Brief History of CTK
The foundation of CTK (1918)
CTK was founded on October 28, 1918, the same day as Czechoslovakia and was called the Czechoslovak News Agency. Until the 1990s it was a state agency and its history is closely linked with that of the Czechoslovak state.
The period of building and development of the agency (1920-30)
In the years 1920 – 1930, CTK was headed by Emil Čermák who is considered the founding father of the agency. He managed to build – for that time – a modern news agency, which had a wide network of local and foreign correspondents.
CTK signed contracts with renowned world news agencies – Reuters, Havas and Wolff. At the same time, CTK was one of the co-founders of Agences Alliées, an organization uniting European news agencies.
Following an agreement signed with Radiojournal in 1925, the agency’s news service for radio was broadcast from the radio studio in the CTK building.
In the early 1920s, the agency created its first photo department with Artuš Černík as its head. A photographic archive was created during this period. It experienced a more significant development in the 1930s and it has been continuously completed since then. Nowadays, the archive contains over 5 million photographs.
In September 1930, CTK moved to a newly constructed functionalist style building in Opletalova Street in Prague. In March 1939, Czechoslovakia was occupied by Nazi Germany´s troops. Information about this was read by Czech actor Zdeněk Štěpánek via the CTK radio service. In consequence of the creation of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, the Slovak part definitely separated from CTK.
CTK during the war (1939-45)
CTK headquarters were occupied by the Nazis after the creation of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. In August 1939, the head of the government presidium press department, Zdeněk Schmoranz, together with CTK editor-in-chief Arnošt Bareš were arrested for illegal resistance activities organized via CTK.
Zdeněk Schmoranz and other journalists were executed in 1942. The domestic news service was entirely subordinated to the press section of the Reichsprotektor, headed by Wolfgang Wolfram von Wolmar.
A massive fire broke out at the CTK headquarters during the liberation of Czechoslovakia in 1945 and its irreplaceable text archives were completely destroyed.
CTK under the totalitarian regime (1948-89)
In 1948, CTK was subjugated to the communist dictatorship. The agency became a tool of political propaganda of the party in power for a long time to come. The news service was heavily censored for almost the whole period of the totalitarian regime. Two types of news were produced – one for the public, the other was designated for high-placed state officials. The agency was formally subordinate to the government, but it was actually directed by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia.
In the latter half of the 1950s, CTK started exporting news to the Far East, Latin America and later also to Africa. In the 1960s, CTK was also expanding its international activities. The agency had a wide network of foreign correspondents and freelancers. The news service was produced in English, French, Spanish and Russian. During the same period, CTK launched the publishing house Pressfoto, started publishing the 100+1 magazine containing interesting information from abroad and running the advertising agency Made in…(Publicity).
In 1968, CTK, too, went through a revival process. On August 20, 1968, nightshift editor Jaroslav Lažanský refused to carry out the order by CTK Director Miroslav Sulek to move a “request” by unnamed members of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia Central Committee, calling for Soviet military help against the “counter-revolutionary forces”. This letter of invitation was published by the TASS agency in Moscow on the next day.
In the 1970s and 1980s, CTK was controlled by the normalization regime. Many employees were either forced to leave the agency or transferred to other, less important posts. Many of them chose emigration.
In the 1980s, CTK started to use computers. The agency created its first databank in 1988 and its whole news service has been archived electronically since then.
The period of independent news service after 1989
CTK was largely engaged in the Velvet Revolution of 1989. The transformation of the agency was started as the local market conditions changed. CTK was striving for an independent and unbiased news service.
In 1992, the Slovak part separated from the agency and a public corporation, the Czech News Agency, was created based on law No. 517/92.
The agency began to apply the market principles. Its privatization was considered. In 1993, CTK experienced a deep economic crisis, followed by the completion of its transformation and reorganization. Under the law on CTK, the agency was separated from the state and it became a public corporation. It has no particular owner, it is supervised by the CTK Council, whose seven members are elected by the Chamber of Deputies of Czech parliament.
