Czech Radio Vltava celebrates 50 years of broadcasting. During that time, according to his editor-in-chief, he changed significantly. “At that time, people did not have many opportunities to listen to something interesting, and today, of course, there is much greater competition,” says Jaroslava Haladova in an interview, according to which it is necessary to open a serious discussion about increasing the franchise fee. “Otherwise, the radio will be in crisis,” he says.
Fifty years ago, the Vltava jingle was first heard on the local airwaves. How much has the station changed in half a century?
The beginning was quite complicated, because before that station Československo 2 station was located here, which was a cultural circle of Czechia and Slovakia. It was created in the 1960s and was a progressive cultural platform. In 1972, it was divided into the Czech part, Vltava, and the Slovak part, Devin. Of course, the beginnings of the Vltava 50 years ago were very natural, and there were also talks in Russian or a magazine for young people from Swaziland, so it took time for the Vltava to return to the legacy of CZ2.
Over the past 50 years, the station has become more open and democratic, people at that time did not have many opportunities to listen to something interesting, and today, of course, there is more competition, even Vltava had to open up in terms of genre, originally it was not diverse as it is today.
In an interview with Lidové noviny, you said that “Vltava develops the audience in the good sense of the word and also shows that the sound is worth it.” But are today’s listeners really worth it?
It clearly represents the voice, which illustrates the boom in the podcast and listeners’ interest in it. The number of listeners for Vltava’s linear broadcast has increased in the past couple of years, so I dare say listeners are still interested in the culture.
Shows that people listen to on different podcast platforms work well for you. Does traditional broadcasting still make sense?
This is a big question, almost the most important one to me. Broadcasting is very relevant, there will still be a lot of people who are lazy to choose and want to play the radio with their favorite station when they come home. Linear broadcasting will not go away, but it should definitely evolve. Our most successful format, book readings or interviews, people find in apps and run at their convenience. The broadcast should be live, up-to-date and friendly to listen to.
Photo: Tomáš Vocelka
She was born in 1981 in Klatowy and graduated from the Faculty of Education at Charles University. I actually started as a student working with Czech Radio, from filming opinion polls through interviews and reports to the radio documentary genre. He has been working in Vltava since 2005, running the station since February 2019. She loves to walk green, and when she is not listening to the radio she reads detective stories.
“The goal is to erase the impression that Vltava is a station for the older generation,” I said in an interview. What’s wrong with it being a station for older listeners?
We have to rejuvenate the audience and show our younger listeners that Vltava is here, because in 20 years there may not be anyone to broadcast to.
And how are you?
We involved authors in the program who can also appeal to people in their forties. We have expanded Sedmé nebe, an hour of original music selection, featuring, for example, Sára Vondráčková (Never Sol), Milan Cais, Pavel Klusák, Monika Načeva or Oto Klempíř. We have invited Ondřej Cihlář from Vosto5 to the Vizitka programme, the main interview format, and he interviews twice a week. In reading with the star, we give titles that can interest even young people, we had a sister Topol or Lolita from Nabokov, and we would have hours from Cunningham.
How does the older generation of listeners react to it?
Some of them left, for example to Český rozhlas D major, a purely classical music station, some got used to it, and some brought back to Dvojka or Plus. The response to the change has not been drastic.
How serious is the classical music of the Vltava?
Music on the radio is a big topic. Why should people listen to music on the radio these days when they can play whatever they want on Spotify or YouTube, including classics? This is also one of the reasons why the Vltava is no longer relevant to the field of classical music. But we still have groups with serious music, but we don’t focus on it as much as before, jazz and electronica have reached a level similar to classical music.
Fifty years of culture on the Vltava
Beata Hlavenkova, Marta Klokova, Never Soul, Ondig Pevic, Milan Kaes and Dan Barta will perform and sing to Strelica Ostrov in Prague on Sunday 4 September from 4pm, all accompanied by Radio Gustav Brum’s big band. “We want to show that Vltava is not just a classical music station after 50 years. That’s why the concert brings together a great radio band with musicians. We want to show with the concert how wide the Vltava show is,” says editor-in-chief Yaroslava Haladova.
The last increase in the franchisor’s fee occurred 14 years ago, and today it is still up to 45 kroner per month. Are you happy to see where the discussion on this topic is going?
I think the fees should definitely be increased. The prices for absolutely everything are going up and the fees have stayed the same for 14 years. It stands to reason that fewer things can be produced for the same money. The radio does not state clearly and unequivocally that it will reduce production, but something has to be scaled back, and I personally see that as a problem. I don’t understand why the fee was not increased by 15 kr, which is now being discussed, it would not be a disaster for most people and would help the radio a lot.
If fees don’t go up, what will it mean for radio in the future?
He will be in crisis. It can easily reach the artistic formats that are required and which are very expensive and never worth doing in terms of listeners, such as radio plays.
On the other hand, Czech Radio operates 12 national and 14 other regional stations, including the news site iRozhlas.cz. Is this margin necessary?
This is not a question for me, how many radio stations. I am glad that it covers the widest possible range of listeners, and at the same time, due to the nature of common law, it should have a wide range. In my opinion, closing many stations is not the way to go.
Do you follow the debate over BBC fees, where things like direct state support or business expansion are addressed? Does any of this make sense to you in the Czech environment?
I admit that I do not study in detail how this is handled abroad. It’s a very complicated topic, because in the Czech Republic it could mean changing the entire media law, which is much more complicated than just increasing fees. The fee is still tied to whether one owns a TV or a radio, which is irrelevant nowadays when everyone has a smartphone and consumes content through it. The question is whether this should change in the future.
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