Czech Lion awards, photo: CTK

Today's Mailbox includes: Topics: tabloids. TV stations. International Women's Day. Favourite drinks. Popularity of soccer and hockey. Czech Lion awards. Quotes from: Sue Miller, Salim Lam, Mohammad Shamim, Craig Marshall, Alicie Braun.

It's been quite an eventful past few days, we have a new president, the ruling coalition called for a vote of confidence.

Yes, and that's why we're going to give politics a break today to concentrate on other interesting subjects that you have been asking about.

Such as this question from Sue Miller who writes to us from somewhere in England:

"Are Czechs interested in tabloid news? In your press review on your web site you seldom cover tabloid papers. Here in the UK we have the Sun. It may not be a respected paper but is often mentioned in press reviews because it attracts a large number of readers. Have you got an equivalent to the Sun in the Czech Republic?"

Well, we have a paper called Blesk, which is also very popular in the country but probably has more gossip news than the Sun would have. It is the only daily tabloid and although one has to take everything it writes about with reservation, a large part of the population buys it. Their excuse is that it's simply just for "light reading" and entertainment.

We actually have quoted Blesk in our press review a number of times. The fact is that most of the time its headlines concern local gossip. However, when there is an article on serious issues, for example if Blesk would have a report on the presidential elections or the possible war on Iraq, we would put it in the press review to let you know what Czechs are reading about and, to some extent, are being influenced by.

Salim Lam has been listening to Radio Prague on short-wave in Nigeria for the past year and brings up an interesting point:

"I often hear you report on Czech TV or TV Nova. How many TV stations do you have in the Czech Republic? Am I right in assuming that there are only two? What sort of programmes do Czechs get to see on local TV? Are they mainly Czech or have you got foreign productions as well? And if so, then are they dubbed?"

Mr Lam is probably right in saying that Czech TV and TV Nova are the two stations reported about the most. Czech TV is the country's public station and has two channels.

TV Nova is often mentioned in the news firstly because it is the country's biggest private TV station and secondly because of its general director Jan Zelezny.

For several years now, Mr Zelezny's name has popped up in our news and reports because he is being investigated by the police. He has been in the centre of an international business dispute - accused of having attempted to cheat a creditor - is facing charges of fraud, and was stripped of his diplomatic immunity after he was elected as Senator last year in the autumn.

But besides TV Nova, there are other private television stations. There is TV Prima, for example, which is the second largest station. Then there are others that you get over cable and sometimes satellite TV.

As far as the programmes are concerned, Czechs are offered quite a mix of programmes, ranging from Czech cartoons, series, and films to foreign productions. Everything is dubbed into Czech. In fact the country is known for its good quality dubbing service. On Monday and Thursday nights, Czech TV 2 broadcasts films in the original version with Czech subtitles.

We have two questions from one of our regular listeners in Kerala State, India. Mohammad Shamim asks:

"How do the Czech women celebrate International Women's Day and which is the favourite drink of the Czech people during festival season?"

March 8th, International Women's Day, during the forty years of Communist rule was a major event in the country. Women who had achieved outstanding results at work and who had toed the party line were given awards by the state, all women received presents at work, and there were celebrations everywhere, frequently with the women doing all the work and the men drinking until late at night. But after the fall of Communism, International Women's Day was discredited greatly as it was associated with the regime. It is only now beginning to gain popularity. Mostly, women get flowers and chocolates, and if they're lucky are treated to dinner.

As for the second question, the favourite drink during festival season, the answer won't surprise you. It's beer, of course, although most women choose to drink wine with soda. Beer is increasingly becoming the drink for Czech men. Today, you find few women in the pub with the Czech brew in front of them.

And we have a question from Craig Marshall from Oshawa in Ontario, Canada. He asks:

"What's more popular in the Czech Republic, soccer or hockey?"

Well that's a tough question, technically soccer is more popular in the Czech Republic. But I would have to say that the fact that the Czech Republic has not qualified for the World Cup in many years, plus the fact that they continue to play poorly in other international and European tournaments has frustrated a number of people. On the other hand, the Czech Republic's recent success in international hockey, including gold at the Nagano Olympics and a number of recent World Championships has increased the popularity of hockey. Players such as Jaromir Jagr and former NHLer Dominik Hasek have also contributed to the popularity of the sport. So to answer your question, they are both really popular in the Czech Republic.

We have a question from Alicie Braun who writes to us from Frankfurt, Germany.

"I read about the recent Czech Lion awards that were held in Prague in your news bulletin. Is it an important awards ceremony? I was also told that unlike in the US and Britain, or even Germany, it is relatively easy to meet Czech actors in your country. Is that true?"

This year's winner in the best film category Petr Zelenka,  photo: CTK
Yes, that is true. When you meet actors on the street they are friendly, answer your questions and really are down to earth. There also aren't any special high-society places they go to. Of course, you have numerous parties sponsored by various companies that they are invited to and aren't really organised for the usual locals but on the other hand you can also meet an actor or actress in your local pub.

The Cesky Lev Film awards ceremony is the Czech equivalent to the Oscars or the British film awards but is, of course, on a smaller scale. It is however, one of the biggest events in the Czech world of film. This year's winner in the best film category was Petr Zelenka's Year of the Devil - a mock documentary about a fictional folk-rock group, featuring the musicians Karel Plihal, Jaromir Nohavica and the group Cechomor.

And that brings us to the end of today's edition of Mailbox.

We've been getting quite a large number of e-mails from our listeners in Canada but are yet to get mail from those listening on FM in Denmark. Please keep the letters coming.

You can either write to the Radio Prague English Language team, 12099 Prague 2, Czech Republic, or e-mail us to [email protected].