06-04-2003

Today's topics include: Radio Prague competition, Radio Slovakia International's tenth birthday, Czech centres, Prague metro, President Klaus' position on Iraq. Quotes from: Masanori Misu and George Smith.

It's April 6th, we're a week into our Radio Prague competition but have not received many responses to our first question.

...which is: WHO IS THE MOST INTERESTING FIGURE IN CZECH HISTORY?

Send us a few lines about a Czech - past or contemporary - who you feel has made an impact on the world, and tell us what made that man or woman special.

The main prize will be a trip to the Czech Republic for two, sponsored by the Podebrady Spa and Czech Airlines - at home in the skies! There will also be a number of attractive runner up prizes.

You've got until June 15, 2003 to send your answers to:

Radio Prague, Vinohradska 12, 120 99 Prague 2, Czech Republic

...or e-mail it to: cr@radio.cz

Many of you have been writing to us, praising Insight Central Europe - our joint programme with Radio Austria International, Radio Slovakia, Radio Slovenia, Radio Polonia, and Radio Budapest. Some of you have also asked us for more information on the different stations. The radio closest to us is Radio Slovakia International.

Following the split of Czechoslovakia, Radio Slovakia International was born ten years ago and in light of its anniversary, it held a big celebration in Bratislava, with not just its staff and partners within Slovakia but also its partners abroad. Radio Prague's Editor-in-Chief, David Vaughan was at the party and spoke to his Slovak counterpart Ladislav Kubis about how the station has developed:

You are celebrating your tenth birthday. How have you been doing?

"We started ten years ago as a short-wave international broadcaster and since 1993 until 1998, it was only short-wave we were broadcasting on. Later on, we found other ways how to get our message across to listeners, to people who are interested in Slovakia. First, we became partners of the World Radio Network (WRN) and were able to have our programmes broadcast on satellite. We were the first pioneers, so to say, in Slovak Radio, to start a very active web-site. Today, it is the only one in Slovakia providing information about the country in French, German, Russian, and English, which is updated twice daily. Now, we have a fifth broadcast, which started with the arrival of summer time on March 30 with Spanish programmes and this will complete the bouquet of the main European languages that we are broadcasting in. We also have links with many of the international broadcasters from France, Germany, Austria, Prague, and Hungary and we are producing a common magazine in English that we contribute to regularly so that bits of news about Slovakia are getting onto the frequencies of other stations. I think Slovakia needs this very much."

I remember working at Radio Czechoslovakia, as it was called then, when the country split. We, in Prague, pretty much carried on exactly as before. You had to start from absolutely nothing, didn't you?

"Yes. This may have seemed as a problem at the beginning but it worked to our advantage because you start your ideas, your strategy from anew, which is completely determined by the situation you have and in this way, also from the point of view of equipment and the personnel, everything was new and with very much enthusiasm and motivation although we had to rely, many times on foreign language teachers who came and became journalists later on. But today, with small exceptions, the teams are stable and they like their work."

Part of your celebration of the tenth anniversary has been a meeting of the representatives of all sorts of different European stations that broadcast internationally - from Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, and various other countries. How do you see the future of international co-operation between our stations?

"Well, we just finished the conference Co-operation of International Broadcasters because I feel, and I think this was the feeling in the room with all the people present, that the strengthening of this co-operation is quite important for international broadcasters to get a bigger audience, to link themselves and cover with their programmes a larger region than only their own country."

And if you're interested in finding out more about Radio Slovakia International, their web address is www.slovakradio.sk.

Masanori Misu from Tokyo, in Japan says his interest in Czech Centres has increased since he listened to one of our reports on the Czech centre in London. He asks:

"For what purposes were they established? What kind of things related to the Czech Republic are featured there? Are they open to the public? Are there any in Asia?"

There are currently 17 Czech Centres throughout the world and their mission is to represent the Czech Republic mainly in the fields of culture, trade and tourism. In 2002, the centres organised some 1600 cultural activities around the globe. Events organised or co-organised by the centre attracted 600,000 visitors.

The centres are also quite busy keeping up business relations between the Czech Republic and the countries the centres are in. They worked on 291 company presentations, advertised some 1,000 Czech companies abroad, and have processed thousands of offers and questions regarding Czech and foreign firms.

One thousand people took Czech classes and 3000 media reports were recorded in 2002. Unfortunately, there are no Czech centres in your part of the world, Mr Misu. They are either all over Europe - the latest opened in Moscow, Russia - or in the United States. But that doesn't mean that there is no other institution promoting the country in Asia. One of the most important is probably CzechInvest, which has an office in Japan, and one for South East Asia in Hong Kong.

Mr George Smith is from Liverpool in England and has the following two questions:

"Could you tell me how close to fully re-opening the metro is and what is Vaclav Klaus' position on the Iraq situation?"

Well, your first question can be answered with a very simple - yes, the metro is fully operational.

As far as our new president's position on Iraq is concerned, Vaclav Klaus has been rather hesitant in expressing his opinion on the Iraq question. He has neither openly supported nor condemned the US and British-led military attack.

On April 1, he sent a letter to US President Bush, in which he stated that the Czech Republic would not join the war alongside the United States and Great Britain but stressed he supported the US fight against terrorism. According to Prague Castle, Mr Klaus assured Mr Bush that he intends to continue to foster the friendly relationship with the US he has enjoyed for many years and added that he truly admired the country's efforts to uphold certain values.

And this is where we'll end today's Mailbox. If you should have any comments or questions, you can also e-mail them to english@radio.cz

06-04-2003