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Czech Radio celebrates 90 years of air time

Radio station sets up camp on Wenceslas Square for 48-hour broadcast

Posted: May 22, 2013

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Czech Radio celebrates 90 years of air time

By Christine Kovaříková

Staff Writer

Czech Radio made history once again this month, but this time bullets were not flying.

The radio station, which has had a storied and sometimes violent past - from the Czech uprising at the end of World War II to the Warsaw Pact invasion of 1968 - celebrated its 90th anniversary with a record-setting 48 hours of uninterrupted broadcasting.

Dubbed "The Magnificent 90," the marathon broadcast from Wenceslas Square included 90 half-hour interviews with prominent personalities from around the country nine decades after the station first went on the airwaves May 18, 1923.

"We are very proud that Czech Radio is one of the first stations that existed in Europe, with only the BBC broadcasting a bit earlier, and we wanted to draw attention to this anniversary," said Jan Pokorný, who along with fellow DJ Lucie Výborná, manned the broadcast for the event. "We came up with the idea of 90 guests for all of the 90 years of the existence of the radio," he added.

Rules for the event were overseen by Dobrý den, an agency that covers Czech records. "The conditions for establishing the record were agreed upon with Czech Radio beforehand," said Event Manager Miroslav Marek. "In the interview row, there did not appear any song or other musical intervention. Only short news breaks made every full and half an hour were permitted."

The public event in the heart of the city caught the attention of many passers-by who stopped to watch the broadcasters interview their guests. Výborná, who has been working for the radio for more than 22 years, explained her preparations for the event. "Usually, I ask myself what is the most interesting issue for me, and then I start my research from that point. But that is just not possible with 90 guests. However, I tried to find connections with the people I was interviewing."

Of course, working for 48 hours takes its toll. The broadcasters fared well through most of the event, but signs of exhaustion began to show as they got closer to the end.

"The whole time I thought I had everything absolutely under control, but then suddenly for 20 minutes during one interview I totally lost it. I hope I will never hear a recording of this," Výborná said.

Guest No. 89, Jan Petránek, a prominent Czech radio broadcaster himself, said the idea was a bit "crazy," but the show had to go on. "When you start an event like this, you have to make it through to the end," he added jokingly.

The weather didn't help, either. Both broadcasters said that, over the weekend, the temperatures in the makeshift studio felt like 40 degrees Celsius, which was exhausting. They maintained though that it is the historical importance of Czech Radio that was important. For Pokorný, the broadcaster's history is the reason for its prominence in local society. Located at Vinohradská 12, the radio station has appeared several times at the epicenter of historic events.

On May 5, 1945, an announcement from Czech Radio headquarters started the Prague Uprising and subsequent battles with the German Army outside the stations doors, resulting in many casualties and serious damage to the building.

More than 20 years later, the station would play a pivotal role against foreign troops during the Warsaw Pact invasion of 1968, which was intended to put an end to the political liberalization known as Prague Spring. Similar to the battles at the end of the World War II, the clashes between Soviet troops and Czech Radio employees resulted in more than 15 casualties. The station was eventually seized by the Soviets in September of that year, but the radio managed to continue broadcasting from other locations.

"When you appear every day in people's homes, you are in a way a part of their households," Výborná said. "One woman arrived here from very far away and brought us homemade strudel. These are the real rewarding moments."


Christine Kovaříková can be reached at

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