Regarding Radio Prague’s new sound design

Come Monday, September 6, our sharp-eared regular listeners are sure to notice a change in our programme right from the beginning in the form of a new news jingle. That’s just one of a few new changes to Radio Prague’s audio format: as of Monday, several of our programmes will have new signature tunes, and the way we use other music and copyrighted sounds in our stories and features is going to be a bit different – and that goes for all six of Radio Prague’s broadcasts in different languages.

Gerald Schubert
To tell you why change is in the air I’m joined in the studio by Radio Prague’s editor-in-chief Gerald Schubert.

We’ve been using current set of signature tunes for several years now, a lot of listeners surely feel at home with the way our programmes sound, so why are we making these changes right now?

“Well, actually I think that from time to time you should make some changes to the sound design in order to stay alive; change is life, so I think it’s normal to do that. But basically, there is now a more important reason, which has to do with copyright law. It’s quite an interesting phenomenon that legislation always lags a little bit behind technical development, so when laws were made concerning copyright, people weren’t really thinking about the impact of the internet on radio at that time. It means that if you have a copyright and can use jingles because you bought them – had them composed by someone – you are allowed to use them on the air, you are allowed to stream them on the internet, even to stream them live, but if you don’t own the jingles then you can’t offer them for downloading, and this is the main reason for the change.”

And we have quite a lot of podcasts downloaded.

Radio Prague webpage -
“We have quite a lot of podcasts actually and we have this main product which is our 27 or 29-minute news show every day, andthat will be back for podcast again after the changes next Monday.”

Aside from the new signature tunes or jingles, we are not going to be using music in general in the same way as before – for example to kind of set a mood for certain topics – can you give us a brief description of what the rules are now?

“Let me explain it with an example. For instance, the famous composer Gustav Mahler lived in the town of Jihlava for some time. If you do a story about Gustav Mahler you can use clips of his music because you’re really talking about him, so with the sound you illustrate how he was as a person and a composer. However, if you do a story about Jihlava as a town – as the English department might with their Spotlight feature – then it would be very nice to have illustrative sound by Gustav Mahler for a pice about Jihlava as well, but you can’t do that. You can do it on the air, you can broadcast it, you can offer it on the live stream, but you can’t offer it for the podcast because the law was not prepared to take that into account. It is not in that case what we call an “ukázka”, a sample used to illustrate something. So this is the main reason. We want to return the possibility of downloading the entire news show to the website, and we can only do that if we accept these rules.

Copyright law is a hot issue in the internet age, and I fully expect some of our listeners to write in saying we’ve erred on the side of caution, musicians and laws be damned.

“Well the other possibility is to cut out music and sound from the podcasts, and this is not a very nice way to prepare a service for our listeners. We think the importance of the downloads and podcasting will increase and increase, and so we want to offer the most beautiful programme possible without it conflicting with the law even on this medium, which I think is quite important in terms of developing radio into the future. So we think this podcasting should be okay, and it should be beautiful and respect the law. So it should be a nice podcast and not one where we cut out some music because it’s not permitted there.”