If you had been listening to Radio Prague back in the late 1930s, it is very likely that you would have heard the voice of Ivan Jelínek. He was one of the pioneers of broadcasting in Czechoslovakia, and an early presenter of our broadcasts to Britain and North America. From the radio headquarters here in Vinohrady, he witnessed many of the dramas leading up to World War Two, including moment of the German occupation itself. During his wartime exile in Britain and in the decades that followed the war, Ivan Jelínek became a familiar voice in the
The legendary Big Band of Czech Radio is celebrating 50 years of its existence. The history of the band goes back to the 1960s, when it was called the Czechoslovak Radio Orchestra. Over the years, the band cooperated with most of the country’s best known jazz and pop musicians. On Wednesday it will celebrate its anniversary with a concert at Národní Dům in Prague.
For a few weeks just after the fall of communism, Radio Prague went silent. Its days as a tool in the Cold War were over. After huge staff cuts, and with the old communist managers gone, Radio Prague went back on air early in 1990. A new era began for the English Section, and with so many sweeping social and economic changes under way, there was plenty to report about.
In the last years of the Cold War, Radio Prague’s English department was many times bigger than it is today and divided into several sections, devoted to different parts of the world. One of the most important was the Afro-Asian service. Africa was an important Cold War battleground and Radio Prague’s Afro-Asian service was not just telling the people of Africa about Czechoslovakia. It also covered events within Africa itself, following closely the Soviet political line. At one time the department was receiving tens of thousands of listeners’ letters
In the 1970s the Cold War was fought on many fronts. One of them was Northern Ireland, where the tension and violence that raged throughout the decade also became part of the propaganda war between East and West. At the time, Czechoslovak Radio’s correspondent in London was Karel Kvapil, who had entered the radio after the wave of sackings following the 1968 Soviet-led invasion, and later went on to become its last communist era general director. In 1977 Kvapil travelled to Belfast, to report on the Troubles. For part of his programme he spoke
In the course of 1969 and 1970 Czechoslovak Radio was transformed back into what it had been in the 1950s, a tool of hard line propaganda. In the process, over 700 radio staff were forced to leave their jobs. Those who stayed found their freedom of expression severely curtailed. To give an idea of the extent to which things had changed by August 1969 - the first anniversary of the Soviet led invasion – I will start with a short extract from Radio Prague’s broadcasts back in 1968, as the tanks rolled into the city. At the time the radio was playing
On the airwaves, 1968 ended very much as it had begun. For New Year’s Eve, Czechoslovak Radio chose the same format as the year before, with the light-hearted musical cabaret of the Semafor Theatre. But behind the scenes, the Soviet-led occupation in August had changed everything. The Soviets were only too pleased for the radio to give the impression of normality. A gradual, almost imperceptible drift back to hard-line communism was beginning. The process came to be known cynically as “normalization”, a word that was first used by Alexander Dubček himself
Ask practically any inhabitant of the capital for directions to Czech Radio and you'll be pointed to an imposing functionalist building, tucked just behind Wenceslas Square. In this, and the neighbouring buildings, hundreds of 'rozhlasáci' crouch over computers, talk on telephones and read reports such as this in one of the numerous studios. But, as well as the mothership on Vinohradská Street, Czech Radio owns a surprising number of other, smaller buildings, scattered all over the capital, which are overshadowed, perhaps sometimes unfairly, by
In the course of 1968 the Soviet Union made it increasingly clear that it disapproved strongly of the Prague Spring reforms. Yet, despite mounting tensions with Moscow, the Soviet led invasion on the night from August 20-21 1968, came as a huge shock. Today we are going to hear some of the broadcasts from that fateful day. We start with Radio Moscow, with an official Soviet version of events.
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