Radio Prague: the international service of Czech public radio.

Radio Prague QSL card - 1970

In 1930, just seven years after radio broadcasting was established in the former Czechoslovakia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs came up with the idea of creating a shortwave service which would present the country abroad. Five years later workmen began assembling shortwave transmitters and on August 31st, 1936 the station first went on the air with a speech in English by the technical director of Czechoslovak Radio. This day marked the birth of international broadcasting in Czechoslovakia.

Radio Prague QSL card - 1970
The international service, set up to provide state propaganda and information in the worlds major languages, as well as special programming for Czechs and Slovaks living abroad went through many ups and downs over the 67 years of its existence but with the exception of two breaks it stayed on the air through thick and thin.

At the outset announcers were expected to be fluent in four different languages but later, as the letters started to pour in, individual language departments started specializing and working more independently of each other.

In 1938 war clouds gathered over Europe and a year later with the Nazi invasion of the Czech state, the radio station was severely curbed in its activities. The Nazis allowed only two hours of programming a day - consisting of an officially approved 10 minute news bulletin and music. After the end of the war the international service resumed its broadcasts. There were daily programmes in English, Czech, German, French and Italian. As today, the spoken word formed the backbone of programming. The structure of the programme was news, current affairs, interviews and features.

However the station was to go through another difficult period. Half a century of communist rule stunted growth, and censored scripts focussed on the government programme, five year plans for the economy and the achievements of communist countries around the world. Propaganda was important and the station expanded broadcasting in additional languages such as Russian, Arabic or Swedish. The period after the crushing of the Prague Spring was especially hard. Several hundred people were forced to leave Czechoslovak Radio and the international service was one of the worst affected. Of three hundred and fifty employees more than one hundred and fifty left or were sacked.

The station - as the entire country - was to live through another twenty years of communism before the Soviet block finally collapsed in 1989. Somewhat paradoxically, after having survived half a century of communism, on May 7th of 1990 Radio Prague fell silent once again -this time in a free and democratic country. The reason for this pause was the uncertain future of the international service combined with personnel and technical cutbacks at Czechoslovak Radio.

Within a month it was back on the air, undergoing a process of programme change and modernization. Today the station broadcasts a total of 24 hours worth of programmes per day, in English, German, French, Spanish, Czech and Russian. In 1994 Radio Prague set up its own website, where all programmes can now be accessed in text and sound.

Radio Prague went fully digital in the year 2,000 when it also moved into a brand new studio building next to the old building on Vinohradska 12, just off Wenceslas Square. At the dawn of a new millennium, the station faces plenty of competition and is working hard to meet the challenges ahead.