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Religions and the media

Religion and media broadcasting in Slovakia

History of religion in radio broadcasting

The first radio broadcasting in former Czechoslovakia was aired in 1923, and the first Christian mass was broadcast in Slovak from Košice in 1926. However, only 10% of the Slovak part of Czechoslovakia had access to the radio in 1937.

The situation slowly started to change during World War II, when Czechoslovakia ceased to exist and war period Slovak republic was established under patronage of Nazi Germany. The national Slovak radio started to expand their religious broadcasting (masses, liturgies, speeches of theologians, Christian-related thematic broadcasting). It mainly was Catholic, but Protestant, Greek-Catholic and Orthodox also had their space in the radio according to an analysis of the radio program. Jews were not allowed, as a result of a strong wave of anti-Semitism as well as the anti-Semitic laws existing since the early thirties. On the contrary, mass media were used to spread anti-Semitic propaganda.

After WWII, religious broadcasting continued but soon started to be limited by the renewed Czechoslovak government. Religious radio broadcasting ended in 1952 and was only reenacted in 1990 after the Communist Party power had collapsed. However, before 1990, it was possible to tune foreign religious broadcasts in Slovak from abroad (Radio Vatican, TWR Radio Free Europe).

Religion in Media After 1989

The socio-economic changes, together with a new legislation, allowed religion to make a comeback to mass media after the Velvet revolution in 1989. Religion, mainly understood as a synonym for various Christian denominations, was seen as an essential factor for building a civic society in the 90s and had a good public image, further enhanced by the popularity of Slavic Pope John Paul II. (who visited Slovakia three times since 1990).

Slovakia has from that period both state and private television and radio stations. According to Law No.č. 532/2010 Z. z. Zákon o Rozhlase a televízii Slovenska (Television and Radio of Slovakia (RTVS). Radio and television of Slovakia have to offer the time slots for the state officially registered religious groups, and also broadcast socially important events from political, cultural, religious, arts and sports life.

A department of religious broadcasting, divided in two offices (Catholic and Ecumenical), exists in RTVS and is subordinated to churches, not to the state. Non-registered religions do not have guaranteed space in state media. Sometimes, the sympathisers of new religious movements appear as hosts in lifestyle TV shows, as ambassadors of an alternative life. Daily news occasionally informs about the life of state-registered churches. RTVS also regularly airs Christian-related magazines (Orientácie - Catholic, Televízny posol - Protestant), documentaries and movies during Christian holidays on prime time. Judaism is also represented in state media, occasionally in daily news and programs presenting Slovak Jewish heritage and documentaries reflecting the holocaust. Other religions appear if they appear to threaten society (Islam) or as a curiosity (Pastafarians, Svedkovia Liehovoví). The domination of Christianity in Slovak RTVS is even more evident during official visits of Slovakia by the Pope. Slovak public media adopts a Christian “lens” during Pope John Paul II‘s three visits to Slovakia since 1990. Contrary to other foreign diplomatic visitation, they inform about the visit and adopt the Christian interpretation of the meaning of the visit. They call the Pope “Holy Father,” which is his Christian, not a secular title. Daily news is full of details about what the Pope did and said, television and radio offer live streams of his masses or speeches instead of regular programs. It is not known how many TV viewers and radio listeners are invested and interested in Christian-related content.

There is also a second group of media, which are private. Major private TV stations are secularised and do not compete with RTVS in religion-related content. Nevertheless, the Roman Catholic Church is sponsoring private TV LUX in cooperation with LUX communication, which broadcasts Christian-related programs, magazines, documentaries and movies. Their goal is to support the faith in Slovak Catholics and spread the Christian message into Slovak society. The radio equivalent of TV LUX is called Rádio Lumen and is the oldest private religious media, broadcasting since 1992 (previously under the name Rádio Mária). Another exclusively Christian radio is the Protestant Evangelical Rádio 7, the Slovak branch of the already mentioned international radio TWR. The licence council also authorised in 2021 two new conservative Christian radio stations: Rádio Mária (previously available online) and Mirjam Rádió for Slovak Hungarians. Both are members of an international network of radio stations (WFRM).

Newspapers and Magazines

The oldest and most important religious newspaper is Katolíce noviny (Catholic newspaper), published from 1849 to 1910 and again from 1940. It was allowed during socialism as an example of religious freedom of Czechoslovakia, but in a censored form. Since 1990 is again independent. The weekly magazine Katolícke noviny is now published by Spolok Svätého Vojtecha, a traditional and the biggest Catholic publishing house in Slovakia. It is owned by the Catholic Church.

Another Christian-related conservative political magazine is .týždeň led by Štefan Hríb, who offers space for articles written by sympathisers of smaller churches as The Czechoslovak Hussite Church.

However, the influence of printed matter is slowly decreasing in favour of internet media. Two major Christian internet newspapers are Konzervatívny denník Postoj (2014-) and Denník Štandard (2020-). The fFirst is lead by Martin Hanus, former redactor of magazines Domino Fórum and .týždeň. The second one was formed by Jaroslav Daniška, also former redactor of magazine .týždeň together with TV director and screenwriter Peter Ñuñéz.

Alternative Spirituality and Media in Slovakia

Alternative spirituality or smaller churches founded their space on the internet. The independent radio Slobodný vysielač broadcasts a wide array of shows, including alternative medicine, lifestyle, politics and religion. Neopagan radio show Rodná Cesta was aired regularly between the year 2013-2015 and is aired irregularly since 2016. Another alternative spiritual show, Ariadnina niť, is hosted by Emil Páleš, a Slovak angelogist and follower of Rudolf Steiner’s anthroposophy. Červený stan is about sacred woman spirituality and Cesta vzostupu is hosted by spiritual healer Tomáš Lajmon.

Online video network Youtube is also getting more and more popular among people trying to connect with people more personally. Another advantage is the possibility of getting paid by Youtube if the number of followers and views reaches a certain level. Publishing house Eugenika started a Youtube channel in 2011 and since then published more than eighty videos with interviews or presentations of alternative spiritual teachers, including astrologers, pagans, healers, yogis and others. Mab Junga, therapist and organiser of woman circles, is also posting videos regularly (over two hundred in September 2021) where she shares her opinion about spiritual growth. Univerzita vedomého života (University of Conscious Life), an alternative esoteric teaching organization, offers their lectures (360 in October 2021) online in their Youtube channel. The famous Slovak spiritual mentor Stanislav Ličko has recently also started the Youtube channel “Stano Ličko – Na vlne hojnosti” which offers interviews and short vlogs about the topic of wealth.

D 15 November 2021    AMichal Puchovský

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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