journalism, joined forces and professional expertise to create transferable educational modules for local organizations (libraries, clubs, newsrooms, etc.) in the field of media, digital and civic education targeted at older adults. The project aims to strengthen the trust of seniors in quality journalism and increase their media literacy and resistance to manipulative and disinformation effects. In addition, Elpida offers courses, workshops, lectures and other types of media educational events for seniors.
The Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting
In addition to their other duties given by the law, the main Czech media regulatory authority regularly conducting research on the level of media literacy in the Czech Republic, it runs a media awareness website for parents, Children and Media, organizes its own lectures or workshops and other events where it focuses on media and developing media literacy.
The public media broadcaster – Czech Television – supports developing media literacy mainly by creating its own media educational content (such as educational series for kids “Pirate broadcasting” or “Alice in the realm of Gifs”). They also offer workshops for teachers.
The public media broadcaster – the Czech Radio – supports developing media literacy mainly by creating its own media educational content (such as a series “Workplace of a small journalist” created by the Radio Junior for kids or the documentary series “That’s right, she wrote” created by the Radio Dvojka for adults).
A broader list of media education initiatives is being created as part of one of the research activities of the Czech-Slovak CEDMO team. It will be linked here once it is finished and ready for publication.