25-10-2009

This week in Mailbox: the possible implications of Radio Prague's budget cuts. We quote from your e-mails asking about the future of Radio Prague. Listeners quoted: Peter MacKinnon, Mike Terry, Sheryl Paszkiewicz, Victor Latavish, Roger Tidy, Christopher Lewis, Risto Vähäkainu, Andy Reid, Brad Grier, and Chrissy Brand.

Hello and welcome to Mailbox, Radio Prague’s weekly listeners’ letters programme. Thank you very much indeed for your e-mails that have been pouring in the past couple of weeks to express support for Radio Prague. News travels fast and many of our listeners have come across reports of the proposed changes to Radio Prague’s broadcasting scheme. Among them Peter MacKinnon:

“I'm writing to request that Radio Prague be kept on the air. Its objectivity in a sea of bias and its programming are exemplary. We listen several times weekly, normally far from the internet, and shortwave is essential.”

As it is, the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs has decided to reduce Radio Prague’s budget for 2010 by 20 percent as part of the government’s cost-cutting measures. These cuts may result in a reduction of Radio Prague’s shortwave broadcasts as of January 1, 2010. The current broadcasting schedule is valid until December 31st. Czech Radio is now in talks with the ministry and a new broadcast schedule will be agreed on by the end of the year depending on developments.

I’m afraid this is all the information we have at the moment as negotiations are still taking place. On behalf of the English section, let me say that we are really touched by your letters of support, many of them from listeners who otherwise never write in but who tune in regularly to our broadcasts, often for decades, such as Mike Terry from the UK:

“I have been a listener of Radio Prague shortwave broadcasts since the 1960s and over the decades have witnessed the development and freedom of your interesting country. I now hear that these broadcasts may be closed, I do hope this does not happen as I really enjoy your programmes.”

Sheryl Paszkiewicz from the United States is another longtime listener:

“I have listened to Radio Prague since 1976. Being part Czech, it is important for me to be able to know what is going on in the Czech Republic since coverage in the U.S. of your country's affairs is non-existent. I always prefer listening to the radio to listening or reading via the internet, which just isn't very convenient. I would ask that you reconsider keeping Radio Prague's service on shortwave. It is a worthwhile service that is very well done so why change something that works.”

Victor Latavish, also from the US, has been listening since 1975:

“Although these may be difficult times and cost reduction measures are needed, it is indeed a tragedy to think the transmitters of Radio Praha may become silent. Your voice to the world is most certainly heard and most certainly appreciated. Like myself of Czech heritage, like so many other Americans with grandparents from Central Europe, we listen regularly to Radio Prague as if it was a broadcast from home. Your voice on shortwave radio is necessary to understand our homeland.”

From the United Kingdom, Roger Tidy writes:

“It is not primarily a question of money but of international communication, and in particular of projecting the Czech Republic to its friends of today and winning new friends for the country tomorrow.”

Christopher Lewis tunes in regularly in the UK:

“If the foreign ministry decide to terminate shortwave, it would be like a death sentence for the radio. I have seen this on other occasions, where you lose your listeners, with correspondence drying up to a mere trickle. Radio is not radio unless is comes over the airwaves.”

That view is shared by Risto Vähäkainu from Finland:

“A small portable world radio is the handiest, the cheapest and in many cases the easiest way of tuning into international broadcasts. Satellite or internet delivery can't compete with that. I hope that still in the future anywhere I go, I can pick up international broadcasts with my world receiver. Losing Radio Prague would be a big pity.”

Andy Reid from Canada also stresses the importance of radio:

“In my home, the radio is on more than TV. In my opinion, the quality of TV programs in Canada has become poor, so I turn to the radio for information and entertainment. I do not often write to Radio Prague, though I have in the past. I do listen though; sometimes on shortwave and sometimes on CBC Overnight.”

Brad Grier from US is another radio enthusiast:

“I am sorry to hear of the possible demise of Radio Prague. I depend on my shortwave radio to get the direct news from around the world. Although I am an internet user I do not use it to listen to radio nor do I have cable or satellite TV.”

And finally a quote from an e-mail from Chrissy Brand who listens to our broadcasts in the UK:

“I have listened for three decades and Radio Prague is one of the best broadcasters in the world. It would be very foolish to close. Your website is wonderful but should be used in tandem with the shortwave broadcasts. You have a chance to speak to the world about news, culture and opinion from the Czech Republic. Through Radio Prague I learned about and later visited the country on several occasions. After decades of Nazi and Soviet oppression you have finally been able to flourish these past 20 years. To close now would be shameful.”

We are very grateful for your supporting and encouraging e-mails. As I said, talks are in progress and we will inform you immediately once there is a concrete outcome. In the meantime, please stay faithful to Radio Prague, and if you can, join me for another edition of Mailbox next week. Good-bye.

This month's listeners' competition question:

In October we are looking for the name of the illustrator born in 1934 in Ústí nad Labem into a Czech-German family. He is probably best-known for designing the characters in the 1968 animated film Yellow Submarine based on the music of the Beatles.

Please send your answers to english@radio.cz or Radio Prague, 12099 Prague by October 31st. There will be prizes for four listeners who answer correctly.

25-10-2009