11-02-2004

Images from around the world dominate today's Czech dailies: from pictures of Muslim women protesting the ban on religious headscarves in France, to the crash of a plane that killed 40 in the United Arab Emirates. On the domestic scene the dailies focus on several top stories, including the continuing split in the governing coalition over raising regulated rents and star goaltender Dominik Hasek's announcement that due to injury he'll be out for the rest of the NHL hockey season; that in a year Mr Hasek had widely been expected to make a come-back in his sport. Mlada Fronta Dnes, meanwhile, writes that changes could be in store for public broadcaster Czech TV.

That's right - and they are changes that were almost wholly unexpected writes Mlada Fronta Dnes. But, says the daily, on Tuesday the senior party in the ruling coalition - the Social Democrats - unveiled plans that would see the broadcaster receive double the current amount in monthly television fees: from the current 75 crowns to 150, by the year 2010. Social Democrats hope such a raise would allow the public broadcaster to completely phase out TV commercials. This as if to say that as a public broadcaster Czech TV has no business in financing itself from ads.

Mlada Fronta Dnes writes that currently one percent of Czech TV's air time is used for commercial purposes. Last year the proposal to raise fees and phase out commercials was first put forward by Culture Minister Pavel Dostal but failed to gain enough support in Parliament. According to Mlada Fronta Dnes that situation has now changed, and it is likely the proposal could go through So far executives at Czech TV have not commented on the plan, but the paper hints it is one not really approved by Czech Television's current head, Jiri Janecek.

At a time when the parties in the coalition government are trying to reach a consensus on raising regulated rent Wednesday's Pravo features a story about 52 flats within the vicinity of Prague Castle where rent control has ensured rents have remained dirt cheap. The paper writes that inhabitants include current - as well as past - Castle employees, including some who served under the former Communist regime. But, that could all be about to change, the president's chancellor, Jiri Weigl, tells the daily. He says the Castle is going to begin looking for ways to offer tenants alternative living quarters in return for being able to use the local apartments for tourism.

And although it is not yet clear just how those homes would be used there is indication it is all part of a plan to make Prague Castle more "user-friendly". Pravo writes that Klaus' team, for example, wants to see services, such as restaurants, renewed for visitors to the Castle at reasonable prices. Currently restaurants around the Castle are decidedly over-priced, the paper says, making the Castle largely a tourist trap, especially by Czech standards.

High Tatra MountainsHigh Tatra Mountains Finally, Lidove Noviny examines a tragic climb that lead to the deaths of two Czech mountaineers on Tuesday. The two plummeted to their deaths in an unspecified accident during extremely poor weather in Slovakia's High Tatra Mountains, whilst two of their comrades survived the ordeal trapped on the spot, eventually being reached by rescue crews. One of the climbers was only reached Tuesday evening, after spending the entire day trapped on the rock face.

Quoting a member of the rescue squad the daily notes that the Czechs' decision to venture onto the mountain in foreseen and clearly extremely poor weather conditions was hazardous at best, once again a sad warning for climbers - including those with experience. All four of those involved in the accident Tuesday reportedly belonged to a Prague climbing club, and were between 20 - 40 years old. Lidove Noviny writes that Tuesday's fatalities follow the deaths of two other Czech sportsmen in January, buried in an avalanche. The daily adds that last year 29 people died in the Tatra Mountains, while 13 died in 2002. Of those 13, eight were Czechs.

11-02-2004