Today's Mailbox includes Topics: The High Frequency Coordination Conference. Czech taxis in England. Does Prague really have a hundred towers? Czech Roma singer Vera Bila Listeners mentioned and quoted: John Ashton, D.M.Cook, Richard Petranek, John Treval, Maury Lubman

Welcome to the first Mailbox in August, the month which, for school children and students brings the second half of their summer holiday,

...and for short wave experts brings the meeting of the High Frequency Coordination Conference, the HFCC. We mentioned it some weeks ago, and John Ashton from Essex, England writes:

"I understand that the High Frequency Coordination Conference does its best to achieve good listening conditions for short wave listeners throughout the world, but could you explain more about its actual activities?"

Well, the HFCC is an international association that coordinates frequencies used by various radio stations. But the person that knows most about is Olda Cip, the organisation's chairman, and we've invited him to Mailbox today. So, Olda, welcome to the studio once more. And I'll start by asking how many radio stations are members of the HFCC.

"Well, practically all of them, or at least the largest organisations, such as Voice of Russia, the IBB, Voice of America, BBC, or rather their transmission services providers, called Merlin Communications International, Radio Canada International, well, all of them."

And when you meet, you agree on what wavelengths each of these stations is going to use?

"Yeas, each of these organisations prepares its list of frequency requirements that are submitted in keeping with a certain deadline. These are all merged and the complex, joint schedule for the particular season is created. And the software determines which of the frequency requirements would be in conflict, or in collision, as we call it, with other frequencies, with one transmission interfering the other."

Is there a kind of fight to get into a better place?

"Well, of course, some frequencies are more suitable for propagation reasons, but it's mostly a matter of chance. If you select a frequency that two or maybe even three colleagues have selected as well, you are in trouble."

But that is what the conference is for.

"Exactly. Then these two or more partners in negotiation have to decide what is going to happen, who is going to leave the frequency and who is going to keep it. That is the sense of the conference."

And is it a case of first come, first served, or the stronger you are...

"There are various influences. Sometimes, if you use a frequency for decades, you have a certain advantage, sometimes you make a deal with your colleague on another collision, on another incompatibility, and then you expect that he or she will accommodate you on another frequency. So it depends on a lot of considerations."

Is there enough frequencies to go around?

"That depends, on some bands, generally speaking, on higher frequencies there is more breathing space. On lower frequencies the overload is generally quite big."

Olda, I know that you were the initiator of the founding of the High Frequency Coordination Conference. When, and why?

"Well, I knew that even during the period of Socialism and Communism in Eastern and Central Europe there were efforts on both sides of the former Iron Curtain to do something about the absolute anarchy in the usage of short wave bands for broadcasting. And there were in fact two groups active on both sides of the Iron Curtain. I knew that they exist and after the collapse of Communism I suggested that they should come together, meet and work out an international approach without the former divisions between East and West."

So, the organisation was founded shortly after the fall of the Iron Curtain?

"Yes, the first working conference was held here in Prague in Spring, 1991 and since then each year two conferences are held."

You are now preparing for the next conference, which will be held in August?

"This will be held between August 26th and 30th in Bangkok, Thailand."

And I know you're very busy with the preparations, so thank you for finding time to join us in Mailbox.

That was Olda Cip, Radio Prague's short wave expert and chairman of the High Frequency Coordination Conference. And now, on to other listeners' questions and comments. A number of them have been commenting on how they have come across various aspects of Czech culture and Czech products in their home towns. For example D.M.Cook writes

"There are a lot of Skoda Octavia taxis in the Dundee area these days . It must be like just like Prague-taxi ranks."

That's nice except that Prague taxis and Prague taxi ranks, now, that's a topic I don't want to get started on, we've been talking about it over and over again - prices, availability, etc. But we do talk about it frequently - as far as I remember, in press review on Wednesday, July 30th, and it seems that the Prague local authority is really taking serious steps to make the service better. Which we'll be reporting on in our news bulletins.

And, talking about our news bulletins, we have been getting much favourable comment about them, both from listeners who hear our program, and by those who follow our web-site. Richard Petranek, who lives in Houston Texas, USA is just one example. He writes:

"Thanks so much for your web~site and all the news postings. My grandparents both immigrated from the Czech lands in the early part of the 20th Century. It was always a great joy to listen to their stories of coming to the states and settling in Chicago, where I grew up. My father was in Czechoslovakia during WW II with General Patton's U.S. Third Army, as the Germans were leaving and the Russians were entering the country. That was the last time he saw his grandparents and cousins. God Bless you for your work."

And the same goes the other way, too. We have many listeners here, in Prague- visitors, or people who are working here and whose Czech isn't up to following the local news in Czech. Many of them rely on Radio Prague for information on what's happening here.

And, talking about information from and about Prague, John Treval of Montreal, Quebec, in Canada writes:

"In Mailbox on July 14 you said that Prague was called the city of a hundred towers, are there really that many?"

The truth of the matter is that nobody really knows just how many towers and spires there are in Prague. The saying: Prague- a city of a hundred towers was coined in 1814 by a German writer of Joseph von Hormayer. But there is proof that Prague had a big number of towers much, much earlier. If you take the time and trouble and count all the towers on an engraved picture of the city dating back to 1649, you'll find it has 146 towers.

I can't see anybody having the patience to do that.

But it was still easier than actually going out into the streets and counting the towers. That was .done after Hormayer's article was published and some critics said that the claim of a hundred towers was exaggerated. A committee of highly respected Czech university professors and public figures was created with the task of counting all the towers of Prague. They counted 103 towers. But that wasn't the end of the counting, it was repeated a number of times, with various results. According to a book called A Thousand Czech Records, published in 1976, there are 473 towers in Prague.

It obviously depended on just what was considered a tower, you have church towers, there are towers on the historic city fortifications, then there are the water towers used by the first city water works. There are spikes and towers on various municipal buildings, etc. But, any way you look at it, we can answer John's question without any doubts. Yes, Prague really does have well over a hundred towers.

It's always nice to see that some program or information we had on our programs has caught the attention of listeners and met with their response. One of those instances was, when we spoke about the Czech Roma singer, Vera Bila a few weeks ago. To quote just one example, Maury Lubman from Mahwah, NJ, USA writes that he has also seen a film about Vera Bila.

"I was moved emotionally beyond belief. Why I was so moved, I do not know...There was some kind of "connection" I do not understand... I am far from being a gypsy."

Yes, Vera Bila does have something that her audience really reacts to very emotionally. Maybe because she is such a simple woman, anything but a star, with no formal musical education. I really don't know, but let's listen to her once more as we end today's edition of Mailbox.

Authors: Dita Asiedu , Olga Szantová
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