Italia airship

This week in Mailbox: problems with downloading sound from Radio Prague’s website, US President Barack Obama congratulating the Czechs on 91 years of statehood, Czech scientist František Běhounek, reactions to proposed budget cuts. Listeners quoted: Colin Law, Jaroslav B. Tusek, Karl Strauss, Lenfant Lee, Ian Morrison, Atsuhisa Kageyama.

Hello and thanks for tuning in to Mailbox, Radio Prague’s weekly programme which gives you, the listeners, a chance to voice your comments and ask questions concerning our broadcasts as well as life in the Czech Republic.

First up we have this comment from our regular listener Colin Law from New Zealand:

“The connection has timed out. The server at is taking too long to respond.’ This has been an ongoing problem with Radio Prague audio downloads. Have you considered having a mirror site on the other side of the globe?”

We are very sorry to hear that you are having problems with downloading our broadcasts. I am told by our internet department that internet connection with certain parts of the world, especially Southeast Asia and Australia and New Zealand can be unreliable, the problem being with the provider. Having a mirror server elsewhere on the globe is an option, however with the current financial situation it is a long term rather than short term plan.

Jaroslav B. Tusek from the United States responds to last weekend’s news story reporting that the White House had published a statement by US President Barack Obama congratulating the Czechs on 91 years of statehood.

“I respectfully submit to you that President Obama's congratulations to Czechs on their 91st anniversary of independence is much more significant than just a ‘traditional diplomatic gesture’. It seems that Václav Havel in his meeting with President Obama in Prague earlier this year succeeded to present the Czech Republic in better light than current Czech politicians. Apparently he was able to persuade President Obama not to ignore the Czech Republic as just another banana republic but to put the Czech Republic on his list of countries to watch as potential partners and allies.”

Karl Strauss from the UK has a question:

“I recently read about the disaster of the Italia airship en route to the North Pole in 1928. There was on board a Dr. František Běhounek from Czechoslovakia, it was unclear from the article if he survived the crash or not, please could you enlighten me. I enjoy your programmes, I learn so much about your country and its history and people I have been a listener since 1968 so that must say something.”

The Czech physicist and radiation expert František Běhounek took part in the 1928 expedition – as one of only two non-Italian members of the Italia airship crew under the command of Umberto Nobile – and became the first ever Czech to fly over the North Pole. Not only did he survive the crash but he described the accident as well as being stranded on an ice floe and subsequently rescued by the Russian icebreaker Krasin in a book titled “Trosečníci na kře ledové” or “Cast-aways on an ice floe”. František Běhounek died on January 1st, 1973 in Karlovy Vary.

Now as negotiations are still going on regarding the details of Radio Prague’s budget for next year we cannot give you any new information on the future of our shortwave broadcasts. In the meantime we are very grateful and touched by your letters of support that keep coming in.

For example Lenfant Lee from China wrote:

“I’m very concerned about the discussion pertaining to the possible closure of Radio Prague’s shortwave transmissions. There are more and more stations shutting down their broadcasts on shortwave. I don’t think that is a good idea for a station. The feeling of picking up a signal from the radio is completely different from the internet. The shortwave cannot be replaced. Although the listening conditions of Radio Prague in Asia are not good enough. The condition in other parts of the world must be good enough. Please tell me what I can do to help you avoid shutting down on shortwave.”

Also from China, Ian Morrison writes:

“I'm alarmed to hear that your government is even considering these tragic budget cuts that would rob shortwave listeners the world over of Radio Prague. Does your government not realise the important role your station has played at defining moments in modern Czech history, such as during the Prague Uprising of 1945 or the Soviet invasion of 1968?”

Atsuhisa Kageyama listens to Radio Prague in Japan:

“I hope you that you will continue to broadcast the short-wave service after January 1st, 2010 because in Japan your station is the only medium bringing Czech news. So, if you close your short-wave service, almost all Japanese listeners will cease getting information about your country in Japan. Many Japanese electronic companies have opened factories in your country. So, I think that your transmissions to East Asia will be more important in the near future. I cannot find any reasons why you would reduce your short-wave transmission. Please continue your short-wave transmissions.”

Thank you again for your concern and support and all your feedback in general. We will of course keep you posted on any new developments. Now, let’s end the programme on a happier note – and I mean that quite literally this time. Our mystery Czechs series continues and this month we are asking for the name of the man who composed this famous piece of music:

Your answers need to reach us by the end of November at or Radio Prague, 12099 Prague where we also welcome your questions, comments and reception reports. Thank you for listening today and please tune in again next week.