The Czech Media Center is one of the media centers in the Inter-European Division of Seventh-day Adventists.1 It serves the country of Czech Republic and Czech-speaking peoples wherever they may be located in the world.
Forerunner: Message of Hope Studio
The first Adventist attempts in Czech territory to use tape recordings for evangelistic outreach took place in the Message of Hope Studio during the early 1970s as a lay activity in Kladno led by Pavel Petráček.2 His group built a simple recording studio in the attic of a church building being connected to the church hall. Other rooms in the cellar served for sound editing. The studio mostly produced programs combining sermons and talks with musical interludes. Church members could order the recordings by cash on delivery and distribute it to their friends. First, the reel tapes and later cassettes were copied. The technology had been obtained in cooperation with the Euro-African Division and the German Media Center Stimme der Hoffnung.
The Voice of Hope Radio (Hlas Naděje)
After the construction of a new church building in Prague-Smíchov, the equipment was moved from Kladno to Prague. After the Velvet Revolution, a new church institution–The Voice of Hope Radio–formed at the end of 1991, renovated the premises, and obtained basic technical equipment (1992-1993). Oldřich Wagenknecht became the first head of the studio, and the church used his expertise and knowledge of the acoustical and technical equipment needed for such studios. Also, the worldwide leadership of AWR chose a transmitter from Rimavská Sobota to reach other countries.3 From 1994 to 1997, Czech AWR broadcast regular 30-minute programs on shortwave.
Pioneer Work with New Technologies
The head of the studio–Wagenknecht–later pushed for the full digitization of the studio. It was, therefore, equipped with the modern digital recording system ProTools and sent pre-recorded shows on a new digital medium, the MiniDisc. In order to protect them from damage, the studio sent the MiniDiscs every week on regular buses from Prague to Slovakia.
In Slovakia, a later director of Studio Hope and experienced radio expert, Bronislav Sóos, helped coordinate other broadcasts for the global AWR. Because of the spread of the VHF (FM) band among the majority of the listening public, Radio The Voice of Hope began thinking about its future. The cost of broadcasting FM radio and obtaining the license itself was not within the possibilities of the church in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Therefore, after 1995, it cooperated with Catholic radio Proglas (FM) and the Czech Radio Pilsen. The studio regularly sent Christian programs to the Proglas radio in advance, and the speaker Jan Bárta and his guests traveled to Pilsen once a week. The studio also used equipment to record music CDs.
Wagenknecht also considered video technology for the future. He decided to dub the series “Guardians of Truth” in Czech using professional actors, and the studio sold the program on VHS videotapes.
Advent World Radio Ltd. and New Audio Broadcasts
In 2001, AWR Studio Ltd. organized, and with the invention of the internet, there began the first attempts of audio broadcasting by that platform. The studio workers travelled to different churches and broadcast their services to other audiences. The regular Smíchov church service broadcast started as well as the first audio broadcast from a youth congress (at that time Samopše). The head of the studio and moderator, Jan Bárta, conducted each Friday a special program with the option of asking live questions over the phone.
In the realm of video, the center dubbed the Australian project The Search in Czech and cast the popular moderator Alfred Strejček in a lead role. The program has been used for missionary work to the present day. The studio was also involved in dubbing the autumn evangelistic series called NET. During the night, it recorded the broadcast off a satellite, quickly processed it, and sent it to Brno for rapid copying of VHS tapes. The next day, members could play the videotapes in churches.
Since 2003, Bedřich Jetelina has been the studio head. His vision is even more internet centered. The studio is gradually building its twenty-fourth AWR radio webcast in MP3 and WMA format. This purely internet radio is broadcasting modern Christian music (mostly of foreign origin) and spoken-word programs inserted between.
HopeTV Czech and a Wider Christian Audience
Around the turn of the century, TV became more popular than radio, also as a result of the rise of new commercial televisions, leading to a new project of internet television‒HopeTV (Hope Channel). During the following years, the church invested in video equipment. It also opened communication with the emerging Catholic nationwide television system called TV Noe and the editorial office of Česká televize (Czech Television) in Brno. Thanks to this cooperation and donations, the AWR studio bought professional equipment and regularly provides video reports and programs to Česká televize (Křesťanský magazín, Sváteční slovo). Adventists soon became respected suppliers for the Christian editorial office at the state television. Christian drama activists contacted the AWR studio to create a Christian television magazine for young people later called “Za obzorem” (“Beyond the Horizon”). A popular actor, Matouš Ruml, with pastor Jindřich Černohorský, presented in 26 episodes important Christian values. The project has a good audience within the Christian work of Czech Television and was also accepted by the Christian community.
On March 13, 2009, HopeTV Czech Republic started to broadcast on the internet round-the-clock. For easier access, there is an app. for iOS and Android. The church provided the studio with more spacious offices and the number of employees increased to as many as 12. Plans for the future include building a television studio or purchasing an OB truck. The television production is currently situated in the Smíchov church or in the facility in Sedlec. The studio seeks to cover a wide spectrum of genres ranging from concerts to documentaries to dubbing foreign programs.
In 2012, Csaba Čák became the new head of HopeTV. The Media Center continues to broadcast and provide media services for the church. In the spring of 2013, the new television studio constructed in the former offices opened. It is equipped with a permanent camera system and lighting. Furthermore, it has sets for three different types of programs (for youth, children, and a general purpose one).
Because of the high costs of not only production but also fees related to copyrights, the operations eventually stopped. The 24-hour broadcast also ceased. The focus shifted to YouTube with better options to offer videos on demand and to promote archive material. However, during the transitional phase the media studio continued to develop complex video projects such as Utopia or Project Family. Starting in 2015, Martin Babka assumed control of the center.
Despite the fact that the budget was reduced significantly, HopeTV has been able to produce every week a program called “Bible for today” (material for the Sabbath School) and continues with reports, information spots, and short documentaries. During the first wave of the Coronavirus, it aired a Sabbath program with live reports and an interactive Sabbath School each Saturday.
“Media Centers,” Seventh-day Adventist Church: Inter-European Division, https://eud.adventist.org/en/institutions/media/media-centers/. See also, “Hope Media Czech,” http://www.hopetv.cz/,↩
Because of decades of persecution, historical sources did not often get preserved in East European countries, and as a result, Adventist history in Czecho-Slovakia is dependent on collective memory and oral traditions, on which this article draws.↩
This powerful transmitter broadcast Communist propaganda during the totalitarian era with the goal to “beat” the Western broadcasts.↩