Slovak TV Markiza said to be scaling down politics in news

Slovak TV Markiza said to be scaling down politics in news
The new news director has allegedly told the station's news journalists "to pay less attention to political themes and not to analyse these too deeply". / TV Markiza
By Albin Sybera March 4, 2024

Slovakia’s leading commercial television Markiza is reportedly shifting to include less politics in its news programme following the installment of news director Michal Kratochvil.

Staff changes at Markiza in recent weeks resulted from new editorial policies, Slovak liberal daily DennikN reported last week.

“The new director has a different view of dramaturgy of the television news [programme], on the selection of topics and their placement in the script, that it was customary in the past”, Martin Halanda, the former news editor who quit the television unexpectedly in February, was quoted as saying.  

“He [Kratochvil] repeatedly requested the editorial room to pay less attention to political themes and not to analyse these too deeply,” Halanda also told DennikN, adding that  Kratochvil “was asking for streaming of more amount of lighter, positive themes and prioritising these in the television news”.

The reported editorial changes allegedly follow pressure from the new left-right government of Robert Fico, who has labelled the station an "enemy media".

Halanda criticised the Markiza management for not backing editors and reporters who faced attacks from politicians. “This state is, in my view, the source of nervousness and dissatisfaction among news editors” at Markiza, Halanda commented.

Markiza's owners, the Czech financial group PPF Group, has extensive activities in Slovakia. Its train manufacturer Skoda Transportation, is a key supplier on the market and PPF is also linked to Sky Toll, which supplies highway digital system, which has been criticised by anti-corruption NGOs as overpriced.  

DennikN referred to more sources confirming the change in Markiza policy and also wrote that it is not an “uncommon” practice in news strategies at commercial television stations in Europe, aiming to mix news with lighter domestic and international curiosities to keep viewers' attention.

The changes come at a time when Slovak liberal media are under pressure from the left-right cabinet of populist Prime Minister Robert Fico, which ordered a review of permits for representatives of liberal media, including Markiza, to the Office of the Government after taking power last autumn. Markiza was labelled as “enemy media” by Fico along with liberal outlets SMEDennikN and

The cabinet also plans to split up public broadcaster RTVS, a move criticised by opponents as aimed at tightening control over RTVS, while  also lowering funding for the broadcaster. Just last week, Fico slammed and later smeared an RTVS reporter for asking questions to him during the V4 summit in Prague.

Kratochvil replaced Henrich Krejca, who was in charge of the news programme since 2012, earlier this year. Kratochvil came from the Czech commercial television Nova, which is a sister channel of Markiza through Central European Media Enterprises (CME), owned by PPF.

DennikN also reported that Kratochvil allegedly questioned Markiza editor Gabriela Kajtarova for asking questions to Minister of Defence and Fico’s close ally, Robert Kalinak, which were not part of the morning editorial meeting held at Markiza earlier.  

Last autumn, Markiza closed down its political podcast Cirkus Politikus, run by hosts Kajtarova, Adel Ghannam and Martin Procka.

Hans Mahr of the CME editorial board stated for DennikN that “all CME newsrooms are committed to ethical and professional journalism, and the principles of objectivity, impartiality and factual accuracy.”

Markiza news programme is the most popular one in the country, DennikN noted, with an average viewership of 493,000 people older than 12 years in January.