Interviews with president likely to end as Czech Radio rejects live format

Miloš Zeman, Hovory z Lán, photo: Khalil Baalbaki

Regular Czech Radio interviews with the Czech president will most likely be discontinued. The station is refusing to carry on with the present live format following a scandal surrounding foul language uttered by President Miloš Zeman in the programme’s most recent edition. The broadcaster says it will only pre-tape the show – an idea rejected by the president.

Miloš Zeman, Hovory z Lán, photo: Khalil Baalbaki
An edition of Hovory z Lán, or Talks from Lány, broadcast live from the president’s residence, made international headlines in November due to the very strong language used by Miloš Zeman. The president used a number of swear words on the programme – broadcast at 5 PM – including an earthy Czech translation of the name of the Russian group Pussy Riot.

The president later said that almost all of the vulgar expressions were direct quotations, though questions remain as to why Mr Zeman chose to use such foul language in the first place.

The furore caused by the interview has contributed to a sharp drop in public support for the president – and now looks likely to bring about the end of the programme itself.

Miloš Zeman, Hovory z Lán, photo: Khalil Baalbaki
Czech Radio’s supervisory board last month came to the conclusion that the broadcaster had breached the law, as well as its own statues, by airing the expletive-dotted interview. The board also suggested the show be pre-recorded.

Czech Radio’s management initially said the station wanted to continue airing live interviews with the president. However, the broadcaster’s director general, Peter Duhan, on Monday announced that only pre-taped interviews with the president would be aired in the future. “We should respect the conclusion of Czech Radio’s supervisory board. That’s why my decision was so unequivocal, and that’s why I wrote to the president that we wanted to keep the programme but that we can only broadcast pre-recorded interviews.”

The programme’s tradition goes back to the first president of Czechoslovakia, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk. The show was revived after the fall of communism in 1990, with Václav Havel regularly addressing listeners over an eight-year period.

Peter Duhan, photo: Khalil Baalbaki
The programme was re-launched in June last year, several months after Mr. Zeman’s election. Since then it has been broadcast every three months or so.

But Czech Radio’s freshly announced decision not to broadcast live interviews with the president will most likely spell the end of Hovory z Lán in its current form.

President Zeman had earlier refused the idea of pre-taping the show, a position reiterated by his spokesman on Monday. The show might move to a commercial broadcaster, although none of the big radio stations has to date confirmed interest in taking over the programme.