Jesus tram takeover stirs up debate on public transport advertising in Prague

The capital’s deputy mayor for transport is calling for a revision to the city’s advertising code due to recent advertisements promoting religion and sex.

Thomas Smith

Written by Thomas Smith Published on 13.12.2023 13:11:00 (updated on 13.12.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

A recent advertising campaign promoting Jesus Christ and Christianity on Prague's public transport has prompted a debate on the limits of advertising in the capital’s metros, trams, and buses, sparking a reaction from the city's deputy mayor for transport.

Multiple Czech media outlets report that the Czech Apostolic Church has been renting advertising space on parts of Prague's public transport since August to promote Jesus Christ and Christianity. 

Pictures of Jesus are plastered all over one of Prague's trams with messages that encourage conversion to Christianity, such as: “Are you looking for love? Love is looking for you,” “I will give you peace,” and “Do you need a miracle?” The church says that it aims to raise awareness of its faith in a "modern, non-violent way" per a QR code on the ads linking to donation information.

Inappropriate, says Prague Deputy Mayor

Prague Deputy Mayor for Transport Zdeněk Hřib, however, believes the rules should be changed. “Is it okay for a tram to function as a recruitment campaign for religious organizations?” he asked on social media site X earlier this month.

He believes that the rules for advertising in the capital should be changed and strengthened, as some ads fail to meet parameters for “appropriateness.”

Hřib wants the city to establish a code that regulates commercial advertising in the capital’s public spaces. He also criticized a separate advert placed on a Prague tram that advertises a well-known strip club in the capital: “Should trams be running through Prague that entice people to an erotic club?” he also asked on X.

No rules broken – public transport head

The Prague Public Transport Company (DPP) has defended itself. It says it does not control advertising directly but rather leases out the advertising spaces to companies, who then rent spaces to clients. Nevertheless, DPP head Daniel Šabík confirmed to iDnes that the Jesus-related ads fully comply with legislation and the National Advertising Council (RPR). 

When asked by MF DNES reporters, Executive Director of the RPR Marek Hlavica said she sees no issue with the adverts, noting that the church is within its rights to promote Jesus. However, ads depicting Jesus marketing commercial products would, for example, be a problem according to Hlavica.

Clearing up advertising in Prague

The City of Prague has recently made efforts to clear “advertising smog” by removing some billboard adverts in the center of the capital. One case in point is the newly reopened Jiřího z Poděbrad station, which remains without advertising. Hřib wants to temporarily keep it this way and seeks feedback from passengers on whether being ad-free is good.

Residents can submit complaints about potential advertising violations via a form on the RPR website. They must also state which exact provisions of the country’s advertising code the commercial in question breaks – such as being offensive to religions, nationalities, cultures, or just generally distasteful. If the RPR finds an advert objectionable, it will then remove it.

Do you think the Jesus adverts belong on Prague's public transport?

Yes 42 %
No 49 %
They can stay, but they shouldn't be overbearing 9 %
358 readers voted on this poll. Voting is open
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