Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

Trust and Distrust in Public Service Media: A Case Study From the Czech Republic

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Abstract:  Although public service media is a trusted island in the media landscape of many countries, trust in public service media is not absolute and universal. This study adopts a qualitative approach to explore what trust and distrust entail for the public, a perspective rarely applied in trust research. Also, it explores the extent to which the sources of trust and distrust are the same and whether the concepts of trust and distrust are identical (only inverse), or linked but separate. It focuses on the Czech Republic, where the level of trust in the news is among the lowest in the world, yet public service media is the most trusted news source (Newman et al., 2022). Based on four focus group discussions with the general public (N = 24), this study analyzes the reasons for the audience’s trust and distrust in Czech public service media. There are three main categories: trust in the message (i.e., people trust public service media if, in their view, it provides objective, truthful, reliable, relevant, and fast information without sensationalism and anti-system views); trust in the source (i.e., people trust public service media if they perceive the public service media journalists as professional); and trust in the public service media organizations (i.e., people trust public service media if they perceive the regulatory framework as effective in ensuring independence from politics and oversight boards as a guarantee for quality). As the reasons leading to trust were not identical (only inverse) to the reasons leading to distrust, our findings suggest that trust and distrust in public service media are not two sides of the same coin.

Keywords:  Czech radio; Czech television; distrust; media quality; public service media; skepticism; trust


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© Marína Urbániková, Klára Smejkal. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.