Thanks to technical development, CTK started to digitally process its photo service and transmit photographs via satellite. CTK enlarged its documentary databases, started to produce more infographic items and it launched an English-language business news service. At the end of the 1990s, CTK Infobank was launched. It contains current news as well as archival and factual databases.
In the 1990s, the agency was systematically improving the quality of its information service. It broadly extended its regional news service and developed further activities. It was one of the first agencies to launch Internet newspapers (Czech Daily, Financial Daily, Sports Daily). In 1997, CTK bought a 50 percent stake in Newton Information Technology, which focuses on media monitoring and analyses. In 1999, CTK founded its 100 percent subsidiary Neris, specialized in Internet and multimedia news services. In the same year, CTK bought Czech Capital Information Agency (Čekia). CTK formed part of a group of companies, which was active in this shape for almost ten years.
The beginning of the new millennium saw the arrival of multimedia services. CTK sold Čekia and its stake in Newton IT and focused mainly on the agency news service and the new media. It created an audio news service and an entertainment and lifestyle news service and in 2003, it built a large open-space newsroom. In 2006, CTK launched a new multimedia editorial system and a video service.
In 2007, a new unit, CTK Photobank, was created. It processes, stores and sells photographs also to clients coming from other areas than subscribers to the current news service. In the same year, CTK entered the new international organization of news agencies, MINDS International. It remained a member of the European Alliance of Press Agencies (EANA, originally Agences Alliées).
At the beginning of 2009, CTK´s organizational structures was changed to better reflect the developments in the outer environment. The reorganization was being prepared during 2008 already. It aimed at merging all parts of the agency (written, photo, video, audio, infographics services) into the new News Service unit. Shortly afterwards, CTK launched a new service of short and fast news, the Headline Service.
In 2009, CTK succeeded in selling a license for its Multimedia editorial system to the German agency dpa. In the same year a new web interface of CTK Photobank was put into operation. The application markedly improved the user operation comfort, opened on-line access to all photographs in the database and thanks to the advanced search technology, it extended the portfolio of photographs with addition of the complete production of represented foreign partners. In 2009, CTK Videobank was launched. It serves on-line search in the databases of the agency´s videos and their distribution.
In the same year, CTK launched its training center, CTK Academy, which stages regular courses for its own employees as well as for firms, the public administration and the public. In 2008, then daughter firm Neris prepared several information channels for the Twitter service and in 2009, CTK went on the Facebook.
In 2010, Neris was incorporated into CTK as CTK Online. At the end of the year, CTK launched an application for access to its news service via the application for iPhone mobile phones and iPad tablets. It offered and sold the technical and graphic solution of the application to some of its clients.
In 2011, CTK launched a complete mobile version of its Internet publications at m.ceskenoviny.cz, based on the merger of the WAP portal and the pages for PDA devices that Neris operated from 2000. In June 2011, CTK adapted its news application to suit smartphones and tablets with the Android operating system as well.
After the success of the flash application from the Hockey World Championship in 2011, CTK prepared for its clients and their sports fans a data service and widgets for the biggest sports events of the year, including the Olympic Games in London in 2012. In the same year, the service of paid PR and advertising texts, Protext, launched in the early 1990s, was extended with addition of the web variant, Protext Online, entailing lower costs. Infographics is now also available in the CTK Photobank. The reorganization of the news service unit was completed with the merger of the written and multimedia editorial offices under one management.
In 2013, CTK started to continuously offer multimedia transmissions (live blogging) from important and widely-watched events to its Internet clients. Selections of CTK news items have been available via News Select CTK optimized for mobile devices since the same year. A new self-service product, Newsmarket CTK, offers customized selections of headlines, distributed via SMS news or e-mails. The CTK news service is also available in Mercedes Benz and BMW dashboard information systems.
CTK is a politically and economically independent news agency. Since 1996, CTK has been receiving no subsidies from the state nor has it been drawing money from other public resources.